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.”
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.
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