Boat Maintenance: Things That You Should Do Every Day/Week/Month of the Off-Season

Boat Maintenance: Things That You Should Do Every Day/Week/Month Of The Off-Season

There are many reasons why you would want to own your very own boat.

Whether as a hobby or as a way to spend the weekends with the family, owning a personal boat is a great way to relax and unwind after a long busy week.

Since purchasing a boat is going to be a significant investment, you will want to make sure it’s properly maintained throughout the year.

Here, are a few boat maintenance tips that you can use to keep your boat in shipshape- no pun intended. So, without further ado, let’s get started.  

Daily Maintenance

Sure, you may already have a spring maintenance routine and de-winterize plan for your boat, but to make sure nothing breaks, tears or cracks, you will need to make boat maintenance a top priority throughout the year.

While the frequency of boat care will vary depending on how old your boat is, and how much it’s used, here are a few daily maintenance tips to make sure your boat is in good shape when it’s needed.

Inspect the Engine

INSPECT THE ENGINE

Needless to say, the boat’s engine is the most important part of your boat. It is also the first thing that breaks down in a boat due to negligence.

To avoid having your boat towed back to the marina due to engine failure, conduct a routine inspection on the engine.

Whether your boat has a stern-drive, inboard or outboard engine, make sure it works smoothly, starts as soon as you turn the keys and does not make any unusual sounds, which can indicate a problem that needs further investigation.

Oil-Top Up vs. Full Oil Change

While you’re at it, check the oil level. Low oil levels can lead to problems down the road. Keeping the oil at the recommended level at all times will ensure that your boat’s engine is able to run stronger for longer.

This means an oil change every 50 to 100 running hours. Also, be sure to read the manual carefully, to make sure you’re using the correct oil for boat.

Lubricate Moving Parts

Another way to ensure that the engine is able to run smoothly is to lubricate all of the moving parts of the engine.

Flush the Engine

FLUSH THE ENGINE

This is one little maintenance tip that boat owners seldom don’t pay attention to. Whether your boat runs on freshwater or saltwater, you need to flush the engine after every outing.

So, if you take your boat out every day, you will need to flush the engine every day. Flushing the engine prevents salt crystals and other deposits from damaging the internal parts of the engine.

This should not be a problem if you have a modern outboard since they come with a built-in freshwater flushing system. If there’s no built-in system, you will have to use a manual flusher to get the job done.

Check for Oil Leaks

It is also important to check for any oil leaks or fuel leaks that can end up costing you more on repairs later on.

If you notice patches or leak marks around the tank or piping, then its best to contact your boat repair shop to get it properly inspected and fixed.

While you’re at it, inspect the fuel lines and clamps for leaks and corrosion, along with all other hoses and lines for signs of possible wear and tear.

Clean Your Boat

Even when not in use mold and dirt can quickly accumulate on your boat. The more you keep your boat clean, the less time you will need to spend in making sure your boat is clean inside and out. 

Pay Attention to the Flooring

PAY ATTENTION TO THE FLOORING

The floor of the cockpit is usually self-draining, so if you have installed a marine-grade carpeting, you need to remove it and clean any dirt, clutter or water which has accumulated underneath.

While you’re at it, don’t forget to scrub the foredeck as well to get rid of any dirt or stains. This will add more value to your boat by making it look cleaner.

There’s a wide range of cleaning products that you can choose from to make sure your boat looks great even when it’s not on the water.

Canvas and Upholstery

The canvas, upholstery and cover of your boat carries out an important function. All canvas and upholstery of your boat needs to be maintained regardless of whether the boat is used frequently or not.

Torn canvases or upholstery needs to be replaced to keep your boat protected during off season.

Inspect Hatch Seals and Windows

Leaks can occur due to holes in the deck or a hatch seal that’s loose. To keep your boat safe from any leaks, it’s important to make sure the boat hatch has been sealed properly along with all windows on your boat.

