One of the hardest things to do when you buy a used boat is source replacement parts — especially when things are out of warranty, or worse, when the builder is out of business. I don’t mean sourcing easy maintenance stuff like filters, belts, zincs, etc. Even most engine parts can be relatively easy to find, depending on the manufacturer, dealers, and distributors. The tricky parts are things like latches, port lenses, cabin lights, steering parts, head and galley fixtures, gas lifts, even hatches – all the things that builders put on boats without really considering what will happen a decade or so later when those things need to be replaced. Not that they are obligated to consider those things. It’s really up to the parts makers to figure out ways to identify their equipment – with labels, stamps, etc. – so that when these things need to be replaced, there’s a way to figure out how to replace them. Far too often, these parts are unmarked and anonymous.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time doing detective work online, trying to source parts for the boats, and thought it might be a good idea to share some methods and discoveries. I’ve already mentioned the Gem Electronics arm of Airmar, the transducer makers. The wizards at Gem can make up power/data cables to connect instrument systems to existing depth and/or speed transducers.
Here’s something else to share. A whole bunch of latches and locks that we see on boats are made by a company called Southco, in Concordville, PA. It’s a big company, with global sales and distributors, and they sell to the automotive and RV world as well as the marine industry and others.
I found the Southco name on the bottom of an anchor-locker latch that was kaput and needed replacing. I took photos and measurements of the latch, then went to Google to look for images, with the search term “Southco latch.” The correct one showed up right away, and I ended up buying a replacement from Teak Isle, a Southco distributor with an Amazon storefront.
Here are some general tips for locating hard-to-find replacement parts for your used boat:
Take digital photos of the item you need to replace and compare them with photos you find in Google Search –> Images. When you find a match, click “Visit page” in the image dialogue box. That will often get you to the source – or at least a step closer.
Google the part numbers
Look for a part number on the item you need to replace. Even if you don’t know the manufacturer you can enter the information you do have in Google Search, e.g. “SPT 10-437A, 12-volt cabin light” and you’ll often get good results.
These days a tremendous number of manufacturers and distributors of marine parts have storefronts on Amazon, and Amazon has really superior search, reference, and logical abilities.
There are plenty of other sources for hard-to-find boat parts, and we’ll be mentioning some of those down the line.
Feel free to share your own parts-source discoveries in the Comments section below. We’ll collect them, make new posts of them according to parts categories, and — with luck — save ourselves some frustration down the line.
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.