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Do you leave Bilge pump switch on when the boat's in the slip?


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Just bought an '04 220 SSI. I just got a new cover, but after a lot of rain the day after I got it, there was a fair amount of water in the engine compartment. I'm obviously working with the vendor who did the top to figure out why so much water came in (thru the vents I think), but it made me wonder if I should always leave the bilge switch on (that's on the cockpit panel) when the boat is docked in a slip on the lake. Our bilge pump is obviously not wired directly to the battery, but I am just wondering if leaving it one should just be "standard operating procedure" for us after docking.

Any suggestions are appreciated. Owned a runabout before, but it's been awhile. VERY happy to be a boat owner again, but need to learn a few things again...

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In every boat I have ever had the bilge pump has a float switch that turns it on when there is enough water in the bilge regardless of the switch position and it is indeed wired directly to the battery. The switch is to turn it on manually and run it continously. So I would never leave the switch on for the pump to run dry and deplete the battery.

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Agree with Rick, the pump is on automatic all the time. The float is set a little higher so you could still "see" water in the bilge but it will only get up to a certain height, this is to avoid running the pump dry. Turning the pump on manually with the switch will empty out more water but runs the pump even if the bilge is dry - no good for the pump or your battery. Leave the switch off and then when you get into the boat after a rain you can clear the rest of the water by turning the switch on for a short time. If the boat takes on a large amount of water your battery would be dead from running so long in auto mode, so you would know it.

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If by chance you don't have the auto float switch, they are super easy to install. Our boat never had one and since we now live about 3 miles from the dock (we're in the water all the time during the season) vs right across the street, we put in a float switch last year and it actually ran once while I was at the dock in one of our really bad, 6" of rain at a shot, storms last year. I had actually forgotten the thing was in there and after I waded through 3' of water to get on our dock and was checking the lines, all of a sudden I heard this noise and splashing and sure enough, it was pumping water out for about 30 seconds or so and I thought "hey, it works!" We have a full mooring cover and it gets regularly treated with 303 but sometimes, you just can't stop 6" of driving rain coming down for several days at a time so this is really good, cheap insurance and like I said, super easy to install.

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The boat has a float switch on it, but it doesn't appear to be working properly (assuming that it's wired properly and is in fact wired to the battery). I'll test it with the panel bilge switch off the next time I'm there, but I'm sure that with the amount of water that was in the engine compartment yesterday, it should have been running. The pump was half (or more) covered with water.

Thanks for the great info...

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Remember that the pump should not be fully exposed when on automatic, it's not supposed to pump the water all the way down for fear of running dry. It's there to keep your boat from taking on too much water, not to keep the bilge dry.

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It was last year or maybe the previous year, it had been raining heavily for days. I went to the dealer to pick up my boat. As I exited the dealer and accelerated, I looked in the reveiw mirror only to see the bilge pump working away to pump out all the water. My boat sits bow low on the trailer so any water that gets in, goes forward. Annoying. But good to know that it was working.

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I have a 2004 Chap and it had a defective factory installed Attwood foat/pump combo. It would either run down the battery (it was shorted) or fail to pump because it was rusted and corroded inside. I opened the switch, that is how I know. If you have this switch combo replace the switch part with a conventional float switch, the pump is OK.

The second point deals with water entry.I had a custom boat cover made and still got water in. I found that the compartment over the engine which serves as storage on the outside of the boat is not included under the boat cover. It is poorly sealed and they included two drain holes. That water drains onto the back of the motor.I am going to ad two drain hoses to direct the water away from the motor. Look in the compartment floor for the holes.

Of course there are other sources at the bow and you will always get a little if its blowing.

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Your float switch may be working OK. It may take more water than you think to activate it. At the beginning of each season I test mine by running a water hose directly into the bilge until the pump kicks on. I'm always surprised by how much it takes to activate it. Best to test it.

Good luck

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Oh, I'll definitely get it fixed. That's why I'm bringing it up here as I know it's obviously an important issue. I will test it by lifting the float with the panel switch off. I didn't try that as I assumed it didn't have power unless the switch is on, but I now realize that it probably does as that's basically an override switch. It may be that it's working just fine, but just needs more water in the bilge to turn on (or me lifting up the float.)

I'll also look at how the water is getting in there in the first place. @ still crazy - is your 2004 a 220 ssi? My boat cover does cover the engine compartment and I don't have any storage outside the cover that drains into the bilge that I know of. The compartments that are outside drain outside the boat, although they do seem to get clogged pretty easily.

Very helpful everyone. Thanks.

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