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Wakeboat Pre-purchase Checklist


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This free tutorial is compiled from posts from The Malibu Crew forum and their members; please consider being a supporter.

This generic wake boat checklist is intended to be a general guide for a pre-purchase inspection.  Read this guide completely prior to the test drive and ensure you understand all the checks and nomenclature.  All efforts have been made to make this a thorough chronological check of all the systems, but there may be omissions or systems not addressed in this checklist for your particular candidate.  This list is geared towards 2000+ model year boats; some items may not apply.  If you find errors, omissions, or have suggestions, please replay and we will edit as appropriate. 

Do your homework and do not be in a hurry during the test.  Bring a pen & pad and check off all items as you go.  Take lots of pictures.

1)  Pre-purchase Quick Inspection (prior to dealer or mechanic):

  • Confirm seller has clear title in hand (or dealership/bank, etc.)
  • Confirm HIN matches title. 
  • Check service records; no records is a bad sign, even with owner DIY maintenance.
  • Is the boat at a dealer, or a private sale?  Will they offer a warranty?  How many owners has the boat had?  Do they have maintenance records?
  • Does the boat have closed cooling (a heat exchanger with a radiator cap)? 
  • Does the boat meet your needs (verify size, prop/powertrain, tower, etc.)
  • Verify engine and mechanicals are free of rust and corrosion.
  • Conduct thorough interior inspection of all vinyl, seats, hatches, dash, etc.
  • Conduct thorough external inspection of the running gear (rudder, shaft, strut, bushings, and prop).  Turn the prop and look for dings/bent shaft, etc.
  • If the boat has special items like a heater or shower, note them specifically to test for leaks and proper function (fan, pump) on water test.
  • Check overall condition of gelcoat.  SLOWLY look over the entire boat for spider cracking, especially in high stress areas such as transom area (wedge, swim platform mounts, etc), transom/bow hooks, cleat footings, ski pylon, rails or other tow hardware or attach points and especially tower footings!
  • NOTE: spider cracks are indicators of possible damage to the underlying fiberglass.  Always assume it is more than simple gelcoat damage.

2)    Pre-purchase Inspection (optional, done at dealer or mechanic):

  • Include a compression test on the engine. 
  • Run diagnostic check (OBD) and check for error codes.
  • Conduct alignment check of v-drive/drivetrain.
  • Verify engine and mechanicals are free of rust and corrosion.
  • General inspection of the running gear (rudder, shaft, strut, and prop). 

3)    Before you get it in the water (at ramp/marina):

  • Check all lights and reverse solenoid (surge brakes) or electric brakes for operation (if applicable) and check trailer lights connector for condition.
  • Feel the axle hubs for excessive heat buildup after driving it a fair distance.
  • Note ride height of trailer at wheel wells vs tires; should match other side.
  • Get under trailer and check hull condition and running gear:
  • Record any/all propeller info (model number, pitch and diameter.) 
  • Turn the prop and thoroughly look/feel for dings/bent shaft, etc.; the tiniest of nicks can cause prop sing, vibrations, and/or cavitation.
  • Inspect propeller for damage, pitting, and general condition.
  • Check the Cutlass bearing housed inside the strut for condition.
  • Push shaft side-to-side to check for free play in Cutlass bearing.
  • Check paddlewheel condition and free movement (if installed.) 
  • Thoroughly check the hull and conduct a general underside check of the trailer frame; don't worry about the rest of the trailer quite yet.
  • Cycle any retractable cleats, check for smooth operation.
  • Grab the swim platform firmly; pull up and push down.  Check for any loose play and is properly attached.  Verify mounting hardware integrity.
  • Get in the boat and conduct thorough interior inspection of all vinyl, seats, hatches, dash, carpet, etc.  Swing seats & check areas not normally visible.  This may include removing snap-in carpet.  There may be other hatches for access, such as fuel tank, bilge pump(s), or ballast pump(s).
  • Check battery switch for operation; confirm understanding of switch operation and any secondary battery banks and/or charging relays (ACRs.)
  • Note hour/Hobbs meter now; we’ll compare hour reading after test.
  • Turn on bilge pump and blower to check for proper operation; physically go back and feel the air from the blower vent(s) and verify it is working well.
  • Get under dash and inspect wiring; look for amateur fix-its, add-ons, etc.
  • Check engine oil, transmission, & v-drive fluids (remember to bring rags.) 
  • Check bilge and any compartments for water; all (hopefully) should be dry before launching; you'll check later for leaks on the lake.  If there is water in any compartments, grab a rag or towel and dry it up prior to proceeding.

