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Boat Maintenence: Caring For Your Boat in 7 Simple Steps

Many boat owners take care to wash and polish their boats. Any time spent on the boat, whether docked or out on the water is enjoyable. Though, dealers can tell story after story about boat owners who neglected to maintain the parts of the vessel you can’t see. 

Boat maintenance isn’t a fun task, but Ben Franklin’s old saying holds up against the tides: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Here are seven simple ways to keep up with boat maintenance.

1. Change the Oil and Gear Lube

Your boat requires regular oil changes. With regular oil changes, the engine remains in proper condition, and your boat will operate smoothly.

Change the oil after 50-100 hours of use, or every six months. The frequency varies a bit with the model.

Often, boat owners only use their boats on weekends or during warming months. If you can’t be there every six months, you may want to hire someone to take care of your boat.

Needed Tools

You can change the oil quickly if you have the right tools. You will need an oil extractor pump to remove the oil via the dipstick tube. You’ll also need an oil wrench and rags to catch drips.

Adding an absorbing pad under the engine provides additional protection from oil drips.

Draining the Oil

Note that certain engines have a special drain tube that fits into the oil pan. To drain the oil, you remove this tube from the bilge drain. You drain the engine without dropping a single drip on the bilge.

Many outboards have comparable drainage mechanisms. Check the owner’s manual for the specific procedure.

Finally, always use marine grade oil in your boat’s engine. Boat engines work harder than car engines. Thus, automotive oil doesn’t protect marine engines.

Monitor the Gear Lube

The gear lubricant is the fluid you find in the outdrive. Like the engine oil, gear lube must be changed regularly. You should replace the gear lube every fifty hours or every six months.

Doing so extends the life of your boat engine and reduces future boat maintenance costs.

2. Boat Maintenance 101: Tune-Ups

Boat engines require tune-ups every so often. This includes even the most fuel-efficient engines. Your boat should have regular tests performed on the spark plugs, plug wires, rotor, distributor cap, and so on.

Fuel Injection Systems Maintenance

A boat’s Fuel Injection Systems use an Electronic Control Module (ECM) to help maintain the engine’s operation. The ECM needs to be scanned regularly to ensure that it is working properly. And of course, you should replace the fuel filters at least yearly.

3. Clean the Raw Water Sea Strainer Filter

Many boats have a raw water sea strainer. This strainer filters out seaweed and other debris, which allows clean water to cool the engine.

You should clean this filter on a regular basis to ensure that the engine always gets clean water while your boat is running.

Cleaning the strainer is an integral part of sailboat maintenance especially. Your generator, air conditioner, heating unit, refrigerator, and anything else that relies on raw water to cool also relies on a clean filter. 

4. Check the Propeller

Boat care also includes the propeller. The propeller can sustain damage. It could become dinged, unbalanced, or caught up with fishing line. This can affect the way your boat handles.

It also compromises the engine’s output. If you see even light damage on your propeller, you should take it for repair. You may not need to replace it.

Remove the Propeller

If you have the tools, you can do a more in-depth inspection yourself. If yours is an outboard or stern drive boat, check the propeller as part of your pre-launch routine. Several times during boating season, use a deep-well socket to remove the propeller.

Check for any discarded fishing line that could be wrapped around the propeller shaft. If you find some, take the boat to your dealer. Have the dealer inspect the gear case. Fishing line can cause gear case leaks, and that repair is not a do-it-yourself task.

Inspect the Propeller

While the propeller is off, inspect it for damage like dents and nicks. Missing paint won’t affect anything but do send it for repairs if you notice signs of impact.

Even a small dent can cause your boat to burn too much fuel and lose performance. Also, a damaged propeller can vibrate, which stresses seals and bearings, causing additional damage.

Finally, apply a liberal amount of waterproof grease on the propeller shaft. Doing so prevents corrosion from “freezing” the prop in place.

Re-Install the Propeller

Re-install the propeller and accompanying hardware in the same order in which you took them off. Tighten the nut snugly. Then secure the locking tabs against the nut so that it can’t back off the shaft threads.

5. Check the Battery

At the beginning of the season, you should be sure that your boat’s starting and deep-cycle batteries have a full charge. They may have been fully charged at the end of last season. Though, your boat sat for a long while, battery charger or not.

During the season, check your battery every other week or so. If you note that it’s losing charge, replace it with a new marine battery. Click to learn more about selecting the correct replacement battery for your boat.

6. Replace the Impeller

The impeller’s function is to deliver water for cooling purposes. If you don’t replace a damaged or broken impeller, you risk irreparable damage to your boat.

All outboard manufacturers recommend that you inspect the impeller every 100 operating hours or annually, whichever comes first. Any impeller that’s been in service for three years or more should be replaced regardless of its apparent condition.

Anytime you notice your outboard motor’s water temperature rise, stop and troubleshoot. If the motor stops producing a steady stream of water after it reaches normal operating temperature, the impeller is probably the cause.

7. Check the Bellows 

The drive bellows often are often overlooked. Though, they are critical when it comes to keeping your boat afloat. Check the bellows on a regular basis.

To check the bellows, block your trailer wheels. Drive in an up position while turning your wheel to the right.

With the boat in this position, you can reach under and access the upper bellows. If the bellows feel soft, you should replace all of them need right away.

Enjoy Your Boat for Years to Come

Boat maintenance is more comprehensive than many people think. Though, performing regular boat maintenance means extending the life of your boat.

You’ll be able to enjoy your investment for a longer time. You’ll also find that boat maintenance costs are lower than preventable repair costs.

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