As spring approaches, it’s time to give your boat some much needed TLC. After months of being idle in the offseason, boats need some basic maintenance to get them in top shape before they hit the waters. With a few simple steps and some attention to detail, you can ensure that your boat is ready for the upcoming warm weather and all of the activities that come along with it. From checking fluid levels, tightening hoses and belts, replacing worn out parts and lubricating moving components, performing basic pre-season boat maintenance can save you from costly repairs down the road. In addition to addressing potential mechanical issues, taking care of cosmetic details like polishing metal surfaces and thorough cleaning will make your boat look great again – giving you more time to enjoy your time on the water!
An “Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vessels” license (6-pack license) is what captains have to operate a charter boat carrying six passengers. Their boats more closely resemble the sizes of boats operated by pleasure or recreational vessel owners. Just like these captains must do a pre-trip inspection every trip, so should every boat operator. Especially if you winterized your boat, you need to inspect your boat more thoroughly and dewinterize it before you go on that first spring boat adventure.
Boat Prep for Spring
Prepping your boat for spring can save you money and make sure your boat is safe and prepared for emergencies. Out on the water presents unexpected events of all kinds. The better prepared for unexpected weather events, injuries, and other emergencies you are, the more you will get all you want out of your experience, and your passengers will be safer. This is why you should consider a thorough inspection of all your boat’s working parts and safety equipment before each spring boating season.
How do you prepare a boat for season? You start by inspecting it from top to bottom and from the outside parts to some of the inside parts. You can have marine services companies winterize and dewinterize your boat. These companies like you to have both services done at their companies each year, and some even guarantee mechanical failures. If you want to dewinterize your boat yourself, you do need too much mechanical expertise for most of the inspection.
How Do I Get My Boat Motor Ready for Spring?
First, always consult your owner’s manual and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. If you covered your boat with a tarp before the winter freezes, start by slowly uncovering it. Watch out for pests and bugs when rolling off the cover.
Boat Maintenance Checklist
Boat Engine Maintenance List
- Check oil and refill if necessary, or drain and refill oil.
- Replace oil and fuel filters.
- Check transom mounting bolts/jack plate bolts, if you have them.
- Check propeller and skeg for damage.
- Check cowl air intakes for blockages.
- Check engine operating temperature.
- Check oil pressure.
- Check drive and gearcase for water, particulate, and burnt lubricant, and refill.
- Check engine for proper operating RPM @ WOT. All outboard and sterndrive motors have a wide-open throttle (WOT) rating, which is determined by the manufacturer. The WOT rating is the RPM range the motor should achieve when the throttle is set to maximum.
- Check fuel lines for alcohol and UV degradation.
- Replace fuel/water separating filter.
- Check power trim and tilt fluid, refill if necessary.
- Check engine mounts and the swivel and steering brackets for excessive play. The swivel bracket is the pivot point the motor steers with. The tilt tube is horizontal and the steering bracket is vertical when trimmed down.
- Coat rubber seals, rubber hoses, and electrical components with silicone (dielectric) protectant spray.
- Have the linkage and synchronization checked. The sequence of adjustments, in the correct order, is to set up the timing and carburetion on the engine.
- Torque the accessible bolts and fasteners.
- Check spark plugs and replace if necessary.
- Change and check condition of gearcase lube and powerhead oil.
- Replace water-pump impeller.
- Treat fuel with storage conditioner and fog the engine. Fogging oil is a waxy oil that you spray into your engine to its components and protect them from corrosion.
Boat Steering System Maintenance List
- Inspect the steering system for any signs of damage or defects. Look for missing nuts, bolts, or cotter keys. Check that the steering column, steering gearbox, and tie rods aren’t bent, broken, or loose. Inspect the power steering hoses, pumps, and fluids.
- Check fluid level and adjust levels and the engine free-play and check for leaks and/or bleed the hydraulic systems.
- Lubricate all grease points.
- Check for kinks, hydraulic and mechanical,
Boat Tops, Safety Gear, Hull, Hardware
- Check hull for damage and repair it if necessary.
- Wash hull and deck.
- Check your registration and inspection to ensure they’re up-to-date.
- Check bilge pump and auto switch for proper operation: The bilge pump may have a float or switch to turn it on automatically when water collects in the bilge. Clean the bilge.
- Check battery(s) for proper charge.
- Check all electrical, inside and outside lights, and systems for proper operation.
- Make sure your safety gear it is up-to-date and in good condition.
- Check your fire extinguisher and make sure they have not expired.
- Check bow and stern eyes for tightness and secure mounting.
- Check rubrail for damage and repair if necessary.
- Check cleats, rail fittings, and deck fittings for tightness and secure mounting.
- Check biminy and covers, for condition, proper storage, and clean and protect them with a fabric protectant for their type of material.
- Check coupler mechanism for proper operation and lubricate with silicone spray.
- Check safety chains for rust and damage.
- Check winch and winch strap and emergency retention chain or strap.
- Check lights, connector, and wiring harness and repair if necessary.
- Check tie-downs and tie-down eyes for damage or tears
- Check tires and the spare for correct inflation pressure (PSI), age, weather, low/uneven tread, and flat spots.
- Check brakes.
- Check wheel bearings for proper grease level, binding, rust, cracks, seals, bends, and excessive noise. Repack grease if necessary.
- Check frame for rust and paint if necessary.
- Check boat support bunks and rollers.
Now, after all that work, all you have to do is clean your boat’s interior, wax and polish the hull and deck, and you may want to paint your hull if it looks like it needs it. If you go the extra mile before boating season, it will pay off in fun. Some of these check points are recommended before every boat trip, and that is known as the pre-trip inspection. Your owner’s manual will have that information.