Service Logs… a tool well worth investing your time in keeping
By Brian Brown
You are about to buy, or have the boat of your dreams. In both cases you’ll need to see/or maintain the service logs. Let’s talk about the “about to buy: scenario first.
You’re standing in the marina about to buy, you decide to schedule a sea trial and survey as you continue to look the boat over. Casually, you ask, “what is the boat’s maintenance history?” The seller replies, “the marina takes care of my maintenance.” At this point, you still don’t know any more about the boat than before you asked the question; but you SHOULD get in contact with the marina because somebody there knows what condition that boat was in while they were working on it.
Contrast that with the seller who presents you with a service log and discusses the past maintenance history with you…and you’ll be very happy.
Obviously, a service log can be forged (but for the most part I wouldn’t think so) and does not guarantee that the boat has been maintained properly or at the recommended intervals. However, it gives you a place to start and can provide an insight into a boat’s past. For instance, if you see the zincs have been replaced every six months while the boat has been sitting in fresh water that should ring an alarm bell of potential electrical problems. Why? Well that’s for another article.
Even today few boat manufacturers supply new customers come with a service log, or if they do it is likely to be inadequate. When purchasing a used boat a service log is even rarer. Regardless of the situation, if you have a boat, you should have a service log!
This article will give you an idea of the minimum information that should be in your service log. Additional items can be added as you desire. Basically, any maintenance accomplished needs to be accounted for in the log. You should keep it organized, neat and up to date. Not only is this manual a great way for you to keep up with maintenance tasks, but potential buyers, surveyors and brokers will consider it an asset as well.
I recommend maintaining the service log with your computer where you can easily update and arrange items as needed—your dry land copy. Then print a copy and place it in the service log 3 ring binder; put your pages into clear plastic sleeves…that will help keep water and greasy fingers off for your on board copy. The computer program you choose to manage your log is up to you, but most spreadsheet programs handle the task very well, and make a folder scanning in documents like service manuals, etc. For example, you add a DC-AC power converter…make sure you keep the operators manual.
The layout of the log is left up to you but as a minimum, I recommend separate sections for the boat’s specifications, maintenance history, manuals and receipts, etc. For example, keep your two way marine radio manuals, etc., safely and when they were installed. Even though you think you know how to operate all the buttons, you still might just want to return it someday for repairs.
The first page of your service log should be the specification’s page. This page should contain all the specifications of your boat to include the registration number, boat name; date purchased, and all the maintenance-related part numbers and fluid types. Each time you have to purchase a part or discover a part number you should record it on the specification’s page. This will provide you with a quick reference for locating those numbers when it is time to perform routing maintenance. You can also just place the part manuals—highly recommended—into the plastic sleeves previously mentioned. For example, I keep EVERY new item’s manual there…from my gas grill, to bilge pump manuals.
The next section to include in your service log should be the maintenance history for the boat. This is the place to log both routine and non-routine maintenance items such as oil changes, impeller replacements, component repair, etc. Regardless of whether you perform the maintenance or have someone else to do it, this is the place to log what was accomplished. Patterns develop and if you are replacing, for example, the zinc regularly in fresh water, you’ve got a problem. This kind of stuff can also help a mechanic diagnose a repair…so think how much time that could save you…and money too.
Food for thought…when you go to sell your boat you can show your logs–people will be able to see that you cared about maintenance. That adds value…and provides a high level of security.
In this section, you should keep a photocopy of any maintenance-related receipts. Keep the originals in a safe place at home. This should give you good idea of what should be in a service log. Attached you will find an example that can be used as a template to design your own.
Adding New Toys to Your Boat
We all have added a new toy, from an electric winch, to a windlass, even a new radio. Keeping all of that information handy, including the manuals, is essential. From a mini fridge, ice maker, new head, etc., keeping all of those changes will help you in the long run.
I even keep little things like pawls in the plastic sleeves labeled for each winch. And it doesn’t hurt to keep the disassembly and assembly manuals there too. Last, if you have all the diagrams of your boats construction, wiring, plumbing, etc., on board in your three ring binder with plastic sleeves, you’ll find its wonderful when you have to make repairs anywhere you are.
That’s my 1,000 or so words on the subject. Have a great time boating.