Maintaining a modern, reliable water-maker is one of the easiest — and least time-consuming — DIY tasks aboard a boat. The folks at FCI Watermakers (fciwatermakers.com), a U.S.-based manufacturer with 30 years of experience, put together a tip sheet that should help boat owners keep a very important piece of equipment in top working order and making fresh, pure water.
A well-engineered water-maker allows for maximum, open access, whether it’s modular or framed. First, give the unit a visual inspection. Modern ones are like new automobiles: incredibly dependable and easy to maintain, but the occasional peek under the hood never hurts.
With auto-flush, checking the filters constitutes the bulk of the routine maintenance involved in owning a water-maker. The pre-filter can usually be washed up to three times before it’s replaced — generally, every three to six months. Running the unit while at sea, rather than in dirty coastal water, will extend this filter’s usable life.
Whether manual or automatic, scheduled freshwater flushes are important; they lengthen the service life of the membranes. Some modern water-makers make this task easy. Advanced models with state-of-the-art touchscreen controllers perform this operation, plus scheduled diagnostic testing, completely automatically.
Replace the carbon block filter after every 50 freshwater flushes — about twice a year. (FCI uses this type over granular activated carbon (GAC) because it ensures 100 percent of the chlorine is removed from the water.)
After every 500 hours of use, replace the oil in the high-pressure pump. It’s clean and easy to do, because they use little oil. Membrane replacement will depend on operating conditions and hours of use.
Annually when the boat is hauled out, check the intake and brine discharge through-hulls for obstructions. Look at the sea strainer, and clear and clean it as needed.
Depending on how long one plans to have the boat at sea, it’s a good idea to have spares of replaceable items such as filters and spare oil on board. Top-quality water-makers only use non-proprietary parts, so they’re readily available worldwide — and relatively inexpensive compared to those made by the manufacturer.