Design & DIY

How to save cash on boat gas this summer

A small motor boat anchored in the lake By Jason Batterham/Shutterstock

Powerboats can be real gas guzzlers. Pushing through all that heavy, dense, H2O just takes a lot of energy. Here’s how to boost your fuel efficiency and save money at the gas dock this season.

Tune your engine   If your engine has corroded wires or failing spark plugs, electricity won’t flow optimally. “A tune-up focusses on refreshing the electrical components that ignite the fuel,” says Jay Poole, the service manager at Buckeye Marine in Bobcaygeon, Ont. This includes spark plugs, wires, and on some models, the distributor cap and the distributor. Poole recommends a tune-up every five seasons.

Inspect your prop   Even a tiny ding in the leading edge of a propellor can impact fuel efficiency. Small nicks and burrs can be removed with sandpaper or a mill bastard file. Chips, cracks, and bent blades are better left to the pros. A prop shop can weld, grind, and shape the blades back into working order.

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If your aluminum prop is beyond repair, consider upgrading to stainless steel. Though they can cost three times as much as aluminum, stainless steel props are stronger and less susceptible to damage, and they better maintain their pitch and shape at higher loads. Durability combined with fuel efficiency means that “depending on the boat, stainless steel propellers can actually pay for themselves,” says Poole.

Install a fuel flow meter   Get real-time fuel consumption data on your dash or chartplotter with a fuel flow meter. Seeing the numbers can help you drive more economically (by fine-tuning your trim, for example, or running at the most efficient RPMs). If you already have a chartplotter compatible with NMEA 2000-connected devices, you can add a fuel sensor for $300–400. A system with a dedicated display will cost upwards of $1,300.

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Clean your hull   Other fixes won’t cost you anything. Barnacles, weeds, and slime increase drag, so the boat needs more power to move. Do your cleaning out of the water to avoid releasing paint or other contaminants into the lake. Frequent, non-abrasive cleaning is best; hose off any growth or wipe it away with a sponge.

This article was originally published in the June/July 2023 issue of Cottage Life.

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