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Post-Run Maintenance for Your Boat

02/06/2006 by

Copyright:© 2006 Horizon Hobby, Inc.

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Isn’t this how you’d like to see your boat, burning up the surface of your local pond or lake? If you neglect your boat and don’t take proper care of it though you will have starting and idling problems, rust, corrosion, water leakage, and a whole bunch of nasty problems to clean up. Do it right the first time.

Having fresh fuel tubing and bilge pump tubing will make your life easier and save you a lot of headaches down the road. You can slip another small piece of fuel tubing over the ends where it slips over the pressure fitting to help “pinch” it in place more securely.

You can have water issues if you don’t properly seal off your prop shaft tube. To do so, slide the shaft out and apply a coat of Prather Cable Grease around the entire length and diameter. Once that is done you can reinstall it and reconnect the prop.

The internal gears to the Sullivan Tiger Drive system can take a lot of abuse, but you’ll need to pay attention to them occasionally as well. Using some sort of gear lube or even Tamiya Anti-Wear Grease can greatly extend the overall life of these key parts.

You can extend the overall life of your starter one-way shaft or bearings by using a little Anti-Wear grease on the one-way shaft or crankshaft. Additionally, you can apply a light coating to your starter gears to reduce wear.

Balancing your prop will drastically improve the overall performance, durability, and speed of your boat. An out of balance prop can cause some pretty serious vibrations which can cause premature parts wear.

One of the most under-used products in all of RC is after run oil, and it’s a shame. After run oil helps prevent rusting and gumming up of delicate internal components. Seeing as boats operate in the water, it’s even more important to pour some after run oil in your engine after each and every run.

There are few environments harsher on an RC vehicle than what RC boats experience. If you look in the instruction manual of any RC car, it tells you quite plainly, “Do not run in water; water will ruin this product; water is evil—bad,” just to name a few. But a boat needs to be exposed to these environments as that’s where a boat operates. There are a number of steps you can take before and after a run that will extend the life of your boat and its components, and reduce or eliminate any down time between runs due to mechanical failures.

Sealing the Hull
Water is the enemy, point blank. One of the easiest ways that water can enter into the hull is if the canopy is not sealed properly. You can actually create a gasket to better prevent water and moisture from entering under the canopy. Many people have used some window sealant silicone to create a gasket around the edge of the canopy, and doing this is rather easy. You’ll simply need to run a bead around the edge of the canopy, place a piece of wax paper on top of the wet silicone, and place the canopy down onto the wax paper. Leave your boat sitting like this until the silicone is dry, peel the wax paper off, and you’ve successfully created your gasket. You can use this same technique to create a gasket around your radio box door as well.

Maintaining Your Prop Shaft
Another way that water can enter into your hull is by traveling back up the output shaft tube. You will want to occasionally remove the prop shaft and inspect it for wear and tear. Circular scuff marks can be an indication of excessive wear, but this can be prevented. Remove the drive shaft from the tube and coat it liberally with Prather Cable Grease (PRA7145). The benefits of the Cable Grease are two-fold. If you pack the tube properly, you will achieve a watertight seal that will prevent any water from traveling up past the prop shaft and get water into the engine bay. Secondly, you will provide a source of lubrication for the prop shaft. Doing so will reduce wear and tear and friction. Don’t forget to lubricate and maintain any universal or CV-style joints on your prop shaft as well, as doing so will ensure free range of motion and prevent rusting and corrosion.

Protecting Your Electronics
While water and metal can be a bad combination, water and electronics absolutely do not play well with each other. That being said, you should take some time before you run your boat each and every time. Servos come with a rubber gasket between the three different parts of their cases to help keep dirt and crud out. You can make an even better seal the same way that you made your canopy seal by running a bead of silicone around the seams of the case before you install it in the hull. For your receiver, you can’t beat the old balloon trick. Once you have your leads plugged into your receiver, slip your receiver inside a balloon and seal the opening off with a zip tie. This same technique can be used with your receiver pack or electronic speed controller. It’s an easy and inexpensive solution to a potentially day-ending malfunction.

Starter Maintenance
Whether you’re using a pull starter or an electric hand starter such as Tiger Drive, you will need to perform occasional maintenance on the one-way bearing assembly and internal gears as well. When you pull the starter cord or engage the hand starter, the one-way bearing locks on the back of the crankshaft, spinning the crankshaft to try to turn the engine over. Once the engine is running however, the crankshaft rotates freely inside the one-way bearing housing. Over time, dirt or metal fragments can foul your one-way bearing and cause it to slip all the time and not turn the engine over properly or engage when it’s not supposed to and eat into your crankshaft. Every once in a while you’ll want to pull your starter off of the backplate and spray the one-way bearing out with some Dynamite Magnum Force 2 (DYN5500) to flush out any metal shavings or other debris in there. Once the one-way bearing is cleaned out, inspect the crankshaft for any signs that the bearing has been eating into it. If the crankshaft shows signs of wear or looks chewed up, it may be too late and time for a replacement crank-shaft.