4)    After Launching:

  • After you launch the boat, securely tie up with docking lines and fenders at the dock somewhere out of the way; go back to finish the full inspection of the trailer:
  • Check bunks, carpet, rollers, axles, check winch & condition of strap, and check guide poles for operation; look for corrosion/rust on underside.
  • Check wheels for evenness...any issues with failed torsion axles will (hopefully) show with weight off the trailer (one wheel higher than other.) 
  • If installed, swing the trailer tongue (optionally best to check at initial viewing before connected) then check for brake fluid leaks and condition of wiring inside the pivot area.  Check for brake fluid level/color under cap.
  • Using either a jack or a speed bump to lift wheels, check each wheel for bearing smoothness & free play; check each tire tread, including spare.
  • Note the type of trailer electrical connector type (flat or round, # of pins) and verify compatibility with your tow vehicle or other tow vehicle utilized for relocation/shipment, if applicable.

Now you may go back to the boat…

5)    On the water:

  • NOTE: for this portion of the inspection, the boat engine should be cold.
  • Upon startup, note all engine instruments; continue to monitor all engine instruments for normal operation (water temp going up, volts, oil, etc.)
  • Check any digital displays for delaminating, pixilation, crazing, fading, etc.
  • Swing helm full left/right...should be smooth.  Check wheel tilt up/down.
  • Run seat fore/aft and up/down as applicable.  Check bolster for operation.
  • Adjust mirror (if installed.)  Note if it stays in position during the subsequent runs (be sure to hit a couple waves, even your own if needed.)
  • Head out from dock and note shifter for smoothness.  Conduct manual check of handling at various speeds (including slow handling & reverse), then check Perfect Pass (or equivalent) at ski speeds to check for operation. 
  • Fill ballast tanks to appropriate wake weights and operate any wake enhancers (such as wedge, ballast, wake plate, etc.)  Operate Perfect Pass (or equivalent) at wake speed (25 mph) to check for operation, with turns.
  • Switch to RPM or paddlewheel mode if installed and re-check for operation.
  • Fill ballast tanks to appropriate surf weights & repeat above @ 10-11 mph.
  • Run with wedge up and down (if installed) and see how it handles and note the wake and make sure it is satisfactory.  Keep ballast levels full for now.
  • If you’re serious about the boat, a rider session behind it may be necessary to verify you’re OK with the wake/wave, Perfect Pass etc.  Check both regular and goofy waves.  Don’t be bashful, this is an expensive purchase.
  • Check swim platform with multiple passengers on it; verify it is strong.
  • Note oil pressure, engine temp, DC volts, etc.  Check speedo and other gauge operation, including speed indication adjuster (if applicable.)
  • When you accelerate hard from a dead stop, you should not feel vibration or very much at all.  If you do, something is wrong with the running gear (alignment, strut, cutlass bearing, prop, loose hardware, etc.)
  • After working it hard, stop and turn off the motor.  Promptly go to v-drive and feel shaft at the v-drive coupler and also the packing nut (forward of shaft log) and feel for temperature; should not be hot.  Warm is OK.
  • Now operate the stereo for a bit...a good 10-20 minute chat with the owner is appropriate right now; you need time to let the engine heat soak to check for vapor lock, so maybe ask (or tell) about a story regarding the boat history while you continue.  Keep ballast full for now…
  • Open ALL hatches/doors, lift all seats, etc (except engine hatch…we’ll get to that later) and inspect for general condition and operation; note condition of vinyl.  If observer’s compartment contains batteries, check for condition of wiring, battery connectors, and any battery switches, ACRs, etc.  When checking these areas, look/feel for water or moisture embedded in carpet.
  • Sit in all seats to check for sagging/comfort, don’t forget bow area.
  • Again swing all seats, flip-ups, etc and check for areas normally unseen.
  • Check pass-through window and hinge for clearance and operation; verify air dam is available, operational, and condition is good.
  • Check navigation, anchor, and docking lights for condition and operation.
  • If it has a stowed bimini, open/install it; check for general condition and ease of operation.  If it is hot outside, keep it open for a while to look for sagging after it has had time to get heat soaked (if non-adjustable.)
  • Check any swinging racks or tower accessories for operation.
  • Open glove box and check for operation; check lock if installed.
  • Open exterior lockers and check for operation of latch.  Verify center hatch has retaining safety pin (if installed; applies only to rear-hinged hatches.)
  • Check for table hardware if installed; operate if applicable.
  • Run ALL other switches and check for full functionality. (*except blower)
  • Bring an automotive DC power component such as a cell phone charger to check all DC (cigarette lighter style) and USB outlets are in working order.   
  • Check fuse or circuit breaker panel for condition and/or modification. 
  • Now that you’ve had several minutes since shutdown with the engine hatch closed, there should have been some heat build-up to check for vapor lock.  Blower fan should be off during this period (but OK to turn on for start.)
  • Now go ahead and key up (key up only) & note the battery voltage: _____
  • Now start the motor; it should start fine, no heat soak/vapor lock issues. 
  • You should still have full ballast; check bilge and ballast areas for any leaks; there should be a little water, but more than that and you have a real leak.
  • While down there, check drip rate from shaft packing both in neutral and while in gear (idle); should be about 1 drop per 5-20 seconds for standard packing; for “dripless” seal, it should be less than 1 drop per minute.
  • If it has a shower, operate it and check for BOTH hot and cold water. 
  • If it has a heater run it and check for hot air (with engine running.)
  • Turn off engine; wait a couple minutes and re-check oil and v-drive fluid levels; these should match pre-launch levels.
  • Check transmission fluid; should match “hot” level equivalent from cold.
  • Now check blower and bilge pump (bilge pump may be hard to hear.)
  • Prior to return, empty all ballast and note time duration to empty tanks.
  • Manually verify all tanks are empty (and matches any indicating system.)
  • After emptied, open up the engine hatch and re-check bilge for leakage from the empty side of the ballast plumbing.  Additionally, inspect the engine; look for any other fluid leaks, including water from a cracked block.

