How to Talk to Your Marine Mechanic

A Good Marine Mechanic is Worth the Shop Rate
Here's How to Give Him the Information He Needs to Do the Repair Job Right the First Time

Sadly, the horse and buggy doctors or yesteryear are long gone. For you youngsters who don't have any idea what I am talking about, these were the dedicated physicians who made house calls. Even though that revered method of practicing medicine is dead, we can still learn a valuable lesson in diagnosing marine engines from the way these practitioners did business. For a good horse and buggy doctor would make an excellent marine mechanic.

Back in the old days house calls were more than just a convenience to patients, they provided a truly invaluable diagnostic tool. Because they visited the afflicted person's home, instead of the patient visiting a cold sterile, clinic, they saw up close and personal what notable factors might have caused the illness in the first place, things like family stress, pigs running free through the living room, and foul drinking water. Restating the obvious for emphasis, to a discerning eye, the environment provided important clues that made it easier to figure out what was wrong, and more importantly, why.

Fast forward to today, when your marina stands poised to begin commissioning the flotilla of pleasure boats that cross its threshold every year. In a sense, marine service technicians hold much in common with the proverbial horse and buggy doctor. They see firsthand exactly what conditions a boat is exposed to from day one of the season. The best marine mechanics notice which components need attention now and down the road. Commissioning is after all a survey in its most basic form. And it is only good business sense to ask for a sale on repair work that is legitimately needed.

At least in a perfect world. Some shops, because of the traditional rush to get boats on the way, hurry the procedure without due consideration for the valuable information that is at their fingertips. While it is just not practical to spend the day running around the bay with their customers, just to see how they abuse the hull or powertrain, the best ones at least ask customers to fill out a simple pre-commissioning survey.

Helpful information might include what brand of two stroke or motor oil you are topping off with. How often crankcase and gear case oil is changed. Where do you top off the fuel tanks and with what name brand and octane? How often is the engine tuned. How regularly does he check the gear case oil? It is also a good idea to get the boater to mention any nagging problems, or unusual circumstances. These are some of the basics, but because each locale faces a different set of circumstances, the questions ought to be individually drafted.

Just as some of us hang up the phone when the guy on the other end is selling aluminum siding or alternative long distance service, some boaters cannot be bothered with filling out a survey. So it goes. Many boaters are not as passionate about maintaining equipment as those of us with 30 weight oil coursing through our veins. To this group of boaters, service departments represent an expense, the proverbial hole in the water that they throw wads of bills into. But why not think of a service tech as a horse and buggy doctor. Help he or she to work smarter, not harder.