Keep Your Boat Running Strong, Season Long

Asked if he’s ever run into engine trouble out on the water, pro bass angler Chad Morgenthaler pauses and laughs before responding.  

“I put thousands of hours each year on my rig and travel all over the nation to different bodies of water,” he says. “I have experienced just about every situation. Some of it has been self inflicted, but little to none of it has been due to negligence, or not paying attention to my maintenance schedules.”

Routine preventive maintenance is crucial not just for Morgenthaler, but any boat owner looking to have a trouble-free season on the water. Many of the common problems that leave boaters stranded or even struggling to get on the lake in the first place are easily preventable. 

Morgenthaler, a former auto technician who describes himself as “that guy” when it comes to making sure his rig is in top operating condition, offers some insight into his spring maintenance checklist and tips for overcoming common marine engine problems throughout the season.  

Make Maintenance Routine

Morgenthaler says the first step to avoiding engine trouble is to get in the habit of following repeatable procedures for winterization, spring starting and summer maintenance. 

“People are their own worst enemy because at the end of the year they pull their boats off the water, put them in the garage and never touch it again until spring or summer, and they expect everything to work like a champ and it doesn’t,” Morgenthaler says. 

In the spring, Morgenthaler recommends a thorough evaluation and prep process covering:


“Without a doubt, the most common problem, especially your first time out, is caused by fuel,” Morgenthaler says. 

Fuel that is left untreated can lead to varnish buildup, clogged injectors, deteriorating gaskets and other problems, not to mention that fuel left sitting for long periods of time loses its ignition vapor and overall potency. Hard starts, rough idle and even engine stalls can result from bad fuel. 

Morgenthaler recommends buying your first tank (and all tanks if possible) of fuel from a station that sells a high volume of gas, so you know it’s fresh. On top of that, he suggests treating the fuel, with a product such as Sea Foam Marine PRO, so the first tank  

For more information about the best way to use Marine PRO, check out our video covering three simple steps to get your boat to run better. 


Make sure to have your oil and filters changed. Morgenthaler says it’s best to follow OEM recommendations because every vessel is different, but he will generally shorten the fluid change intervals a bit to ensure longevity of his components.

Changing the lower unit fluid is also important, along with inspecting the lower unit to make sure it didn’t develop any issues during storage, such as damage caused by freezing water. Morgenthaler says he will change the lower unit fluid again after putting 30–40 hours on his boat. 


Inspect the prop assembly to make sure it is undamaged and free of debris, such as line or rope. Prop problems are a common way to get stranded on a lake. Morgenthaler says it’s a good idea to get familiar with swapping props if you’re not already, and to carry a prop kit with you whenever you’re out on the boat. 


It seems basic, but dead batteries are another common culprit when problems surface on the water. Make sure your battery is charged and that the terminals are tight and clean. 

A quick visual inspection of your wiring is a good idea, as well as making sure your fuses are in good shape. Morgenthaler carries a spare fuse kit just in case. 

Inspecting/swapping spark plugs each year is also recommended. 

Throughout the boating season, Morgenthaler says it’s important not to get complacent about maintenance. He does a weekly walk-around to make sure everything is in good shape on his rig.  

Beat the Heat

Morgenthaler also suggests keeping an eye on your water intake ports, especially if boating in grassy waters, to make sure you avoid clogs that could lead to overheating and more serious, expensive problems. 

Beyond that, he says, using common sense will keep your boat running great and doing what it’s supposed to do—providing fun for you and your family this summer.    

“There are some instances that are just unavoidable; some mechanical breakdowns are going to happen,” Morgenthaler says. “But be prepared for them and do what you can to prevent them. And that’s the best that you can do.”