To prevent the one-way bearing from chewing into the crank- shaft, you can apply a light coating of Tamiya Anti-Wear Grease (TAM53439) onto the crank shaft or one-way shaft itself. If you’re using a hand-starter like a Tiger Drive, you’ll need to keep an eye on the gears inside the starter as well. Inspect the teeth of the gears after every 30 hours of use to ensure that the teeth don’t become excessively worn or “shark-toothed.” Much like the one-way bearing, a little Anti-Wear grease can go a long way towards extending the life of your starter unit.

Staying Sharp
In auto racing, it’s said that races are won where the rubber meets the road; similarly with boats the performance comes from where the prop meets the water. The more times you run your boat, the likelihood is greater that you may run through some weeds or other debris in the water.

Over time, your prop may become damaged or dull which will affect the performance of your boat. You may notice that, especially from a dead stop, your boat takes longer than normal to get up to speed. If your prop is damaged, you have two options, depending on whether your prop is metal or plastic. If you have a metal prop, you can re-sharpen the prop blades with a file or rotary tool. If your prop is heavily damaged or if you have a plastic prop, replacing it with a new one can instantaneously renew your boat’s performance to what it was when it was new. Additionally, most props don’t come balanced from the factory. Properly balancing your prop blade can have a huge impact on the performance of your boat, but it can also prevent problems down the road. An imbalanced prop can cause unnecessary vibration which will lead to premature wear and failure of driveline parts.

Maintaining Your Engine
Any nitro burning power plant is going to require special attention. Add water into the mix and you have a recipe for corrosion, rust, and other bad things that could happen to your engine. Most boats that use a nitro engine house it under the cowling of the hull and the only way to cool the head is with some sort of forced-water head cooler. If that system becomes plugged or fouled, the water that is so vital to the longevity of your engine may not be able to get to the cooling system, causing your engine to get up to temperatures that will certainly damage it. Replace the water lines with fresh ones a few times per season, just to ensure that there aren’t any holes or other damage that could prevent water from getting to the head. Also, keep an eye on the water pickup; if it becomes damaged or plugged, you could be facing a serious problem.

In addition to heat, your engine can also be damaged by the very element it is operated in: the water. It is because of water’s corrosive nature that we’ve talked about ensuring that the hull is properly sealed in the first place. Beyond that, however, you do want to give your engine some much needed TLC after each run. One of the single biggest steps you can take to prevent corrosion and damage to your engine, crankshaft, bearings, piston, and sleeve is to use after run oil in your engine once you are finished running for the day. After run oil not only prevents the water from damaging your engine’s internal components, but also prevents the “gumming up” that can happen from unburned fuel that may remain in the crank ase. Simply place a few drops into the carburetor, turn the flywheel a few times by hand or by pulling the starter cord, and you’re done. It’s a simple step that is far too often overlooked.

Finally, make sure that you always use fresh fuel. It may be tempting to use last season’s left over fuel that’s been sitting in your garage all winter, but fight the urge. Over time, the oils and lubricants that are blended into the fuel can break down, which means your engine isn’t as protected as you thought it might be. Invest in some fresh fuel at the beginning of the season; you won’t regret it. You should also remember to always run your boat completely out of fuel before you store or transport it. Not only could noxious fumes fill up your car, but when gasoline or nitro fuels evaporate they leave a sludge behind in the fuel tank and inside the engine itself.

Waterside Safety
Our lakes, ponds, and streams are wonderful resources that many people enjoy throughout the year. Please be responsible when interacting with the environment and use common sense. Never refuel your boat while it is in the water. Fuel spills can be harmful to the water, fish, or other wildlife common to the area. You should also obey any postings from the DNR (Department of Natural Resources) regarding noise regulations and no-wake areas. These boats can reach speeds similar to what some full-scale boats can reach, so being aware of your surroundings is extremely important. Don’t operate your boat at speed near where people are swimming or in the water. And by all means, never chase any waterfowl on the surface with your boat.

Model boating can be a relaxing and fun time, but there are some important steps that you should remember before, during, and after you use your boat. Few products are subjected to environments as harsh as what boats are, but with some common sense and a little effort you can be assured that you will have many long days of water fun.