Odds are you’re anxious to take 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. Recently it has been reported 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 our general boating manual for basic stuff and general maintenance to the vessel, or the specific manual for the make/model of your outboard, inboard, or stern drive.
Here’s a few simple tips we’ll share for free:
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, barnacles, 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, scrub 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. Getting safely back to shore may depend on it.
You should definitely have changed the oil before putting the boat up for the winter, otherwise moisture and contamination sat in it for months. If you didn’t, that should be the first thing you do after you take the cover off in spring.
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 it 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, just to make sure someone’s fishing line isn’t wrapped around the propeller shaft. If it has, inspect the gear case. Fishing line can wreck the rubber seals and cause gear case leaks, and fixing it is not an easy 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.
Now, get out there and have fun, but stay safe!