Help! - Taking on water

General repair/maintenance/upgrade information exchange.

Help! - Taking on water

Postby Gomofast » Thu May 24, 2018 8:11 am

Hi everyone, I bought the boat used in 2015 and for the last couple of years it has never taken on any water. I'd pull the plug at the end of the day and a couple of drips would come out. Last weekend I put the boat in the water for the first time this season and it is taking on a lot of water. I'd say maybe 1-2 gallons an hour. Yikes.

Where do I start? Any common things to check? Bellows? Heat exchanger hoses?

Boat is an '85 Medallion 195 with mercruiser 170 and alpha 1 outdrive. Thanks.
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Re: Help! - Taking on water

Postby EpicWakeJump » Thu May 24, 2018 8:38 am

Go to a low use launch ramp, bring a flashlight, launch your boat and take a look in the bilge.

That’s a good place to start!

Good luck!
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Re: Help! - Taking on water

Postby Gomofast » Thu May 24, 2018 9:41 am

EpicWakeJump wrote:Go to a low use launch ramp, bring a flashlight, launch your boat and take a look in the bilge.


I'll do that, but access is tight so it might be hard to see where it's coming from. So that's why I was asking if there are common things to look for.

Also, I'm curious, would a failed bellows all that much water in? Or is the culprit likely something else.
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Re: Help! - Taking on water

Postby gofast24 » Thu May 24, 2018 11:39 am

Bellows, yes! When was the last time it was replaced? Also could be the shift cable boot, out drive to transom connection, exhaust bellow, etc. A 33 year old vessel could have a lot of sources for leaks especially if no scheduled maintenance was ever done on it! Agree, back it into the water and look inside at the transom area for obvious leaks, tight to get to or not, that is the easiest way to determine where the leak is coming from. Good luck, a shame it happens on a 3 day holiday weekend!
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Re: Help! - Taking on water

Postby SvedasFish » Thu May 24, 2018 12:32 pm

My bellows went 2 yrs ago and the symptom was the bilge pump running every 5 to 10 minutes.
If it did go, also check your transom bearing....mine was rusted due to the leak.
You can buy an "endo scope' for your phone from walmart for about $10 (with led lighting). That would enable you to see in tight places.

Good Luck
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Re: Help! - Taking on water

Postby Bt Doctur » Thu May 24, 2018 3:34 pm

main bellow, shift bellow, exaust Y pipe, to name a few
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Re: Help! - Taking on water

Postby Gomofast » Thu May 24, 2018 6:55 pm

Thanks for the replies. I will definitely check all of the bellows. I think they were done when I bought it 3 years ago, but I don't remember for sure. How long do they typically last?
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Re: Help! - Taking on water

Postby Chris_in_Texas » Thu May 24, 2018 9:07 pm

Ideally they should be inspected every year and then the drive should come off every other year for alignment checks and a more through inspection, as well as to make sure that it is dry inside. If any water is found it gets very expensive to start replacing parts. Keep in mind that VP warranties their parts for one year but if they fail causing other parts to fail those are covered as well.
Thanks, Chris

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Re: Help! - Taking on water

Postby tlc118 » Fri May 25, 2018 8:07 am

This started during the first run of the season?
I'd also be checking around the engine for leaks while it's running as well.
Once again, on a quiet launch ramp, you could check that out while still sitting on the trailer.
Could possibly be related to a hose clamp or block drain not tightened or re-installed after winterizing.
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Re: Help! - Taking on water

Postby gofast24 » Sat May 26, 2018 10:56 am

Assuming it is a sea (raw water) cooled engine a slightly loose block drain (usually a 1/8" NPT nipple) would not leak 1 to 2 gallons hour, especially if the engine wasn't running? I highly suspect a failed drive or exhaust bellows.
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Re: Help! - Taking on water

Postby Gomofast » Sat May 26, 2018 11:23 am

Well, I inspected the water hoses and the bellows yesterday, and found no leaks or obvious cracks. Put the boat in the water about 4 hours ago, and guess what... It's bone dry. Not taking on any water this time. So weird. All I can think is that perhaps there was an issue with the plug last time out. Perhaps it just didn't have a good seal for some reason.
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Re: Help! - Taking on water

Postby fatmattyd » Sun May 27, 2018 7:17 am

Glad to hear it seems like the problem is fixed, or at least looks good for now.