Check the Battery

The battery has an important function in your boat, whether it’s making sure the bilge is dry to running the various other electric components in your boat.

You will need to check the battery on a regular basis, or at least every couple of days to ensure that the battery is properly charged.

While the battery charge requirements will differ depending on the type of boat you have and how much it’s used, over time, you will get a good idea of how long the battery in your boat can last before it needs to be charged.

Run a Watermarker

This is another important factor of proper boat maintenance that should not be avoided at any cost.

Depending on the type of system used in your boat, it is advised to run watermarkers every week to make sure the system stays in good shape.

You can keep the watermarker of your boat active even while at anchor at the marina by using temporary pickling, which preserves its effectiveness.

Monthly Maintenance

While there are some things that just can’t wait when it comes to proper boat maintenance, others need to be carried out at least once every month.

Having your boat maintenance checklist broken down into a daily, monthly and seasonal maintenance checklist will ensure that you’ll be able to enjoy your boat for longer and gives your boat a high resale value.

Clean Your Boat

CLEAN YOUR BOAT

Your boat may be on the water all the time. But, that doesn’t mean it’s going to clean itself. Every month, you should make sure to clean your boat thoroughly.

This will not only make sure that your boat looks great, but will also help keep corrosion at bay. It’s important to make sure your boat is properly cleaned whether it’s being regularly used or not, regardless of whether its standing in saltwater or freshwater.

This is because both saltwater and freshwater contain algae that can get stuck to your boat and result in algae damage.

To make sure that doesn’t happen, spray down the boat thoroughly with water every month. Use a high-pressure nozzle that will remove any algae, dirt or mold that’s stuck to the boat.

Also, make sure to spray the water into sealed or tight spaces as well, which is often where there’s a higher buildup of mold, which leads to corrosion.

Prevent Permanent Spotting

Wipe all of the windows dry to prevent any permanent spotting on the glass. You can also use a boat brush and a non-abrasive cleaner to clean the inside of the boat, including the deck and non-skid surfaces.

If your boat has surfaces that are made of fiberglass, or have been covered by a gel coating, use soft wash mitts or a microfiber towel to clean the area.

Prevent the Build-up of Ethanol

The build-up of ethanol is not a big problem for those who take their boats out regularly.

But, if your boat’s been standing at the marina for a few weeks, it pays to keep water from entering the engine so that it is able to burn clean fuel, once you turn on the engine.

If you plan on not using your boat for a while, it is recommended that you do a complete on-board servicing of your boat, which includes changing the oil and fuel filters, along with including a fuel stabilizer to the mix for added protection for the fuel tank.

This will not only help stabilize the gasoline in the tank, but will save your boat from the offset of the harmful effects caused due to the build-up of ethanol gas. 

Replace the Transmission Gear Casing Lubricant

REPLACE THE TRANSMISSION GEAR CASING LUBRICANT

Replace the lubricants that are present in the transmission-gear casing.

This will ensure that no contaminants remain in the engine that can lead to further damage if the engine is not in use for a prolonged period of time.

Inspect the Propellers and Prop-Shaft

If your boat is going to be sitting in the marina, it’s advised that the propeller is pulled and any dry grease is also removed from the shaft.

Having a malfunctioning prop-shaft seal is normally caused because of a discarded fishing line getting jammed between the seal, so make sure the prop-shaft seal is tight and secure.

Use a Corrosion Inhibitor

Many experienced boat enthusiasts have found out the hard way the importance of protecting all metal components of their boat.

Another important factor in boat maintenance is using a corrosion inhibitor to protect all metal components of the boat. It is recommended that you use a wax-based corrosion inhibitor for fogging the engine.

Inspect All Systems and Electric Components

A crucial part of your boat’s monthly maintenance checklist will be making sure that all the electric systems and components are working properly.

This will include the pumps, lights and all other electronics that are in your boat. Any component that’s not functioning properly needs to be fixed or replaced now rather than later.

One of the mistakes that many boat owners make is finding a malfunctioning light, pump or other electronic component and postponing the fixing or replacing of that component until later when they, “need it.”

