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A man attempting a boat repair while sitting in calm water surrounded by green grass

Essential Tools to Carry in a Boat Repair Kit

After working hard all week and planning a perfect family day on the lake, cruise up the coast, or fishing adventure, the last thing you want is to have your trip derailed by mechanical trouble. A basic repair kit is essential for solving common issues on the water.

Boats are complex machines that spend their lives in wet corrosive environments. One of the most important things any boater can do to prevent mechanical troubles is to stay on top of scheduled maintenance and repairs. Ignoring small issues because they are not critical at the moment is never a good strategy, especially if you plan to avoid breakdowns and disappointed looks from your crew. Small problems often progress into big ones.

Even those who stay on top of boat repair and maintenance can find themselves surprised by a technical issue while on the water. It doesn’t have to be an obvious issue like a dead battery or leaking thru-hull fitting either. Something as simple as a blown fuse, a disconnected wire, or a leaky cooling hose can quickly change your plans.

You can easily fix common issues yourself with a few basic DIY skills and an onboard boat repair kit. At the very least, you could get your crew home without an expensive tow. And, you just might be able to save the day on the water with a good temporary fix.

Two workers wrapping duct tape around a metal bar

Tools and spare parts to include in your boat repair kit

There’s a line in the movie El Camino where Clint Eastwood’s character advises his neighbor/construction worker protégé that “any man worth his salt can fix any problem with a can of WD-40, a roll of duct tape, and a vise grip pliers." There’s a fair amount of truth to this for boaters. A can of penetrating lubricant, vice grips, and a roll of duct tape can help accomplish many on-water fixes, such as opening a stuck latch, taping down an engine cowling, temporarily fixing a tear in a canvas cover, or fixing a pinhole leak in a washdown hose.

Here are some simple tools that should be carried in your repair kit:

  1. Slot and Phillips screwdrivers
  2. U.S. and metric wrenches
  3. U.S. and metric sockets with a driver
  4. Channel lock pliers
  5. Diagonal pliers
  6. Wire stripper
  7. Wire brush for cleaning battery terminals and other electrical connections 
  8. Cigarette lighter or heat torch         

If space is a premium, you can substitute small and large adjustable crescent wrenches for individual open and/or box wrenches.

 

A pile of black zip ties on a blue table
Three metal hose clamps and two wrenches for a boat repair kit

Spares parts to include in your repair kit

Your list of spare parts might vary based on your type of boat, but these are basic parts and supplies every boater should carry onboard to handle on-the-water repairs and fixes:

  1. Container of spare fuses
  2. Assortment of stainless-steel hose clamps
  3. Horseshoe and/or ring-style connectors
  4. Butt connectors for fixing wires
  5. Electrical tape
  6. Heat shrink tubing

The items above can temporarily fix a range of electrical, plumbing, and fuel problems. A bundle of different-sized plastic tie-wraps can be used in a variety of ways, from fastening a fishing reel onto a rod or replacing a broken zipper pull on a canvas cover.

A man using a socket wrench in a workshop to repair a boat engine

Expanding your onboard repair kit

A simple voltmeter can help you diagnose a range of electrical issues. It’s a good idea to carry a spare propeller onboard, a lightweight plastic prop wrench, and extra cotter pins. Remember that prop wrenches float because you will likely have to make the prop switch over the water – or sometimes even while in it. 

If you have extra room, carrying a spare fuel filter can come in handy. A clogged or contaminated filter is a common source of fuel system issues.  

Building your boat’s repair kit over time

A boat repair kit can be refined over time based on your vessel and preferences. For a hardcore offshore angler, carrying a spare live bait tank pump might be beneficial. A quick switch out of a dead pump can save you from running 60 miles home empty-handed. If you’re a cruiser or sailor dragging a tender with you wherever you go, a repair/patch kit for inflatable boats should be standard equipment. 

A basic boat repair kit can help you diagnose and repair many of the issues you’ll encounter on the water. Duct tape, vice grips, and zip ties aren’t permanent solutions, but they might be the difference between cutting your day short with an expensive tow back to shore and confidently navigating the water.

When in doubt, consult your boat’s owner manual or visit your local Sierra dealer for additional repair information.

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