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10 Boat Maintenance Tips You Need to Know

by Ragini Salampure

A recent study found that over $20.1 million was spent annually on boat and boating supplies.

The 2016 report also says that recreational boating was enjoyed by over 141 million people in the U.S. It’s an affordable hobby–the majority of boaters make under $100,000 a year.

Like cars, boats need to be cleaned and maintained on a regular basis. The fun of recreational boating is slightly offset by required maintenance, but most boat owners feel the expense and time involved is worthwhile.

To keep your boat operating, read below for helpful boat maintenance tips.

Choose Your Cleaning Supplies Carefully

There are many different types of boats and exterior marine finishes to consider when choosing your cleaning supplies. Boats can be fiberglass, aluminum, or wood, and covered with a gelcoat or wax. 

It’s important to select the safest option for your boat’s exterior, and use biodegradable soaps to protect sea wildlife.

Don’t Neglect the Battery

It’s easy to forget your boat’s battery, but one of the best boat maintenance tips is to check it for corrosion on a regular basis. If you see build-up on the terminals, a toothbrush with a little baking soda and water should help remove it. 

In the winter, keep your battery charged and in shape by removing it from the boat and storing it out of the cold. Exposing it to freezing temperatures can shorten its life once summer weather returns. Save yourself from having to make a trip to the marina supply store when you’d rather be out fishing!

Maintain the Fuel and Oil Properly 

Be sure to know the proper additives for your boat’s fuel type, and keep a fuel stabilizer in the tank when your boat’s in storage. Keeping your tank full with a stabilizer or fuel will prevent moisture from accumulating when it’s in storage.

Care for Your Engine

After each trip, flush out your engine with fresh water. This is especially important if you’ve been out in the ocean, in order to prevent salt and debris from clogging the engine’s parts. 

You should also lubricate the internal parts adequately since marine environments tend to encourage rust. Even if your engine’s hoses and wiring look stable, always check them before you leave the marina for the day, just to be safe.

Take Care of the Propeller

Outboard props should be inspected before each trip. Check for tangles of fishing line, netting, trash, or other debris. Bent or dented blades will decrease your motor’s efficiency, so make sure they’re in the right position.

It’s also important to make sure they are attached with the proper hardware, not loose, and lubricated well. The last thing you need is to get stranded far from land when your propeller falls off!

Prevent Moisture From Accumulating

Maintaining a boat means keeping an eye out for mold and mildew. Never let water puddle when your boat’s sitting. Wiping down surfaces will prevent salt and mineral buildup and preserve your boat’s good looks.

Don’t Forget Electrical and HVAC Systems

Periodically, it helps to check all the wiring in your boat. Nautical fires are often started by bad wiring, so this should be one of your top safety priorities. 

If you have an HVAC system on board, remember to check it on a regular basis, as well. Check the motor and wiring, and make sure no moisture has accumulated inside of the ductwork. You don’t want to breathe any mold or mildew coming out of your heating and A/C vents!

Keep it Pretty With Paint

If your boat’s hull has lost its shine and the deck looks dull, it’s probable time to spruce things up with a fresh coat of paint. You may also need to inspect for damage and chipping and make periodic repairs.

Since painting an entire boat is time-consuming, you may want to hire a professional to handle an entire boat makeover. But for day-to-day maintenance, small paint touch-ups should be easy to manage on your own.

Protect Your Boat in the Winter 

All owners need to know how to maintain a boat in winter. Besides removing and storing the battery and the motor, you should make sure everything is preserved well enough to withstand the cold. 

This means taking out all electronics and supplies like food, life jackets, fabrics, and fishing equipment. Keep them in a safe place where they will not be exposed to freezing temperatures or moist, moldy conditions. Tape over openings so squirrels and other critters don’t use your boat as their winter condo.

After making sure everything is freshly oiled and lubricated, apply a fresh coat of wax to the exterior. Then cover your entire boat in a tarp or shrink-wrap to seal it and keep it dust and grime free. Storing your boat in “like new” condition will make launching it next summer that much more pleasant.

Clean the Deck and Carpets

One of the most basic boat maintenance tips is to care for your boat’s flooring. Use a vacuum on the carpet, and if you can remove it completely, wash the floor underneath.

Removing the carpet allows you to inspect for rust, rot, mold, stains, food crumbs, dirt, sand, and holes in the deck. This step is especially important before you store your boat away for the winter. 

Make a Boat Maintenance Routine and Stick With It

How you do your boat maintenance is up to you. The most important thing is to have a to-do list you can rely on, and stick with it.

You could even make several lists for different occasions–before and after an excursion, spring and before winter, etc. Having a carefully planned routine will give you peace of mind.

A checklist will give you confidence that you included everything that needs to be done. You can always use a list until your routine becomes automatic.

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