6)    After test:

  • Allow owner to trailer the boat; note the method and care taken; some will “walk” onto the trailer, but if power loading, note speed at which it is loaded onto the trailer.  It should be slow & easy, not slammed into place.
  • Note operation of bow winch, rollers and guide poles during trailering.
  • After relocating to parking/staging area, re-check engine compartment and look for any other fluid leaks (in addition to what was noted earlier.)
  • Pull ALL plugs (transom & any garboard drains) and verify smooth operation with no cross-threaded plugs. *About T-Handle Drain plugs: there are 2 types, with o-ring or without. Unless boat lives at slip/marina, the bottom of plug should be nice and clean: not green or covered with algae. 
  • Stow bimini assembly and note ease of retraction; install cover if applicable.
  • Stow/operate/fold the tower assembly; note any difficulties. 
  • Record final hour/Hobbs meter here: ________. The final hour reading should indicate the difference of running time from your initial departure.
  • NOTE: hour meter on Perfect Pass is not necessarily actual engine hours, so buyer beware.  For actual engine hours, you must check on ECM.
  • Install transom and bow trailer straps and verify ease of use.
  • Re-check trailer lights operational (now that trailer has been dunked.)
  • Turn battery switch to OFF, and then verify all switches are INOP (or as appropriate; many boats have bilge pump hard wired to battery.)
  • Note if owner wipes down boat and how it is cared for upon departure.   ;)
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Not sure if was in there but make sure to inspect fuel tank in belly access hatch and rear/pull up carpet if applicable and check for spider cracks in gel coat in deck: this one had a lot 

Then found a snapped vent hose with fuel spilling out, in fwd vent on gas tank

also check for holes in the rudder lol






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