Unloved and neglected, the bilge pump sits forgotten until the day it’s called upon to pump water out of the boat. Except
that sometimes they don’t work as
they’re supposed to.
Bilge pumps rely on electricity to
work, but the damp confines of the
bottom of the boat conspire to corrode
cables and pump components, rendering
them useless. It pays to check the pump’s
operation regularly, but they have a finite
life, so if yours is dead, here’s how to
1. Before you rip out the old pump, check
that it truly is the pump that’s dead. Try
the manual override at the helm, and lift
the float switch in the bilge. If operating
either of these fails to turn on the pump,
then the pump’s mostly likely in need of
replacement. But first check to see that
the fuse (or circuit breaker) is OK and
the battery is charged. Also, check that
the circuit to the pump is OK by using
a volt/ohm meter at an appropriate loca-
tion, typically at the wiring connection
immediately above the pump.
2. Most bilge pumps are wired directly
to the battery. This allows the pump to
operate even when the boat is left unattended or the main battery switch is off.
Either disconnect the pump wires from
the battery or disable the inline fuse (as
shown) or circuit breaker.
3. Disconnect the hose from the pump
body by loosening the hose clamp and
pulling the hose clear.
DO IT YOURSELF
ARTICLES & PHOTOS BY MARK CORKE
Easy to moderate
sheathed electrical cable of gauge
required by pump
and wire run length
>> Hose clamps
>> Heat shrink
>> Wire strippers
on size, type, and
placement. An hour
depending on pump
Use smooth-bore hose rated for the purpose between the pump
and the outlet. Although easier to install, corrugated hose causes
turbulence within it, severely reducing the output capacity of the
pump. Also, avoid sharp bends and low spots in the hose.
Often forgotten, the bilge
pump is a vital piece of
equipment on your boat.
If yours is on the fritz,
here’s how to change it out