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What Maintenance Is Required On A Narrow Boat

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  • Narrowboat maintenance, Daily checks, Monthly checks, Annual checks, Engine inspections
  • Posted date:
  • 26-06-2023
What Maintenance Is Required On A Narrow Boat

Have you considered what maintenance is required on a narrow boat? Find out more about what's included in narrowboat maintenance and the daily maintenance checks you should do for a narrow boat. 

Cetec Marine Ltd provide narrow boat inspections throughout Surrey, Kent, Sussex, Hampshire, Berkshire and Greater London. Read more about our narrowboat maintenance tips.

What is Included in Narrowboat Maintenance?

If you want to keep your narrowboat in good condition, regular servicing and maintenance are essential. Performing these checks and inspections is all part of being a responsible owner. Even if you aren't mechanically minded, the odd engine check can help keep your boat fighting fit.

Regardless of how much time you spend on the water, there are a few maintenance checks you should regularly perform on your narrowboat, including:

Checking your oil levels

Plugging any leaks

Cleaning your engine and inspecting its condition

Ensuring your bilge pumps are working

Checking the battery and topping it up with de-ionised water

Inspecting cables and control equipment

Looking out for loose pipes and bolts

Daily Maintenance checks for A Narrow Boat

When it comes to narrowboat maintenance, there are a few checks that you should perform at least once a day. This is the best way to take care of your boat and ensure it remains in good condition. These daily checks include:

Oil check

Checking your oil levels is one of the most important narrowboat maintenance tasks. If you fail to do this, you open yourself up to a host of issues. Anything from leaks to total engine failures could result from improper oil levels. Don't forget that overfilling your engine can also be as damaging to your narrowboat. You should ideally check your engine and gearbox oil levels once a day. However, if you're running your engine more often, then every eight hours would be better.

Battery fluid levels

Keeping an eye on your battery fluid levels will help you spot serious issues quicker. Before every journey, you should top up your battery with de-ionised water and clean your battery unit to ensure it can operate properly.

Electrics and wiring

Failing to notice any issues with your electrics or wiring can lead to severe issues down the line. One of these might be your ignition cutting out, often caused by corroded or loose wires. Ultimately, if your wiring becomes too damaged, you will have to spend a lot of money having your narrowboat rewired.

To avoid catastrophes like these, it's best to check your wiring before every trip. Reconnecting any loose wires will ensure your boat receives adequate power. You can also apply a water-resistant coating or petroleum jelly to your wiring to prevent your block connectors and isolators from getting wet.

Coolant levels

Like oil, your coolant is another vital fluid that prevents your engine from overheating. You should check your coolant levels and ensure the coolant hose is properly attached. Again, you should check this at least once a day.

Drive belt tension

You'll find your drive belt at the bottom of your engine, attached to your alternator and water pump via the crankshaft pulley. Ensuring this belt is at the right tension is vital to avoid serious engine issues. If you notice it becoming slack or ragged, it will need replacing.

There are a few noticeable signs that your drive belt may be slack, including:

  • Squeaking noises when your engine is running
  • Twists in the belt itself
  • Cracks on the edges of the belt

Bilge levels

It's natural for your bilge to become flooded with water and oil. However, if this mixture makes its way to your engine, it could lead to serious damage. That is why you should inspect your bilge and bilge pumps at least once a day. Additionally, you can't pump oil into our waterways, so you must wait until you can dispose of the oil onshore when clearing your bilge.

What Maintenance Is Required On A Narrow Boat? Narrow Boat Inspections Surrey, Kent, Sussex, Hampshire, Berkshire, Greater London

Monthly Maintenance checks for A Narrow Boat

In addition to your daily maintenance checks, there are others that you should perform at least once a month, including:

Engine Inspections

Inspecting your entire engine can't be done every day, therefore you need to put some time aside every month to perform these inspections. When inspecting your engine, you should check the following areas in particular:

  • Engine mounts - these mounts hold your engine away from the hull of your boat to limit vibrations. Given the strain they undergo, these mounts can weaken, especially if left in poor condition. Check that the nuts of the engine mounts are touching the engine's legs. 
  • Gearbox/Drive Plates - when you strike something in the water, the first place that's likely to suffer damage is the drive plate attached to the engine flywheel. Your gearbox also takes a lot of natural wear and tear, so you should service it at least once a month.
  • Couplings - the bolts that connect the engine to the propeller shaft can shake loose while your boat is moving. If this happens, you'll lose momentum when travelling. Ensure these bolts are secure at least once a month.

Narrowboat Battery Checks

A properly maintained battery can last up to eight years. However, poorly maintained ones won't last a season. Therefore, while topping up your battery every day will keep it in good condition, more thorough monthly inspections are also necessary.

Keel/skin Tank  Inspections

The keel, or skin tank, sits at the curved section at the back of your narrowboat. Its main job is to filter air out of the coolant system, meaning this air naturally builds up inside the tank. However, if it fills with too much air, it can prevent coolant flow, leading to an overheating engine. Bleeding the air from your keel or skin tank once a month can prevent this.

Hull Check

Since it's the most exposed part of your narrowboat, your hull will take a lot of natural wear and tear. That's why you should thoroughly inspect your hull at least once a month. Check for corrosion and rust both inside and outside the boat.

Gas Checks

Like any household boiler, the one on your narrowboat also needs inspecting from time to time. Ensure the pilot light in your boiler and water heater are burning blue and clean. If not, contact a Gas Safe registered engineer who can service liquified gas appliances on narrowboats.

Wiring And Piping Inspections

Inspect all the pipes and wiring on your narrowboat once a month. Check for signs of damage or leaks.

Annual Maintenance checks for A Narrow Boat - Surrey, Kent, Sussex, Hampshire, Berkshire, Greater London

Annual Maintenance checks for A Narrow Boat

Some checks only need to be performed once a year or after every 250 hours of engine time. These include:

Check Drain Antifreeze And Coolant

Draining your antifreeze and coolant is a delicate process as both substances can be very harmful to the environment. Ensure that any fluids you drain don't end up in any waterways, as they are highly toxic to plants and wildlife.

Check Nuts, Bolts, And Fastenings

Checking the nuts, bolts and fastenings of your narrowboat is a basic task but an essential one. Ensure all these elements are tightly secured. You should also clean and dry these fastenings and bolts to ensure they don't corrode.

Change Oil, Air, And Fuel Filter

Your oil, air and fuel filters are essential to keeping foreign objects and debris out of your engine. Therefore, to ensure your engine remains free of these obstructions, you must change your filters once a year. This way, you can avoid disastrous clogs that could damage your engine.

Your narrowboat's engine needs clean air, oil and fuel to operate at its best. With fresh filters, the pipes feeding into your engine can provide high-quality fluids and air for optimum performance.

If you are looking for narrow boat inspections or marine surveys in Surrey and the surrounding areas contact our professional boat surveyor today. 

We work throughout Surrey and the surrounding areas including Kent, Sussex, Hampshire, Berkshire and Greater London. 

We can also travel throughout the UK if required.

Narrow Boat Inspections Berkshire