Boat Repairs: When to DIY and When to Pay a Pro

If you’re a handy boat owner, you probably do a lot of your own maintenance and repairs. However, there are jobs that are best left to the professionals. In deciding what to take on myself and when to pay a pro, I’m reminded of Reinhold Niebuhr’s Serenity Prayer, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Boating is about being on the water, not spending more time working on it. Find what service and repairs you are comfortable doing, and farm the rest out to a professional. Photo by Brett Becker.

Boating is about being on the water, not spending more time working on it. Find what service and repairs you are comfortable doing, and farm the rest out to a professional. Photo by Brett Becker.

The same logic applies to boat repairs — especially in knowing the difference. Start by evaluating the job that needs to be done and ask yourself, “Can I do this?  Do I have the skills and the right tools for the job?” If the answer is no, pay a pro. If the answer is yes, ask yourself whether you even want to do the job. If the answer is no, pay a pro.

But there’s an overarching question that overrides whether you want to do a job and that’s, “Can I afford to pay a pro?” If you don’t have the cash, it doesn’t matter if you want to do a job or not, you’re going to be spending some DIY time with the wrenches. Let me give you a few examples.

I can service my trailer no problem. I know how to service and replace brakes, how to inspect, diagnose, and bleed the hydraulic system, and how to service bearings. But I always pay a shop to service the trailer because I hate doing it, and the work isn’t prohibitively expensive.

Another example is engine work. Most of the boat engines I deal with are Chevrolet car engines, which I’m familiar and comfortable with. If an engine needs a head gasket or an exhaust riser replaced, I’ll perform those kinds of repairs because engines interest me and professional repair costs can begin to mount. I’m also a “while-I’m-in-there” kind of guy, so I often shore up other things while I have it apart.

Then there are stern-drive repairs, for which I’ll nearly always write someone a check. If it’s anything more serious than changing the gear lube, I’ll take it to the shop because there are a lot of special tools for stern-drive repairs and a fair chance I can do more harm than good. The costs aren’t usually cheap, but they’re even more expensive if I foul something up by messing around with components I don’t know enough about.

Also — and this rarely happens around my garage — it’s important to check if the repair might be covered under warranty. You might not even need to open the tool box, and that’s a good thing.


 

Boat Trader has plenty of  Buying and Selling advice, but also check out the hundreds of articles in the Boating section, with tips on everything from seamanship to maintenance, how-to, where to find replacement parts, and much more.

 

Comments

  1. Jim Sanders says:

    There are definitely repairs that aren’t worth the hassle, and if a professional can do it for a decent price and do it fast, then I’m definitely having them do it. Price is a factor, too. When I was younger I tended to do a lot more repairs myself because I didn’t have the money and I had more energy.

    Jim | http://www.midcoastmarine.com.au/services.ews

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