Like RVs, boating industry sales reached record highs during 2020, and the trend looks set to continue for the foreseeable future. Boating is an excellent way to enjoy the excitement of the great outdoors from another angle.
Driving a boat is a relatively easy skill to master, and you can use your vessel for a wide range of activities. Whether you intend to go fishing, water-skiing, or sunset cruising, all types of boats have one thing in common.
Boat maintenance is essential for your enjoyment. Keep reading to find out more about this essential part of boat ownership.
Why Is Boat Maintenance Important?
Unless you’re a member of a fractional boat ownership club, you’re responsible for ensuring your boat remains in good running order all year round. A poorly maintained boat can become unseaworthy and dangerous for passengers and crew.
When you care for your boat properly, you can expect it to stay in immaculate condition for longer, too.
Whether you’re going boating on rivers, oceans, or lakes, it’s vital to conduct a visual inspection of your boat both before and after you hit the water. This cursory inspection can reveal potential maintenance issues or damages incurred during your last outing.
The best boat care practices include a regular maintenance schedule, ongoing upkeep, and occasional mechanical adjustments.
What Do You Need to Maintain Your Boat?
You should have no problem completing most aspects of boat maintenance without the help of a mechanic. To do this, you’ll need a few supplies and tools.
- Basic tools like an adjustable wrench, screwdriver, and pliers
- A long-handled brush or spray wand for washing your boat
- Specialized soap for boat cleaning
- Anti-corrosive fluid
- A digital multimeter
- A small wire brush to clean your boat
If you need to complete more specialized tasks, you can buy the equipment you need when you need it.
Cleaning Your Boat
Cleaning your boat every time you use it will keep it looking great for years to come, but it also helps prevent the spread of invasive species between water bodies. You never know which tiny organism is hitching a ride on your boat.
If you take your boat out on the ocean, cleaning it after use will help keep the finish intact. Sea salt can erode the finish of your boat, causing unsightly and permanent abrasions.
It’s best to clean your boat away from water sources to prevent any soap or chemicals from polluting the water. It’s best to use environmentally-friendly, non-toxic products and make sure you hose your boat down thoroughly after cleaning it.
You should always use the correct cleaning materials depending on the material you’re cleaning, as follows:
Fiberglass boats usually have a gel coat finish to protect the surface from the weather and salt. If you don’t look after this coating, it will soon take on a cloudy appearance.
To prevent this, it’s important to rinse your boat after every outing and wax or polish it at least twice a season using products approved for use on fiberglass. Scrubbing gently with a soft brush or cloth works well to remove surface grime.
Most boat covers, cockpits, and some other parts of your boat might comprise canvas. Taking good care of this material helps ensure it maintains its waterproof properties.
Clean canvas using mild soap, clean water, and a soft brush. Be sure to avoid cleaning any PVC windows in the canvas with ammonia, it will damage this material over time.
Always clean PVC with an approved cleaner.
If your boat features any wooden portions, like decks or handrails, they’re likely made of durable teak. You should clean them occasionally using a mild cleaner and working across the grain with a soft bristle brush.
Most boat seats have durable vinyl covers, which are easy to clean. If you don’t clean vinyl regularly, dirt build-up can lead to mold and mildew formation.
Wipe your seats down regularly using a soapy sponge, and then wipe them down with a clean cloth to remove any soap residue. Finally, you should dry your seats afterward and keep them covered or stored away when they’re not in use.
A Comprehensive Boat Maintenance Checklist
A checklist helps ensure you don’t miss out on any key aspects of maintaining your boat. These are the things you should diarize to ensure your vessel stays in top condition:
Before You Launch Your Boat
For safety’s sake, you must check a few things before you head out on the water. These are:
Oil and Oil Filter
You should change your oil and oil filter regularly to prevent damage to your boat’s engine. When you need to change the oil, simply let the engine run for seven minutes, then turn it off.
Place a container under the drain plug, remove the plug, and loosen the screw above it. The oil should take around 30 minutes to drain.
Once it’s done, change your oil filter, replace the drain plug, tighten the screw, and fill the engine with the correct oil. Make sure your oil levels are optimum before you use your boat.
A faulty propeller affects your boat’s performance and fuel consumption. Always check the propeller on your stern drive or outboard motor before you launch.
Make sure the propeller nut is secure, and tighten it with a deep socket wrench when needed. You should also inspect the propeller for small dents.
Twice a year, remove the propeller to make sure nothing’s wrapped around it, and grease the shaft at the same time.
Check the movement of the steering wheel. A glitch in this area may cause a serious accident. Occasionally, you should check the steering fluid levels and top up if necessary.
Be sure to wash the boat’s hull and deck before use and check the hull for damages. Make sure all the drain plugs are in place.
Excess water collects in the bilge, which is the bottom part of the boat. The bilge pump removes this water to stop your boat from sinking.
Test your bilge pump by placing some water in it and turning the pump on. If it doesn’t remove the water as it should, check the bilge pump hoses for clogs.
If it’s still not working after clearing the hoses, you must get it repaired before you use your boat. It’s a good idea to buy a backup bilge pump, so you can enjoy your boat uninterrupted if this happens.
Battery and Electric Systems
Your boat’s battery works like a heart, it powers the electrical system, and your boat can’t function without it. If your boat doesn’t start, check the battery.
You can check its charge with a multimeter, and you should inspect the connections for corrosion regularly.
Check that your electrical lines are in good shape, as deteriorating lines can cause an electrical fire on board. Keeping your electrical lines clean is the first step toward preventing them from degrading.
Never drive off in your boat without checking all the safety equipment. Make sure your life preservers are in good order, check the lights and safety horn, and make sure the batteries in your carbon monoxide and smoke alarms are still good.
Check your fire extinguisher and flare expiration dates and replace them if necessary. You should always store these items in dry areas where you can reach them quickly if needed.
When you’ve run your boat for twenty hours you must treat the fuel with a decarbonizer, check the engine’s RPM, refill the engine oil and check the lower unit for water.
This is also a good time to clean your boat inside and apply any protective measures to the upholstery.
Your to-do list after fifty hours of operation includes checking the fuel lines for damage, inspecting the steering system for leaks, and topping up steering fluid if necessary.
You should wax and polish your boat’s deck and hull, and clean the bilge pump at this stage too.
100-Hour Maintenance Aspects
After 100 hours on the water, it’s a good idea to get a qualified mechanic to check your boat’s engine. Other tasks include:
- Lubricating the grease points
- Refilling the power trim and tilt fluid
- Touching up the damaged paint
- Tightening all accessible fasteners and bolts
- Replacing the water pump impeller, fuel filters, and oil filters
- Checking the bow and stern eyes for wear
- Inspecting the rub rail for damage
Maximize Your Leisure Time
Owning a boat opens up many avenues of recreation and exploration, and taking good care of your boat can help minimize the expenses related to owning one of these luxury recreational vehicles.
These few boat maintenance pointers will ensure your boat stays in good shape and gives you many years of safe and enjoyable service.
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