How-to: Finding A Great Local Boat Mechanic

Finding a local boat mechanic is an important first step in boat ownership. The right marine mechanic will make boat ownership enjoyable for years to come, the wrong one – well let’s just say you’ll quickly find yourself wishing you’d kept renting boats from the local boat club. Since every boat is different, a great mechanic referred by your slip neighbor may not be the right mechanic for your boat which is why it’s important to do your research early, contact local marine mechanics in your area, and find a mechanic you can trust with your boat.

For many boat owners the logical solution to finding a marine mechanic is the dealership where they purchased their boat. Dealerships often have a service department where they have authorized marine mechanics for the engine brands they sell on staff. So for example if you purchased a boat new from a dealer with Mercury outboards, it’s likely that dealer also has mechanics on staff that are authorized by Mercury to service your engine and perform work under warranty. While the dealership you purchased your boat at may be a great solution for you, it’s not always an option for many boat owners. Perhaps the dealership is too far away, perhaps you’ve been dissatisfied with their service in the past or felt they charged too much, or perhaps you just need a mechanic today and their schedule can’t accommodate you until two weeks from now.

Local Mobile Marine Mechanics

Boat owners searching for a marine mechanic are quick to say “I want a mobile marine mechanic near me” because location is for many the most important factor. You absolutely do not want to have to drive or trailer your boat an hour each way just to have service done on it. In fact some boaters go so far as to choose the engine brand on their boat based on the availability of service in their area. If you’re lucky enough to live in an area where boating is popular, there are likely to be a number of choices from boat dealerships, to independent repair shops that specialize in a handful of engine manufacturer’s brands, to individuals operating as mobile marine mechanics that will come to you. Boat owners in less popular boating areas may have fewer choices but there’s still reason to do your due diligence on the options that are available.

Questions to Ask Your Boat’s Mechanic

Think of finding a marine mechanic for your boat like interviewing a candidate for a job. You’re likely to spend thousands of dollars with this person over the course of your business relationship with them and use their services multiple times a year. Before deciding on a mechanic for your boat there are a few things you should ask.

  • What is your hourly rate and what do you charge for routine maintenance on my boat’s engine? Hourly rates for marine mechanics vary by area and the services they’re providing but expect to pay anywhere from $50 to over $100 an hour. If your boat only needs routine maintenance like an oil change the mechanic may have a set price for that for your specific engine.
  • What is your availability and how far out do you usually schedule appointments? A good boat mechanic is also likely to be a busy mechanic. Your mechanic being busy is a double edged sword, on the one hand it means there are a lot of other boat owners that trust them with their boat, on the other it means you’re likely to have to wait to have work done on your boat. Ask how long it typically takes to have a boat serviced and if they have an option for “emergency” work.
  • Do they offer mobile service? Mobile marine mechanics offer the convenience of coming to your boat to work on it. This can be a great advantage since you don’t need to spend time taking your boat to and from their shop. You should also ask whether the mechanic’s mobile service includes an extra fee on top of their hourly rate.
  • What brand engines are they authorized to work on? Many marine mechanics specialize in just a few engine brands so make sure they’re authorized to work on your boat’s engine and can perform warranty work on it. You can find lists of authorized mechanics on major engine manufacturer’s websites. Here are a few helpful links to them – Mercury Marine, Yamaha Outboards, Suzuki Marine, Evinrude Outboards.

Changing Marine Mechanics

So you took time to interview a few mechanics in your area and found one you liked. You used them a few times but aren’t happy with their service, can you switch mechanics now? Absolutely. People switch mechanics for their boat all the time, perhaps your regular mechanic can’t fit you into their schedule and you’re taking the boat on a trip soon. Changing mechanics for your boat is fine, just make sure any mechanic who works on it is authorized to perform work on your engine. Keeping a maintenance log that track’s maintenance you’ve had done on your boat’s engine is also a great idea so your new mechanic has an idea of what work has been done and when.

Doing Your Own Engine Maintenance

For a lot of boaters, the best option when it comes to finding a marine mechanic is to do it themselves. Whether you perform all the service on your boat’s engine yourself or let a mechanic take care of it entirely, there’s something to be said for familiarizing yourself with your boat’s engine and how to maintain and troubleshoot it. YouTube offers a plethora of how-to videos on maintaining marine engines from mechanics and boat owners and even some by the engine manufacturers themselves. Some maintenance is even designed to be done by the owner, for instance most outboard engines, even relatively modern and high-tech ones, provide detailed instructions for owner performed oil changes in their manuals.

Doing your own regular maintenance can be a great way to save money on your boat’s upkeep if you are even slightly handy. Regular oil changes that are required for every 100 hours of use quickly add up, especially if you use your boat a lot or it has multiple engines. However, going beyond regular maintenance into diagnosing and repairing issues that arise becomes more difficult. For engines still under a manufacturer’s warranty it’s best to let an authorized mechanic handle such issues and even if your engine isn’t under warranty you’ll quickly come up against the limits of your skills as a mechanic working on modern marine engines. If you do decide to handle some of the routine maintenance on your boat yourself, be sure to keep a log of it and receipts for any parts and fluids purchased.

Finding a local marine mechanic to service your boat can be a hassle. I think all boaters have or know of a boat owner that has experienced the troubles of finding a reliable marine mechanic which is part of the reason why we developed BoatEasy. Before you decide on a mechanic to entrust your boat’s upkeep to, ask questions and read reviews. Finding a good marine mechanic will go a long way toward keeping your boat trouble free and your time using on it enjoyable.

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