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Boat maintenance tips

Keeping your boat in good working order is just as much a part of the boating experience as the boating itself. When a pleasure craft functions properly, breakdown probabilities are minimized. Almost all elements of safety revolve around the fact that the boat has been maintained and all its parts and systems are able to perform as they were designed. Negligence in this area will eventually lead to an unsafe or disastrous experience. In recently reported accidents, 8% of reporting vessels listed boat equipment/maintenance related factors as the cause. Additionally, 4% of all fatalities were due to boat equipment/maintenance related factors.

Engine/Running Gear

You should get in the habit of not only inspecting and checking all the engine components and fluids each and every time you go boating, but also doing periodic maintenance.

Engine/Running Gear maintenance tips include:

  • Change oil frequently - following manufacturer's minimum recommendations or once each season.
  • Check and replace any belts or hoses that appear to be deteriorating.
  • Check for oil and/or water leaks every time before leaving the dock.
  • Flush your engine with fresh water after operating in salt water.
  • Check impellers and pumps to anticipate a failure.
  • Watch for the beginning of corrosion, especially on battery terminals, and take measures to stop it before it becomes a problem. Clean battery terminals and electrical connections by disconnecting them and removing corrosion with a wire brush. 
  • Check and service transmissions and lower units according to manufacturer's recommendations.
  • Change fluids on a recommended schedule or at least once each season.
  • Keep shafts and props in clean and good working order.
  • Check all through-hull fittings for leakage and corrosion. Make sure that their valves are operational and can be opened and closed.
  • Check all water strainers to make sure that they are clean and free of debris.

General Maintenance

Keep bilge areas clean and free of trash to reduce the risk of fire. Keep the hull and decks of the boat clean and properly waxed. This protects the hull from deterioration from the sun, and a clean hull will give you better fuel efficiency. Fiberglass should be cleaned with fresh water and a non abrasive soap. If necessary, a soft brush should be used to help remove debris caught in crevices. Patch any cracks that occur due to stress, age or accident.

Keep all aluminum and stainless parts clean and polished with a good metal wax. If not adequately maintained, metals on boats corrode quickly, especially in a salt water environment. Check all screws, bolts, and other fittings to keep secure. Protect the value of your boat. You may want to trade it in on another one some day.

The majority of failures in modern day boats are caused by corroded electrical systems. Keep all electrical fittings dry, free of corrosion, and coated with a water repelling, non-conductive grease or corrosion inhibitor such as Pertox.

If at all possible, keep your boat under cover in a garage, carport or boat storage unit. At a minimum, keep a cover on your boat to protect the topsides, floors, seats etc. from the effects of the sun and rain.

Systems

Especially important in larger vessels is the continual maintenance of each system on the boat. An adequate and properly working system, which does what it was designed to do, will make each boating experience a pleasant one. Provide preventive maintenance according to the manufacturer's recommendation to the following:

  • Fuel system
  • Fresh water system
  • Generator
  • Electrical
  • Batteries
  • Air Conditioning
  • Refrigeration
  • Head and waste system
  • Cooking facilities