I'd recommend keeping an eye on it, of course. Being mindful of your bilge pumps always seems like a good idea, but I'm almost certain that 1-2 gallons of water wouldn't kick off my automatic bilge pump.

That said, I definitely have had cases where my drain plug wasn't sealed well, and was getting some water in, though I still have a hard time believing that water can get past a drain plug. Might have to do an experiment just to prove it to myself.

Anyway, your initial post stated 1-2 gallons in about an hour. If you were to fill a 5-gallon bucket with 1-2 gallons of water and set the flow rate to have this take an hour, it's not a ton of water. However, it would be a thin stream of water coming from a faucet (more than just dripping).

This website shows some example flow rates, for visual reference.
https://www.popsci.com/node/205329

Keep an eye on it and good luck!
-Matt
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Re: Help! - Taking on water

Postby gofast24 » Sun May 27, 2018 10:35 am

Dont think the OP needed to test his bilge pump? Where the water is coming in 1 gallon per hour or day the source needs to be identified and fixed? Sounds like the transom drain plug was loose, crooked, or wasnt tightened could be the cause of the leak. I have had several boats with the typical rubber transom drain plug and as the boats got bigger it was a 1/2" or 3/4" NPT brass plug. I am not even sure if our 4160 has a transom drain plug or not, never looked?
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Re: Help! - Taking on water

Postby Gomofast » Sun May 27, 2018 11:56 am

Yeah I'm thinking it had to be the plug. The boat has been in the water for more than a day now, and still no water in the bilge.
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Re: Help! - Taking on water

Postby fatmattyd » Mon May 28, 2018 6:20 am

Agreed - I swear ours has taken on a few gallons of water due to the drain plug, just doesn't seem like that much water should be able to get past a plug.

gofast - I definitely recommend testing bilge pumps, I was just saying that 1-2 gallons of water in our bilge wouldn't kick on the bilge pump that came with the boat, due to it's placement so far forward in the bilge.
Also agree that any leak should be investigated. Need to know if its a bellows, just the drain plug, or just a great day on the water and all the wet life jackets are piling up!

Glad it's fixed Gomofast!
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Re: Help! - Taking on water

Postby gofast24 » Mon May 28, 2018 10:03 am

Yes, drain plugs are great for vessels that are hauled out on a trailer every weekend to drain out any water from wet life jackets, swimmers climbing in and out of the boat wet, etc. With a boat our size it has only been out of the water twice in 18 years, once when it was delivered to our lake and second time during the full survey when purchasing it. We have never seen water in either our fwd or aft bilge but once a year or so flood both sections of the bilge (to just clean them out) and observe whether the two bilge pumps function. Also, another way to roughly test the bilge pumps is to just turn them on at the helm to the manual position and listen for the pump motor running, we do that anyway when washing out the bilge with the dock water hose. Hope the OP has the leak solved with a loose or skewed "rubber" drain plug.
Just a PS: When turning on the bilge pump(s) manually at the helm it will bypass the "built in" float switch and if yu can hear it (them) running in the manual mode 99% sure the pump/motor" is working. The float switch is another subject. If the pump has a manual switch on the body to test the pump, twist that to check operation, if not, agree with a previous post, just put the dock watr hose in the bilge and see if the pump turns on automatically or not (also allows you to flush out the bilge) . If not, you need a new pump (or float switch) so then turn on the manual switch at the helm and let it pump out as much as it can before repairing/replacing the current float switch/pump ass'y.
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