From Depth Sounders To AC Prime

Maintenance Q&A

June 2017 Feature

In almost 23 years of being involved in the houseboat industry, Warren Childers of Sunstar Yacht Sales & Brokerage has traveled 28,000 miles on the inland rivers and Intracoastal Waterway and from Canada to Key West, Fla., by houseboat. He’s seen and fixed about anything you could ask about. Here are some questions folks have asked him recently.

Question: I’m interested in buying an old ’79 houseboat but the owner said the Mermaid AC loses prime. I’m not sure if that’s a deal breaker or not. Is this a meddlesome issue to have?

Submitted by James Fierro, Atlanta, Ga.

Warren: Generally a Marine AC losing prime is not a huge issue to correct. In most cases it is due to the AC pump being installed too high in the system. This causes air to become trapped in the pump. An AC pump is a centrifugal pump and will not self-prime. The AC pump should be installed below the water line in the boat and be the lowest point in the system. You can re-prime the pump easily by holding a water hose up to the water discharge on the outside of the boat and back flush water into the pump.

Question: My upper helm depth sounder quit working. In the past, I could clean the transducer on the back of the houseboat and it would work again, but not this time. It’ll only show random numbers. What’s the best way to go about fixing this?

Submitted by Clay Warwick, Rockford, Ill.

Warren: More than likely either the transducer or the sounder unit in the dash has gone bad and will require replacement.

Question: I need to replace my holding tank filter, but they’re surprisingly expensive. Is it better to try to DIY your own?

Submitted by Bailee Lawrence, Fort Wayne, Ind.

Warren: Remember, these systems were designed and tested by engineers. A lot of time and money went into making the system perform just right. I always suggest using what the manufacturer recommends.

Question: I haven’t been on a houseboat before, but my family would like to try renting one. Can we all cook onboard just like at home?

Submitted by Glenn Ivers, Dayton, Tenn.

Warren: In most cases, rental houseboats are set up with the same appliances you have in your home. With an onboard generator, you will find yourself at home on a houseboat. You can cook just like at your house. Check with your rental company and confirm that the boat you are renting has household appliances. Most rental houseboats also come with propane grills.  

If you have a question about houseboating, shoot Warren an email at

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