How To Check Your Boat Engine Hours

In order to properly maintain your boat it is essential to know how many hours the engine has been running. This is important because there are certain maintenance routines that must be performed in accordance to the engine hours of the craft. But if you’re new to boating, you may have been wondering how to check your boat engine hours

Older boats feature an hour meter displaying the engine hours whereas newer boats have an electronic system that stores the engine hours on a computer.

 But checking your boat engine hours isn’t the only important aspect of maintaining your vessel. Ensuring an excellent service routine will also boost the life of the engine and keep you sailing for longer! In this guide, we will be detailing everything you need to know to familiarize yourself with boat engine hours.

One of the biggest concerns for boat owners is that, when the engine dies, it can be an expensive job. On average, you can expect to fork out up to $4000, that’s around £2900! But the good news is that, from new, most boat engines are designed to last for up to 1500 hours. But that isn’t to say that they will perform at their best for all of them.


For the most part, a diesel marine engine will run smoothly for the first 1000 hours, it is only after this that you may begin experiencing problems. However, these are generally minor problems that can be easily rectified. It is important to address any issues as they arise if you want to make sure that the engine will remain healthy for that last 500 hours!


But in addition to the boat engine hours, you have to take the age of the engine into consideration. You see, you could have an old engine, let’s say 30 years of age, that has only accumulated 300 engine hours. While it hasn’t run for long, the age itself will impact the quality. Of course, the better you maintain it the longer it will remain reliable. Conversely, a 5 year old engine that is near the 1500 hour limit may be far less healthy.

Checking Your Boat Engine Hours

It is incredibly important to monitor your boat engine hours since this will tell you when to perform certain maintenance jobs. Failing to do this will result in a decreased engine lifespan and will see you with an unnecessary hole in your bank account.

Boat owners should keep in mind that the age of their vessel will determine how the engine hours should be checked.

In the last 20 years, boat manufacturers have given the onboard tech a little bit of a makeover so newer boats will have a different system. In any case, the boat engine hours are stored on an hour meter.

Old Boats

If you are buying a second hand boat, we would strongly urge you to avoid purchasing anything that was made before circa 2000. While some boats from the 1990s do have more modern hour meters, the majority are outdated. Not only this, but the boat itself may not be in the best state of repair and the money you would spend rectifying the problems could just as well go towards a more expensive, modern boat.


Onto boat engine hours; boats that were made in the 1970s and 1980s typically feature an hour meter near the dash. This will display how many hours the engine has run for but there is an issue with reliability. This relates to these meters being of an analogue design which means that they can be wound back. In some cases, sellers will do this to boost the likelihood of a sale.

New Boats

Fortunately, most of the boats we see on the water today are newer models which come with a much more reliable and easy to read digital hour meter. This is typically located within the boat software and displayed on a tacho display screen.


That said, there are some boats that do not feature a display screen and require the owner to use a plug-in for their PC. This is a little more inconvenient but there are boat mechanics who will do this for you if you are at all unsure.


What’s great about these modern hour meters is that it is not possible to reset them since the readings come directly from the engine control unit and everything is computerized.

Logging Boat Engine Hours The Old Fashioned Way

Now, there are those of you out there that might want to take an old fashioned approach to logging your boat engine hours. Moreover, it is always good to have a manual backup, should your onboard equipment fail.


In this case, you will need to note down the time when you start the engine and then note it again once it is switched off. You can then calculate the amount of time that the engine was running and make a note of this too.

If you are doing this as a backup, you can use the reading from your hour meter to do this as well. Keeping track of the hours in this way allows you to create a reliable and timely maintenance schedule.

Are Hour Meters Reliable?

Generally speaking, your hour meter will provide you with an accurate reading, especially on newer computerized systems. However, it is worth noting that some boats have meters that begin recording even when the engine is idle which can mean a less accurate ‘running’ reading.


Owning a boat comes with a variety of responsibilities. One of the most important is to ensure that the boat is properly maintained. This will ensure it runs as smoothly as possible for as long as possible. While boat engines will give up after a certain amount of time, they will generally last for around 1500 hours.

But before this, there are certain points where maintenance is required, especially once the engine exceeds running 1000 hours. Using your hour meter which may be located on the boat dash or can be observed through a PC connection, will allow you to clearly see how long the engine has been running for. The age of your boat will determine whether you have a digital or analogue display but beware that older boat’s hour meters can be manipulated. This is something to keep in mind when buying a second hand vessel.



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