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How To Tell If Your Boat Is Overheating

A boat on the water.

Your boat relies on an engine to get you from one place to the next when you’re out on the water. As with a car engine, it’s possible for a boat’s engine to overheat, which can ultimately cause a breakdown. How can you tell if your boat is overheating, and how should you address the problem?

How Can You Tell if Your Boat Is Overheating?

Here are some steps to follow if you want to find out whether your boat has an issue with overheating:

  1. Check the temperature gauge on the boat’s dash. Your boat uses a thermostat to monitor the temperature of the engine, and that reading shows up on a gauge on the boat’s dash. Is the gauge indicating green or red? If the gauge is in the green, the engine’s temperature is within the normal range. But if the gauge is in the red, you’ve got a problem with overheating.Overheating can cause major damage to your boat's engine.
  2. Evaluate the power of the boat’s engine. Decreased engine power may be a sign of overheating. If the boat seems to be losing power, overheating could be the cause.
  3. Check to see if the engine is starting normally. If the engine is overheated, it can take longer than usual to start up. In some cases, overheating can cause a complete failure, and the engine won’t restart once it’s been shut off.
  4. Look for steam from the exhaust. With a car, one of the telltale signs of overheating is steam coming from the engine. This is also true of a boat’s engine. Check the engine to see if it’s belching steam. If it is, this could indicate that the engine is overheating.

What Should You Do If Your Boat Overheats?

Here are some protocols to follow if your boat overheats:

  1. Shut off the engine. The longer you keep the boat’s engine running, the greater the risk of causing permanent damage. If your boat overheats, throttle down immediately. If you’re in safe water, anchor the boat. Otherwise, aim to idle the boat to a safe location.
  2. Check for blockage in the raw water strainer. Your boat has a component that’s called a raw water strainer or a sea strainer. It’s part of the boat’s saltwater intake system, and it’s designed to help filter out plant life and other solids that can get sucked into the boat’s hose. If this component becomes clogged, it can cause the engine to overheat. If your strainer is clogged, just clear the blockage.
  3. Take a look at the cooling system. If your boat’s cooling system needs coolant, it can cause the engine to overheat. Check the boat’s coolant levels, and replenish them if they’re low. Wait for the system to cool down before you do this, as hot coolant can be dangerous.
  4. Get professional help. If the engine cools down when you turn it off but overheats again once you restart it, getting a tow may be the wisest bet. Going this route could help prevent the type of extensive damage that may require you to replace the engine completely.

Overheating can do a number on your boat’s engine, but now that you know how to identify and address this problem, it’ll be easier for you to boat safely.

Check out all the boat products available on NAPA Online, or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how to tell if your boat is overheating, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

Warren Clarke View All

I'm a writer and editor who's a regular contributor with the New York Daily News and Carfax, and my content has appeared in over 20 publications. I've written content that covers industries such as automotive, medical, insurance, healthcare, real estate, plumbing, pest control, dental and hospitality.

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