Basic Maintenance Tips to Preserve your Boat
Routine boat maintenance is essential to prolonging the life of your nautical prized possession.
A boat is a major investment that comes with immense responsibilities. For the novice or future first-time boat owner, know that a lot more maintenance goes into a boat than a car. Even the smallest of boats needs routine maintenance, as the elements your watercraft is exposed to alone can do some serious damage to it. Unless you have the financial means to hire somebody to take care of your boat, you should know how to do your own basic maintenance. Here are some tips on what you can do to help extend the life of your boat.
Clean Your Boat
Boat cleaning does a lot more than keeping your watercraft looking good.
To protect your boat from the elements that can damage it, always rinse it off thoroughly with fresh water after every use. Saltwater residue in particular is a corrosive substance that could damage just about anything on your boat if left unattended. Wash your boat with a high-quality soap to remove saltwater residue and any dirt or grime after every offshore outing. Be careful not to use too harsh of a soap, as this can damage your boat's protective coating.
Use a long-handled soft brush or sponge to avoid damaging gentle surfaces on your boat, and to help maintain its shine. If you have a fiberglass boat, the gelcoat finish — which protects the fiberglass from salt, rain, UV rays and other elements, and maintains your boat's lustrous appearance — can be damaged with the wrong kind of cleaner. Ordinary soap and water won't remove mineral stains on something like a fiberglass gelcoat surface, which is why specially formulated cleaners exists for all types of boats.
Dry Your Boat
Whether you wash your boat or not after every use (and really, you should), always keep it dry.
Moisture buildup spawns mold and mildew growth when left unattended. Mold can be lethal to your health, your home and your home away from home, aka "your boat"! Wipe your boat down with towels to prevent moisture buildup and waterline stains. You already know things will get wet, so make sure you always have drying cloths on board for use after every outing.
Inspect Your Boat for Rust
Rust on your boat is not only unsightly, but it's also an indication that much bigger problems are on the horizon.
Finding rust stains on your vessel is not something you should take lightly. Don't just clean up rust stains and forget about them. Inspect your entire hull and engine for signs and sources of rust. Oxidized metal (rust) means certain parts of your boat could be leaking, so find any sources of oxidation and make them watertight to prevent it from corroding and possibly sinking your boat!
Regularly inspect all metal parts of your boat and its engine for signs of corrosion, and replace them if they're rusted beyond saving.
Change the Oil
Boat engines need regular oil changes, especially 4-stroke outboards, inboards and stern drives.
How often your boat's engine needs an oil change depends on the model, but if you're not sure, just keep 100 hours of operation in mind as a general rule. Unfortunately, there aren't any "quick stop" oil change places for boats (that we know of), so changing your oil is a skill you should learn to avoid costly trips to the dealership! Oil changes are relatively easy to do. All you need are some basic mechanic skills and tools to get the job done.
A simple oil extractor pump, oil wrench, oil filter, a drain pan, some rags and a little bit of spare time are usually all it takes. And oil, of course! Use marine grade oil specific to the requirements of your boat. Marine-grade oil is specially formulated for boat engines. It's not the same as automotive oil either, so don't take any shortcuts!
Check your vessel's owner's manual for instructions on how to change the oil for its engine, and never attempt to change the oil yourself if you don't know what you're doing.
Inspect the Propellers
Keeping your propellers in good shape is an essential part of proper boat maintenance.
Your pre-launch routine should always include inspecting your propellers. Detach each propeller periodically, and inspect each one for dents or any debris that might've gotten tangled up in it, such as rope or fishing lines. If there are no signs of damage or debris upon inspection, apply some waterproof grease to the propeller shaft, and make sure the propeller nut and any other fastening parts are tightened and secured when reattaching it. If you do find signs of damage or excess debris, take the propeller to a dealership and have it repaired or replaced by a professional.
Check the Engine and Battery
Your boat's engine requires its own maintenance, especially before every excursion.
Always make sure your boat's engine has plenty of oil and fuel to get you to and from your destination. Check your motor's water coolant levels to prevent overheating, and inspect all engine hoses for leaks. If your boat's engine runs on marine batteries, make sure they have plenty of juice, and that you have jumpers and spare chargers to avoid getting stranded. Always keep battery terminals clean and lubricated, especially during off-season storage.
There's a lot more to boat maintenance than what was covered here, but these general tips should help you stay on top of the bare minimum requirements to maintain your boat. Keeping up with basic maintenance helps secure many years of service and unforgettable offshore adventures to come from your prized vessel!