Prioritizing the maintenance of your boat may seem overwhelming and time consuming but there are certain tasks that if done every day, or at least often, can make keeping your boat in top condition a lot easier. Continue reading to learn some boat maintenance tips to make the transition to boating season less of a hassle!
Sure, you winterized your boat. And you also have an annual servicing and cleaning routine in the spring to dewinterize your boat.
After that, you may assume that all will be fine. That is, until something breaks, tears, blows or just stops working entirely.
The frequency of your boat care routine all depends on your boat and how you use it. Older boats need more time and attention, as do boats used for frequent trips or speedy, adrenaline-pumping excursions.
No matter your boat and how you treat it, you definitely want to follow these basic tips for boat maintenance throughout the boating season to prevent incidents on the water later. You might even want to go through this list a time or two in the off-season, especially if you’re leaving it in the water.
These tips hold true for pontoons, deck boats and runabouts alike, but keep the particular needs of your boat in mind. You know your boat better than I do.
1. Keep a close eye on the engine
I’ve seen plenty of boaters break down due to engine failure, only to be towed back to the marina. Sometimes it could’ve prevented beforehand, sometimes not.
Regardless, routine inspection of your engine, be it outboard, sterndrive or inboard, is vital to trouble-free cruising.
Confused where to start? Always begin with the basic boat maintenance tasks.
First, check the oil. Low oil levels or no oil at all means problems sooner rather than later. Give it a top-up whenever it’s looking low to keep your engine running stronger and for longer. You’ll want to do the full oil change at least once every 50-100 running hours.
Always refer to your manual for what type of oil to use and how frequently to change it. Many outboards nowadays are built so you can check and change the oil quickly and easy.
Once this is done, and with the engine’s cowling already off, it never hurts to:
- Check for fuel or oil leaks. If something looks suspicious, contact your local boat repair shop or call the engine manufacturer for recommendations.
- Lubricate all moving parts with an anti-corrosive.
- Inspect all lines and hoses for wear.
- Check clamps and fuel lines for corrosion.
Additionally, your outboard should be well-secured to the transom. Constant use during the season can potentially loosen hardware and misalign the outboard.
Check that all bolts are secure. Tighten things up as needed.
2. Flush the engine after each outing
Yes, we’re still stuck on the engine business. That’s because this is perhaps the most important part of your boat to look after.
Whether you run in salt or fresh water, flushing your engine with fresh water and an outboard flush kit should be done after every outing.
Flushing the engine means preventing the salt crystals and deposits from damaging internal components (in saltwater applications) and getting rid of muck, sand or other crud (after running in fresh water).
Most modern outboards feature built-in freshwater flushing systems and the process is very simple. Just be sure to consult with your operating manual for the proper procedure.
If you don’t have a flushing system on your outboard, it’s time to get old school with motor flushers like those offered by Shoreline Marine or Attwood. These are usually referred to as earmuffs.
To use, attach the system to a garden hose, cover the water intakes with the earmuffs and turn on the water. Be sure there’s enough flowing water for the outboard to run before turning it over.
Let it run at least five minutes to ensure sufficient flushing.
3. Honor thy prop
Without your prop, your boat isn’t going anywhere.
A testament to this is a situation I found myself in while fishing a few years ago. After a morning of being successful, I decided to call it a day. I pulled the anchor, started the engine and pushed the throttle. Nothing happened. All I heard was a high-pitched whizzing sound.
Confused, I turned the engine off, lifted the leg and was shocked to see there was no prop on the drive. Instead, looking further down, it was 15 feet below the water’s surface, directly off the stern.
I then dropped anchor and went for a swim to get it. After my morning dip, I got the attention of a nearby angler and he happily towed me into the marina.
So, take this boat maintenance tip from me: before any outing, ensure the prop nut and cotter pin are secured to the manufacturer’s specifications. I was lucky that I was in shallower water. Otherwise, it would have been a very costly mistake.
Other prop maintenance includes:
- Checking for dings, nicks or bent blades. A bent blade or even a ding can hinder your performance. Remember, hitting rocks, the bottom or other hard objects can damage the prop shaft or other internal components.
- Inspecting the prop shaft and hub for fishing lines or debris (this is also a good time to ensure the water intake is clean).
- Making sure the prop shaft is properly greased. There are many greasing solutions on the market such as Mercury Marine Quicksilver 2-4-C Marine Grease. However, the key is to keep the shaft lubed so the prop doesn’t corrode onto the shaft.