What is a tune up and do I need one?

Now that all the boats are put to bed, we start to work on big jobs and begin to prepare for the spring, crazy right? We’ve just put things away and are already thinking about them coming out. As we run the boats through the shop and winterize, our techs and service admin team work in tandem to make recommendations to make sure that your boat performs well next summer. One of our most common recommendations is for a tune up and there’s a lot of different opinions on what a tune up is and why you need one but I am here to set the record straight and explain what it is, how often you should do it, and what it means for your boat. 

What is a tune-up?

Ok first things first, a tune-up is replacing the ‘wear’ parts in your ignition system. That can mean different things for different engines. Typically, it includes, spark plugs, spark plug wires, distributor cap and rotor. This doesn’t apply to all, but if we recommend a tune-up these are generally the parts we are talking about. 

Why do I need one?

The reason tune-ups often get confused with other service work is that they can present themselves as running rough, difficult to start, and can even be bad enough to backfire and miss. These can go away when the engine warms up or when the boat gets going faster. A lot of people think these are fuel issues, even as a mechanic, we can have a hard time telling the difference. The reason cylinders aren’t firing because the spark is being inhibited. A fuel issue, is that cylinders aren’t firing because fuel is being inhibited, same problem different cause. In boats, the cap and rotors often fail due to corrosion. Within the parts are raw metals like copper and aluminum that transmit electrical current to the proper spark plugs. Over time, with the damp marine environment of your boat, these parts corrode and the spark gets weak. Or, in some cases, can’t fire at all. Similarly, inside your cylinders the spark plugs at their contact points get clogged with carbon build up and heat damage. Lastly, the spark plug wires degrade with time and heat cycles, the contacts at each end lose their fit and can also corrode. Replacing these parts makes a big difference. 

What does it get me?

Replacing these parts can strengthen the spark and immediately increases your firing efficiency. This will make your boat more fuel efficient, more powerful, and a smoother ride. Increased spark makes the starts easier, and ensures that every cylinder fires every time. 

How often should this happen?

A tune-up should happen approximately every 5 years, or 150 hours as recommended by manufacturers. We often have people comment that there’s no way their boat needs a tune-up because they’ve “barely used it.” Unfortunately, low use is a more common condition for bad ignition parts as they corrode from lack of use and lose their conductive efficiency. So, if your boat is running rough, hard to start, or doesn’t seem to be as efficient as it once was, consider contacting our service department so that we can take care of your tune-up needs today! 

Jay P