Boat maintenance is often overlooked as most boat owners operate their vessels seasonally. There is a common misconception that using a boat for half the year means there is no need for annual maintenance. The truth is every boat should be maintained and analyzed for potential repairs at least once every year.
Boat Maintenance Basics: Keep a Dry Boat
A moist boat is a boat that will require more repairs and maintenance than should be necessary. Do not let your boat remain wet after a day on the water. Keep at least two large towels on-hand at all times so you can quickly wipe down the boat after an on-water adventure.
Drying the boat prevents moisture from seeping down into the engine and other internal components. The last thing you want is for moisture or even the salt from the sea to move inward and corrode the boat’s mechanical components. Moreover, drying the boat is important for aesthetic purposes as it prevents the formation of stains from water.
Take a Look at the Engine Prior to Departure
Your boat’s engine is its heart. Neglect the engine and you’ll run the risk of your vessel malfunctioning while out on the water. Check the hoses and bilge for indications of leaks. Don’t forget to double-check the fuel and water coolant before departure, replenishing both as necessary.
Pay particularly close attention to the boat’s engine oil. There must be sufficient oil within the reservoir for the vessel to operate as designed. Keep an eye on the oil pressure along with the voltmeters and you’ll take to the water without worry. An oil pump and extractor wrench will be necessary for DIY (do it yourself) boat oil changes. If you are hesitant to change your boat’s oil on your own, do not hesitate to bring the vessel to a certified dealer for assistance.
Maintain the Gelcoat
Boat gelcoats require sufficient maintenance. Though gelcoats are inherently strong, improper cleaners have the potential to cause staining or even lead to dissolving. Carefully select the optimal boat cleaners and use them at the recommended frequency. Keep in mind, if the gelcoat is still strong, the vast majority of stains can be removed with buffing.
Protect the Battery
Boat batteries should not remain within the vessel during times of the year when the boat is not in use. Remove the battery during the winter or the season when the boat is stored. Carefully clean the battery, lubricating the bolts along with the terminals. Charge the battery and store in it in a protected space.
Remove Wax Before Adding More Wax
The addition of new wax is necessary prior to the start of boating season as it gets the vessel ready for the powerful impact of waves. Do your part to enhance the impact your wax max by removing old wax. Solvents for dewaxing boats are surprisingly easy to acquire and use. Give a dewaxing solvent a chance and you’ll find it really is that much easier to add the new coat of wax with ease.
Check the Boat Propeller
If the boat has a propeller, be mindful of its condition. The bottom line that most boat owners do not want to hear is that propellers require maintenance, potentially once every year. You can do your part by checking the propeller for signs of damage.
Disconnect the propeller with the assistance of a family member or friend, examine it for debris, damage, fishing line and other sundries that might have become trapped within the shaft. If you notice damage or even slight denting, bring the boat to a maintenance and repair professional for in-depth analysis.
Recognize the Threat of Corrosion
Boats containing metal will inevitably corrode. Moreover, nasty white corrosion can form on aluminum in due time. Analyze the metal attachments and other metal components of the vessel at least once every couple months. If you notice any indications of corrosion on metal parts or the engine, make a concerted effort to keep them dry and protected. Even slight rust on such parts should prompt replacement.
Pay Attention to the Flooring
Boat cockpit floors are sometimes designed for self-draining, making it that much easier to clean them and extend their lifespan for posterity’s sake. Boat owners with vessels containing snap-in style carpets should remove them. Look beneath such marine-grade carpets and you are likely to find all sorts of sundries ranging from bits of food to random gunk, water and more. Use a scrub brush to clean the foredeck, eliminating dirt and stains to boost longevity.
How to Maintain a Boat: Flush the Engine Upon Return
Make a mental note to flush the boat engine after your expedition ends. After all, the engine is the most important part of your boat. Regardless of whether you venture out to fresh water or saltwater, a thorough flushing of the engine is necessary upon returning from your adventures.
Flushing a boat engine eliminates the accumulation of deposits including salt, preventing them from compromising internal components. Flushing also eliminates sand, muck and other dirt. If your boat is a modern outboard vessel, it likely has a flushing system for freshwater built in. Reference the boat’s operating manual for flushing guidance.
Those who own a boat that lacks an internal flushing system will be forced to use a motor flusher such as the type offered by Attwood or Shoreline Marine. Such systems are sometimes called boat earmuffs. Simply connect the flusher to a regular garden hose, conceal the intakes for water with the earmuffs and start the flow of water. As long as there is sufficient water pressure for the outboard to run, you’ll be able to turn it over with ease. Allow a minimum of five minutes for an adequate flush.
Examine the Boat at Least Once Every 100 Hours
Time your boating ventures to get a sense of when you are approaching the 100-hour mark. Once you reach 100 hours of on-water time, it is time to pause and reflect. The 100-hour mark is a benchmark that indicates the time is right to lubricate all the boat’s grease points. Take a close look at the tilt fluid and power trim. If a refill is necessary, replenish the fluid right away.
The 100-hour use mark is also an opportunity to tighten up all the fasteners and bolts. Check the boat’s engine mounts. Using a boat for 100 hours might also require you to add a new water pump impeller. The mounting along the stern and bow might show signs of weakness and wear. There is also a chance of damage on the rub rail to boot.
If you are intimidated by the prospect of performing a thorough analysis of your boat every 100 hours, don’t panic. You don’t have to do all the work on your own. A boat mechanic with years of experience has the knowledge necessary to analyze your boat in-depth before you return to the water. Put your trust in a professional boat mechanic each time you reach the 100-hour benchmark of use and you’ll sleep soundly knowing you’ve done everything in your power to remain safe on the water.
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