Quicksilver Blog

How to Inspect a Bilge Pump

Bilge water is present in every boat. Water can enter the bilge from rain, when the boat is washed down, if water washes over the transom, from melting cooler ice or an ill-fitting drain plug. If water is allowed to collect in the bilge it may lead to corrosion of metal parts or electrical connections, can diminish boat performance, or, in the worst-case scenario, allow your boat to sink. Inspecting your boat’s bilge pump(s) on a regular basis can ensure that the pump is working properly when you need it.

Boats up to 26 feet long typically have a single bilge pump. Larger boats may have several pumps. On boats with a single pump, it will be located far aft in the bilge, near the drain plug. The pump may be mounted below the engine on sterndrive boats.

In this video Bassmaster Elite series pro angler Cooper Gallant demonstrates how to inspect the bilge pump in a bass boat.

To inspect the pump, first disconnect the boat battery, then follow these steps:

Secure electrical connections: Wiring problems are a frequent source of pump failure. Wiring should be supported above the bilge so connection points are less likely to get wet. Wiring connections should be shrink-wrapped or sealed with water-tight connectors. Check connections for security and signs of corrosion. If the wiring circuit is fuse protected, check that the fuse is intact.

Check the float: Some bilge pumps have a mechanical float that switches the pump on and off. Check that the float can pivot smoothly, and that there is no debris lodged under the float that could prevent it from operating properly. Pumps without a float use an electronic sensor to detect water and switch on the pump.

Inspect the pump: Remove the pump from its mounting base, either by twisting the pump or releasing clips on the side of the pump. Disconnecting the pump from its outlet hose can make it easier to inspect the pump.

  • Clean any debris or growth from under the pump mounting location.

  • Inspect the underside of the pump (the water intake) for debris.

  • Use a small screwdriver to rotate the pump impeller to make sure it moves smoothly.

  • Inspect the pump impeller vanes for damage, which can be caused by metallic objects or other solid bits of debris that have entered the pump.

  • Use a hose to rinse out the pump, again to clear any debris.

  • Reconnect the discharge tube, reinstall the pump and reconnect the boat battery.

  • Use the boat’s manual bilge pump switch to briefly cycle the pump to ensure it is working.

With the inspection complete, boat with confidence knowing your bilge pump is ready to clear any water sloshing below deck.