This time of year, boat owners are getting their boats out of storage and ready for the water. If you’re among those eagerly anticipating the new boating season, you’ll want to make sure you’ve done everything to get your boat prepared and ensure you’ll be boating safely.
Follow this checklist for spring boat maintenance before you take off for the first time this season! (Friendly reminder, you can do much of this basic maintenance yourself, but if you’re unsure, always consult a professional boat mechanic.)
1. Inspect the Battery.
After sitting idle for months, your battery will likely need attention. You will want to make sure that it’s fully charged and ready to go. There are three basic types of boat batteries: AGM (absorbed glass mat), gel cell, and lead-acid. When working around batteries, always use eye protection, wear gloves, and never put your face near a battery.
- If you have a lead-acid battery, you need to top off the fluid with distilled water. Remove the caps and use a flashlight to check the level. Add the water so it just covers the top of the plates. Be very careful doing this, as bubbles can pop and splash acid.
- Use a meter reader to check the charge on your battery. Set the meter so it’s reading DC volts. A full charge is in the range of 12.65 to 12.77 volts. A dead battery measures 11.75 to 11.89 volts, so the numbers are pretty close. If you have a lead-acid battery, you can use a battery hydrometer instead of a meter reader.
- Make sure not to overcharge or undercharge your battery. Both can limit its lifespan. Consider a marine-smart battery charger, which is permanently installed.
- Use a wire brush to clean the battery terminals. Fill the cells with distilled water.
- Check and tighten the cable connections to your battery. Loose connections can create a fire hazard.
- Make sure that there is a lid on the battery box to prevent short circuits.
2. Check the fuel system.
Your fuel system encompasses more than your gas tank. It involves hoses, and if your boat is older, a carburetor. You want to check it to make sure that it’s in good working order.
- Inspect your fill and vent hoses. Look for brittleness or cracks and replace any as needed with U.S. Coast Guard-approved hoses.
- Look for stains around fuel line clamps and fittings. Check for smells around the fittings. If you find any, replace those fittings so you don’t have a dangerous leak.
- If you detect a smell, you may want to check your fuel tank for leaks.
- Check for water in your fuel tank.
- Fuel your boat with gasoline that does not contain ethanol. If you only have ethanol blends available, choose one with less than 10 percent ethanol.
- Use a fuel stabilizer additive if you’re not going to be using up the gas in your tank within a week or two.
3. Examine the engine.
There are several components in your engine that wear down over time. Now is your chance to give them a look and make sure that they do not need replacement.
- Inspect the belts and cables to make sure they’re not cracked.
- Replace the spark plugs as needed.
- Look for rust or any indication that clamps or other parts may need replacement.
- If you didn’t do it before you stored your boat for the winter, change the oil and filter, and the drive lubricants.
- Check the fluids for your power steering and coolant and top them off if needed.
- Check the impeller pump to make sure it’s not worn. Impellers bring cooling water to the engine and are necessary for its safe operation. They should be replaced every 2 years or after 200 hours of use.
- If your boat has lights, make sure they are functioning.
4. Check the boat’s hull.
The hull or bottom of your boat comes in contact with water, which means that its parts may deteriorate over time.
- Check your boat’s anodes. These protect underwater areas of your boat from corrosion. If you see that your anodes are half dissolved, you will want to replace them.
- Reinstall sea strainers for raw water cooling. If they weren’t properly drained for the winter, check for damage by ice.
- Install the drain plug for your boat trailer if you removed it last fall.
5. Get out your cleaning supplies.
After a winter of just sitting around, your boat will naturally be dusty. You want to make sure that you give it a good cleaning, and also check for any potential problems like mold.
- Choose a mild detergent for the exterior, then add a coat of wax.
- Use an all-purpose spray cleaner for the console.
- Use a vinyl cleaner on the seats.
- Wipe down windows.
- Clean carpets with a power washer.
- Take note of any areas that have a smell or may have had water. The moisture can cause mold, which you will want to remove completely and as soon as possible.
6. Stock up on safety essentials.
Your old safety gear may be in good working order or it may need to be replaced. Now is the time to check.
- Make sure you have enough life jackets, and that they are in good condition and easily accessible.
- Check your safety kit. You should have first aid supplies, flares, fire extinguishers, and flashlights in a waterproof container. Make sure your extinguisher is mounted where you can easily reach it.
- Check the expiration date on your fire extinguisher and your flares. Replace them as needed.
- Test your boat’s smoke and carbon monoxide alarms.
- Take advantage of the U.S. Coast Guard vessel safety check.
7. Check your trailer.
If you transport your boat via a trailer, spring is a good time to check-in. You don’t want any issues getting your boat to the water.
- Make sure your trailer’s brake lights are working.
- Check the tires. Look for cracks in the sidewalls. Most trailer tires don’t wear out their tread but they can crack from exposure to the elements.
- Check the tire pressure. Make sure you have a spare tire.
8. Get your papers in order.
Before you take your boat out, make sure that you have the right paperwork. This includes documentation for insurance so that you are fully protected in the event of a boating accident.
- Review your boat insurance. Make sure it’s up to date and you understand what’s covered.
- Keep your boat registration handy.
- Make sure you have a fishing license and trailer tags as needed.
This article is furnished by California Casualty, providing auto and home insurance to educators, law enforcement officers, firefighters, and nurses. Get a quote at 1.866.704.8614 or www.calcas.com.