Odds are you have already taken the boat out on the water this season. As much fun as that can be, there is some needed basic maintenance that goes along with the good times. Boating Basics pointed out recently that 8% of boating accidents are maintenance related, so let’s do our part now to make the most of your boating season. Refer to a general boating manual or the specific manual for your make/model.
Keep it clean
No, I’m not talking about the time you spilled beer on your bucket seats. The exterior of the boat needs to stay just as clean as the interior, and it’s arguable that the hull should stay even cleaner than the cabin. Discover Boating says that a hull covered in algae and residue can increase fuel consumption up to 30%. It’s costly to be a slacker, so don’t be that guy. After every single outing in salt water, wash the exterior with a marine approved cleaner. This will prevent salt buildup and damage to the clear coat. Your basic washing equipment is fine for this job, available at almost any boating outlet, and should run you well under $100 to get the job done all season long.
Change the oil
Checking the fluids is a no brainer, and should be done before hitting the water. Every time. If the oil is dark, or your engine has hit the recommended service interval, take a few to change the oil. There’s no excuses allowed here, as changing a boat’s oil is usually even easier to perform than on a car. Simply warm the engine up for a few minutes, and turn off. Drain the oil into a pan for recycling. This is probably the longest part, just waiting for all the oil to drip out. Have a beer while waiting. Then change the oil filter. Put the oil plug back in and refill with the correct weight marine oil. Start her up again, then check the oil level and adjust as needed. The whole process should take under an hour and definitely not break the bank.
Check the prop
Have a quick look at the propeller before every launch. Obviously this is only applicable to outboard or stern drive boats, but keep in mind they are the most common civilian boats on the water. Use a ratchet with a deep socket to make sure the propeller nut is secure. You should also remove the propeller every so often to make sure someone’s fishing line isn’t wrapped around the propeller shaft. If it has, take it to a dealer so they can inspect the gear case. Fishing line can cause gear case leaks, and that is not a do-it-yourself type job. While the prop is off, inspect it for nicks, scratches, dents and other signs of damage. Paint damage is normal, but send it out for repair or replacement if you find signs of impact. Boating Magazine says the smallest dent can cause your boat to lose 10% of performance and it will burn more fuel than normal. Reinstall with a good amount of waterproof grease on the prop shaft, and, using a torque wrench, tighten the nut to the manufacturer’s specifications.