The Ultimate Beginner's Guide to Boat Maintenance
What makes a mariner a good mariner? Well, a certain level of nautical knowledge, of course. With over 12 million boats registered in the US, you'd think every owner would have their maintenance down to a science, right?
Well, with jokes about "how often boats break down" being normalized, think again. Just because so many people own a boat doesn't mean they take care of them!
Are you new to maritime maintenance, though? Don't worry. We've compiled the ultimate boat maintenance guide for beginners!
Cleaning and Waxing Your Boat
Your boat needs to stay fairly clean and polished if you want to keep it for long. If you're operating the boat in saltwater, try to wash your boat with fresh water at the end of every day, as saltwater causes rust faster than anything else. Saltwater poses a major threat to the structural integrity of your boat, so don't allow it to sit for long.
Try to clean all of the different nooks and crevices of your boat at least once a week during peak season, as this will help prevent corrosion and mildew from building. Always use the right cleaners and boat cleaning tools to make sure you get everything.
For polishing waxing your boat, we understand that it's a fairly involved job, so we don't expect you to do it all the time. However, if your boating season lasts a few months of the year, it's important to polish and wax the hull before winterizing the boat, at the very least. If you live in a place like Florida and you spend a lot of time on the boat year-round, we'd recommend polishing and waxing at least twice a year.
Understand the Engine Essentials
Like anything you own that can wear out over time, it's always helpful to know how boat engines work. If you understand the mechanics of them, you'll understand their needs a lot better. Engines should be one of the first lessons in boating for beginners.
Your owner's manual will tell you when things need to be serviced, but there are some easy steps you can take to help your boat last forever. The key difference between a boat and a car engine is that your boat is often sitting in water, which poses a new set of risks and challenges for your engine. However, your boat engine is made of similar components to your car engine, so fixing these problems is also similar.
Once a year, change the spark plugs on your boat engine. This is a simple task that only requires a deep socket and some spark plugs that will only cost $2 to $6 to replace. You'll also get a chance to look inside and see if there are any concerns.
Other than that, occasionally pop the hood and take a look at the engine. If there's water damage, oil leaks, or any red flags popping out, get it serviced immediately. It could be something as simple as a gasket, but if it's left to persist, the damage will only worsen.
Check Engine for Water
Always check your fuel and oil for water before running your engine. This is such an important step that's so often overlooked, but your boat is sitting in water all the time, which is incompatible with your engine.
If you notice water building up in the fuel or the oil, address this immediately. If this problem persists, it will destroy your engine. If water builds up inside the engine, it will wear out the pistons and cylinders much faster, and any debris within the water will create friction, which could lead to engine failure within minutes of running.
Every day of operation, flush the engine once with fresh water, especially after heavy use. You have no idea how much this can increase your boat's lifespan by preventing dirt and grime, and it only takes a few minutes.
Change the Oil Regularly
Like on a car, always change the oil on time if you want your engine to last. It's slightly different with a boat, as you aren't going to go 3,000 to 5,000 miles in between oil changes. For most boats, you should change the oil every 50 to 100 hours of operation, but that's not exact.
If you have your owner's manual, check the recommended duration and follow it as closely as possible. If not, search your exact model online. If it recommends 50 hours, you don't have to run a timer, but if you know you take the boat out three times a week for a few hours, try to change it every month.
When in doubt, change the oil more frequently than you think you need, especially if you run into an issue or notice water in the engine. It's $5 to $15 for the oil but it could save you the cost of a $3,000 (or more) engine.
Your Guide to Winterizing Your Boat
We already mentioned the importance of cleaning and waxing your boat prior to storing it for the winter. However, there's a lot more to it than that. Here's how to ensure that your boat is ready to run in the spring.
Don't Forget the Fuel
You have two options for your fuel before winterizing your boat; adding or emptying. By "adding," we mean adding a high-quality fuel stabilizer to your fuel before winterizing, and then adding fresh fuel in the spring. Otherwise, empty the fuel completely and store it empty, adding fresh fuel in the spring.
By leaving old fuel to sit, especially in the cold weather, you're guaranteeing the fuel will deteriorate and gum up. This will lead to rough starts and reduced engine life. Never leave the same fuel in your engine for longer than 30 days.
Change Oil Before Storing
You probably assumed this would be on the list, but don't overlook it. Change the oil before winterizing your boat and replace the oil filter with manufacturer-recommended products!
Flush and Drain the Cooling System
Water expands when it freezes, so drain out all of the cooling water from the reservoir to prevent damage during the winter. A new bottle of it will only cost a few dollars in the spring, so don't worry about it!
Cover Your Boat
Once you've cleaned and waxed the vessel, taken care of the fuel system and engine, and removed all valuables from the boat, it's time to cover it up and protect it from the elements! If your engine is filled with new, high-quality oil, it will stay in good shape throughout the winter, and your wax will keep it protected, especially under the cover!
Spring and Summer Boat Maintenance Tips
In the spring, you want to fill your engine with new gas and check the oil, even if it's been sitting out of the water. If it's low, that means there's an oil leak. Never start your boat with old gas or low oil, as it could destroy the engine.
As the boating season passes, keep an eye on everything (engine, battery, fluids, etc.) and follow these boating tips to keep your boat running smoothly for years!
Don't Let Issues Persist
We mentioned this with your engine, but it applies to your entire vessel. If you notice a scuff, use a scuff remover as soon as possible and polish it after. The longer it sits there, the greater the chance it will rust, which is a death sentence for a boat.
Secure Your Boat
While this doesn't sound like it belongs on this list, it's very important to ensure your boat is securely tied down and free of any damage by the dock. Never park your boat in shallow waters where it can scratch against rocks, and always add boat fenders on the side to prevent it from scraping on the dock. One small scrape could cause serious, long-term damage.
Keep it Covered
When not in use, try to keep your boat covered as often as possible. Not only will this help protect your interior from rain or sun damage, but it will keep your boat protected from corrosion and mildew, which can cause costly damage.
Keep Your Boat in Great Shape
Now that you know the most important steps of boat maintenance, break the stereotypes of boats always having issues. Yes, they require a little more maintenance than a standard automobile, but most of us don't use them for our daily commutes, so a little goes a long way!
Check out our selection of better boat products for high-quality and affordable boat maintenance supplies that you can trust!