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Save bucks with DIY maintenance

July 16, 2011

Learning to change your lower unit oil and spark plugs, as well as small under-the-cowl filters, can save big bucks on outboard maintenance.

Change out the water-separating filter at least twice a year. I do mine every 120 days and check for water/ fuel problems. All simple tasks with very basic tools.

I always buy a shop manual with every new outboard purchase as they are well worth it to anyone attempting a little palm tree mechanics

Article Photos

Capt. George Tunison

I don't often use fuel stabilizers as I'm usually burning fresh fuel due to lots of hours on the water. Boats that sit idle usually have the most ethanol/water problems and require stabilizers to be part of their ongoing maintenance programs. Again, local dealers report that ethanol-related outboard breakdowns are now a full 50 percent of their repair business.

If your motor seems to have lost power, hard to start, missing, etc., you probably are experiencing ethanol/fuel/water issues. Sampling your tank contents with inexpensive test kits can reveal water contamination and, if severe, can require not only engine fuel system cleanouts but fuel tank pumping and clean-ups.

If you have an extra $75 strip off those old trailer lights that are hanging on by a ground wire and spring for a nice new set of LED trailer lights. These last much longer than the old filament bulb and are five times brighter, which translates into safer. Side lights on a trailer really add to the safety factor as well.

Inspect trailer leaf springs, brake systems, trailer couplers, and do a general tightening of trailer frame bolts while Old Lightning is in the water.

Got that spare yet? Proper jack and related tools for a break down? Have you greased the wheel bearings in the last couple of months? Years?

Hire the neighborhood kids to wax your boat. It saves you gas, protects the boat and gets a child into outdoor sports. Yes, inflate those tires and replace those with cracking sidewalls. Always keep trailer tires covered or shaded if possible. The sun causes premature sidewall rot and cracking.

Got a wiring problem now? Get to it before it becomes a bigger problem and you lose a baitwell full of fish or worse yet, get stranded.

I've banned all spray type sunscreens on my boats. One in particular, in a blue bottle, is really bad as it stains the white gel coat on my hull liners yellow and is tough to get out.

Most folks are using braided lines these days and they are expensive. If properly taken care of they do last much longer and are stronger than mono. When braid starts to fade and upon close inspection you find light fraying it's time to replace it. Wrong, turn it around and use the other end that's never been in the water and get twice the value.

Fluorocarbon also is very expensive and generally is not required unless the water is fairly clear. In heavy, gnarly cover and clear water, fluoro is a definite advantage.

Redfish continue to bite under the shrubbery on cut baits. What a great redfish year it's been and now with the fall schooling season approaching redfishing should be nothing short of world class.

Caught any big jacks lately? I saw a pod of three jacks last week near the causeway that I swear were in the 25-pound class, which I've never seen before on this coast. Scary big. I keep telling myself that some day I will go to the east side and fight a 40-pounder on 12-pound lin, but knowing how much work that would be I keep putting it off. I figure about 2-3+ hours on 12-pound line?

If you have not caught jacks (or anything else) on a fly rod by all means give it a shot if you really want to heat up your drag.

Capt. George Tunison is a Cape Coral resident fishing guide. Contact him at 239-282-9434 or, or Flying Fins Sportfishing.



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