This is a big mistake since even a small problem that you notice with the electric components and systems of your boat can lead to larger, more complex issues later on if not fixed on time.

A rule of thumb, whether you’re using your boat on a regular basis or not, its important to inspect and fix any systems and components.

Yearly (Seasonal) Maintenance

Yearly or seasonal boat maintenance is a crucial part of owning a boat mainly because it ensures that all components of your boat will be in proper working order.

The only way to make that certain is to ensure that your boat is able to survive during off-season.

Just like there are certain daily and monthly boat maintenance checkups that need to be carried out to ensure the efficiency and longevity of your boat, seasonal inspections and maintenance will ensure that your boat works smoothly through every off-season.

Here are some of the major items to include in your yearly boat maintenance checklist.

Inspect for Stress Cracks

INSPECT FOR STRESS CRACKS

After every season, your boat is probably going to be put away for a while. That means, it could be standing in the marina for a few days or weeks on end.

Regardless of how many times you take your boat out in the water, whenever you do, your boat is faced with a tremendous amount of pressure.

This usually results in stress cracks that may appear on your boat after some time.

It’s important to inspect the hull of your boat for any damage or cracks that may appear after it’s been used for a while. The same goes for the belts, hoses and cables as well.

These cracks might also appear after the boat has been stored for a while as well. Make sure any cracks or damage to the hull is fixed and that the bung is in.

You should also clean the hull, along with the deck and topsides and make sure the drain plug is secure. 

Disconnect Electronic Engines After Every Season

It is a good idea to disconnect the electronic engine of your boat at the end of each season. This is mainly because the electronic engines of today are incredibly voltage sensitive.

This can lead to problems with the boat’s engine once off season is over and you want to get back on the water.

Disconnecting an electronic engine after every season is the smart thing to do when it comes to boat maintenance since it helps avoid a drain, while allowing the engine to maintain the right reference point.

Service the Engine

It is important to keep your boat’s engine in the best shape possible all through the year. That means, making the maintenance of your engine your top priority.

To make sure the engine remains fully functional, it is advised to get it serviced at least once every year.

Also, do not wait for the end of off-season, which will mean you will have to stand in line because everybody wants to have their boats serviced to get ready for the summer.

It is also important to remember that the spark plug also needs to be replaced each year, which is included in the engine service.

Furthermore, experienced boating enthusiasts normally keep a spare spark plug and a spanner in their boat at all times just in case.

Before you take your boat in for its yearly engine service, start the engine first and notice any unusual or different sounds or vibrations, which is often the first red flag that something is wrong with the engine.

Inspect the Water Pump

This should also be part of your monthly boat maintenance checklist, but even more so, for your boat’s yearly checkup.

To check the water pump in your boat, start the engine and then see if the water is being discharged properly. A clogged cooling system can overheat faster and will end up causing serious damage to the engine.

Safety Gear

Inspect the life jackets and fire extinguishers in your boat. The safety gear of your boat should be in the correct class that’s recommended for your particular vessel.

Also, take advantage of any safety inspections that are offered by the marina or other safety regulators.

Inspect the Electrical System

INSPECT THE ELECTRICAL SYSTEM

Even if you keep an eye on the electrical system and components of your boat throughout the year, it is important to make it part of your yearly boat maintenance inspection.

This is to ensure that you did not miss out on inspecting any components of your boat’s electrical system.

Inspect all electrical connects and make sure they are not only clean, but connected securely. Any build-up of corrosion in the electrical connections should be immediately cleaned.

Remove the terminals and use a wire bush to reach those hard-to-get space and cable ends. If need be, replace the battery.

It is important to note that for a thorough inspection of the electrical system of your boat, you are going to need to hire a qualified technician who will be able to pinpoint any issues with the boat’s electrical system and components.

Check Fluid Levels

Don’t forget to check all fluid levels in the boat to ensure that it runs smoothly.

