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Walleye Boat Rebuild Part 8: The Importance of Plumbing

Malfunctioning livewell or bilge pumps can be dangerous, while leaky fittings or pipes can literally sink your boat.

Walleye Boat Rebuild Part 8: The Importance of Plumbing

Plumbing often ends up near the bottom of the maintenance list, but it's of very high importance when it comes to walleye-boat functionality and safety. (Ross Robertson photo)

With all of the fancy technology and work that can be done while rehabbing a boat, plumbing often ends up near the bottom of the list. It is however very high up on importance when it comes to functionality and safety. Livewell or bilge pumps not functioning isn’t fun and can’t be downright dangerous and leaking or cracked fittings and pipes can quite literally sink a boat.

When we were tearing into our project boat, we started by removing and opening every access point we could get at to dissect problems. I felt like it was the best time to replace parts that are prone to failure even if they didn’t need it because I would never have such easy access to them ever again.

Looking downward into some boat wiring.
We started by removing and opening every access point we could get at to dissect problems, since we wouldn't have such easy access when we're done. (Ross Robertson photo)

One of the best things we did was a quick water check with the boat still on the trailer to check out the pumps and bilge of the boat. This allowed me to find a drain fitting in the boat that had a slow leak due to a failure in the adhesive. Fortunately, TH Marine has the exact same fitting available and I decided to replace it in order to not reuse the same old plastic thread fittings.

A hand holding a black pipe and fitting.
We did a quick water check with the boat still on the trailer, which allowed me to find a drain fitting in the boat that had a slow leak. (Ross Robertson photo)

After a little bit of cleanup we were ready to install the new fitting (Note: This is a two-person job, so grab a buddy). On the underside we placed a liberal bead of quick-setting 3M 4200 marine adhesive and used a pair of large jaw pliers to secure the nut on the top side. While 3M 5200 is often preferred for below water-line work, I felt 4200 would seal it just fine and it could be removed much easier than 5200 if there was ever an issue with the fitting again.

While sitting in the garage it was clear that the switch to fill or empty the livewell was extremely hard to move. These controls work off of a cable and the trigger that is near the pump head, often connected to a piece of green plastic. When this piece was hard to move at the pump itself, I knew it just made sense to replace the whole assembly. Fish scales, sand and other grit get in there over time and make both of these dials hard to turn and can compromise the internal flapper that allows you to hold water in the livewell. Some of my buddies have to replace these in boats much newer than this one so I wanted to do it while the bilge was less cluttered. I also used a bilge cleaner and a power washer to remove decades’ worth of icky.

Looking downward into a boat pump hatch.
Fish scales, sand and other grit can compromise your livewell pumps over time. (Ross Robertson photo)

At the same time the decision was made to replace the livewell and bilge pumps and housings. They worked, but several were cracked and locked up with sand between the pump and the cartridge and they looked to be original. A little pipe dope on the fittings and a pair of pliers and you are all set. This is an easy DIY part of the project for most people.

One of the next best things we did was to remove the original wiring harnesses for the pumps and reinstall the new ones with a removable weather pack connector rather than a butt splice. This allowed me to collect and reorganize the wires and makes it easy to quickly replace cartridges in the future. New Ranger Boats have this from the factory and it allows you to carry an extra, replace it without tools, and do it while in the boat if necessary.

A hand holding some wires and a wiring harness.
One of the next best things we did was to remove the original wiring harnesses for the pumps and reinstall the new ones with a removable weather pack connector rather than a butt splice. (Ross Robertson photo)

When water testing one of the pumps, we noticed that it didn’t have full force coming out of the line and figured the pump was to blame. As we looked further it became clear that one of the hoses had a pinch in it the way it was run, mostly because it really wasn’t long enough. A new section of hose, an elbow fitting, and a couple new hose clamps was all it took to make it work great (the location made it tough to video or photo, however). The difficult access did cause it to take a while and caused some foul language at times.

A hand holding an elbow fitting.
A new section of hose, an elbow fitting, and a couple new hose clamps was all it took to fix a kinked hose. (Ross Robertson photo)

Boat pumps, fittings, and lines are often the last things we think about in our boats, but that doesn’t make them less important. Something as simple as a split livewell hose can quickly fill your boat, so take time to inspect them a couple of times per year.




Looking down into a boat panel at some hoses and wires.
Something as simple as a split livewell hose can quickly fill your boat, so take time to inspect them a couple of times per year. (Ross Robertson photo)

Capt. Ross Robertson

Bigwater Fishing

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