Check the engine oil, power trim and power-steering reservoirs along with coolant levels to make sure all fluid levels are where they should be. Change the engine oil, oil filter along with the drive lubricants if needed.

The Mast and Rigging

This is another area that should be part of a monthly and yearly boat maintenance check list. Closely inspect the mast and spreaders for signs of corrosion that can build up over time.

Also, check the spreader boots and shrouds as well, along with all screw connections and rivets. You also need to check reefing points and all reefing gear to make sure they are all fully functional.

Other components of a boat that need to be inspected in your yearly boat inspection should be the sail track, turnbuckles, clevis pins, and stays (backstays and forestays), the masthead fitting, halyards, pulleys, spreaders, and every other component that’s crucial for smooth sailing.

Before Long Voyage Maintenance

It’s time. You’ve finally decided to take your boat on a long voyage that you’ve been planning for a while now.

But wait. To ensure your safety and the safety of any other passengers, you need to carry out a thorough inspection before you go out on your voyage.

Here are some of the components of your boat maintenance check list before embarking on a long voyage.

Engine and Fuel System Inspection

ENGINE AND FUEL SYSTEM INSPECTION

It goes without saying that you need to inspect the engine and fuel system of your boat to make sure it’s working properly. Inspect all fuel lines, piping and fittings.

Fuel level, coolant level, oil level, and battery life. Inspect the stanchion and lifelines, chain plates, deck joints, and anchor.

Clean and grease the winches and any other moving components to make sure everything runs smoothly once you set sail. 

Inspect the Sails

One of the first things you will need to inspect is the general condition of the sails on your boat. This is going to mainly depend on the number of times you’ve used the boat in the past weeks or months.

But, even if your boat hasn’t been active lately, it’s still best to carry out a quick inspection of the sails to look for any signs of chafing or wear and tear. Also, inspect the battens and their pockets, the bolt rope and any other sail attachments.

Repair or replace anything that’s not working properly since even the malfunctioning of a tiny component can bring your voyage to a quick and abrupt end.

Inspect the Galley

Turn your attention to the galley. Check all of the manual and electric valves, fill up the propane tank and also inspect the storage box vent.

Clean the refrigerator along with the stove and make sure they are both in good working order. Make sure the refrigerator on board is cooling properly and that all burners of the stove are operational.

Ensure Proper Ventilation

ENSURE PROPER VENTILATION

While this is something one notices early on once they buy a boat, you need to ensure that the interior of your boat is properly ventilated, especially if you will be using LPG for cooking.

If you detect the odor of fuel inside, run the blowers for several minutes and check again. You will need to shut down the engine and locate the source of the leak before you leave if the smell persists.

Check the Weather Forecast

It is crucial to always check with the weather forecast before you embark on a long journey. If there’s a chance of a storm, it’s advised to postpone your trip for later.

Also, always keep a radio with you on board so that you are able to receive constant weather updates.

While at sea, the weather can change in a heartbeat, which is why you need to take the necessary precautions before you set sail for your own safety.

Safety First

Speaking of being safe while boating, there are certain things you need to do as a responsible boater, especially after going out on a long voyage. Be sure that the sound signaling device is operational.

Inspect distress signals and PFDs (Personal Flotation Device), along with the life rings, life jackets, fire extinguishers, and navigation lights.

While you’re at it, you would also want to make sure that the compass on board is working, along with the navigation system and lights.

A good rule of thumb is to double check any charts you will be using and take a first aid kit, hand pump and bailer just in case.

Take along a proof of ownership, and other documentation just in case you run into trouble and are asked to identify yourself.

While proper boat maintenance will hopefully avoid any issues while you’re on open water, it’s always best to ensure you have taken all the safety precautions so that you can have a safe trip. 

Conclusion

Using these quick and easy boat maintenance tips will ensure that you can sail your boat at any time, on any tide, any day of the year.

Proper boat maintenance goes a long way in ensuring the efficiency and longevity of your boat, so that you can get the most bang from your buck.