Spring has just begun and the boating season is almost upon us. Regardless of what type boat you have, spring is a good time to clean up and perform any needed boat maintenance. Be ready to go when the weather starts to warm up. Start rounding up paint, wash buckets and tools to make your water vessel look good and to keep the engine working its best. Below are 7 routine checks you should make before you put your boat in the water.
Tip #1: Visual Inspection, Washing, Waxing and Initial Maintenance of Your Boat
Perform a visual inspection on your boat before placing it in the water. Check the hull for any cracks, punctures, or holes and get them repaired immediately. Keep your boat clean! Wash your boat regularly and if you own a fiberglass boat, we recommend that you wax it at least once a year. Washing your boat Waxing will prevent surface dirt buildup and make the boat easier to clean and rinse after using. Remember, many states now have invasive species laws including getting an invasive species decal. Check this link to see invasive species laws in your state. Keep your boat looking great on the water for years with this easy maintenance step.
In many respects, boat maintenance is a lot like car maintenance. You should check and change the oil, replace the spark plugs, and replace any cracked or damaged hoses. All filters and belts should be checked as well. Many people do this on their own, if you don't feel comfortable take you boat in to a dealership and get the maintenance done. It is no fun to be on the lake and have your boat die on you.
Tip #2: Care for and Wear Life Jackets
Boat maintenance is important, but equally important is the maintenance and care given to your safety and lifesaving equipment. Not sure of good lifejacket options check here. Make sure you have a good life jacket for every person on your boat as well as your dogs. It is always important to check for rips, broken buckle or other signs of wear before you head out to your favorite waterway. It is important for your dog to have a lifejacket or life vest, even if they are known to be a good swimmer, they may get exhausted if they have to swim a long time. There are many great lifejackets for dogs on the market.
Tip #3: Get a Fire Extinguisher and Inspect it Regularly
Your boat’s fire extinguisher must be U.S. Coast Guard approved, readily accessible, and in such condition as to be ready for immediate and effective use. We recommend getting a professional to inspect your extinguisher once a year and personally inspect it once a month. Do not test a fire extinguisher by releasing a small amount of the agent because this breaks the seal and may cause it to leak. Shake the fire extinguisher well before putting it away because that keeps the chemical from packing down in the canister.
"Periodic inspection and maintenance of your water vessel should be made throughout the year to help ensure you have a good time while out on the water." Pam Doty, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers National Water Safety Program Manager
Tip #4: Examine your Boat’s Navigation Lights
If your boat has navigation lights, check the bulbs to see that they are bright and in good condition. Replace the bulb if it is corroded, appears dim, or the glass is loose from the base. Make sure that you have spare bulbs aboard for each type and size of lights. Check the wiring, all the way from the socket to the power source. Be sure wires, insulation, terminals and switches are clean, free of corrosion and in good condition. All wiring must be well secured and away from any area where water might collect. Any splices should be soldered and well wrapped to make sure they are secure and watertight.
Tip #5: Carry a Carbon Monoxide Detector On Board and Know How to Recognize Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas that can hurt or kill you both inside and outside the boat. Blocked exhaust outlets, inadequately ventilated enclosures and even exhaust from other boats can all be potentially dangerous. It’s not only important to know which areas of the boat present a risk, but it’s also important to know the symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning and what you should do if anyone on board is suffering from it.
If your vessel has an enclosed cabin or living quarters, we recommend that you install a carbon monoxide detector for your safety. Another important consideration related to carbon monoxide is the proper maintenance of your portable marine generator. When repairing your generator use marine quality replacement parts instead of auto parts because auto parts tend to deteriorate faster. Auto parts may not create a proper seal that would stop carbon monoxide from entering the living quarters of your boat.
Tip #6: Examine and Maintain Your Boat Trailer
Pay attention to the condition of your boat trailer. The top five reasons for trailer breakdowns are:
- flat tires
- wheel bearing failures
- axle problems
- suspension problems
- tongue/coupling trouble.
BOAT TRAILER TIRES
Trailer tires are different from car tires. Trailer tires provide higher load capacity and stiffer sidewalls whereas radial tires found on most passenger cars are more flexible. Underinflation is the primary cause of failure. An underinflated trailer tire won’t sag like your car’s tires because of its stiff sidewall construction. Make sure your trailer tires are inflated properly by checking the pressure with a tire gauge. Oxidation is often another culprit for trailer tire failure. Trailer tires often sit in one spot for weeks or longer and are usually in sunlight where UV radiation decays the tire. Check for dry rot and cracking on the sidewalls. Trailer tires need to be replaced every 3–5 years of use, even if they appear to have plenty of tread.
BOAT TRAILER WHEEL BEARINGS and LUBRICANT
Because they are regularly immersed in water, boat trailer wheel bearing maintenance is crucial. This causes the bearings to rust if not properly packed with lubricant. Make sure you use the right lubricant. In most cases a multipurpose No. 2 grade lubricant is recommended. Even trailers not immersed in water are subject to bearing corrosion.
BOAT TRAILER AXLE, SUSPENSION and TONGUE/COUPLING
Even if your trailer has passed a visual inspection for rust and corrosion, it is still possible to have axle, suspension, or coupling problems if it is overloaded or if safe towing techniques are not followed. Make sure you don’t overload your boat when towing and practice safe towing techniques.
Tip #7: Examine your dock ties and anchor lines.
There are many types of boating ropes, dock ties and anchor lines. You make sure your ropes haven't been weakened by UV damage or torn by a sharp object. Double braided nylon ropes hold up well and are easy to use. If you want something a bit fancier you should look into bungee dock ties. They help your boat absorb the incoming wake, so it doesn't get tossed into the dock. One of the best ways to protect your investment is off shore anchoring. This requires a bungee anchor line and a nylon rope to tie off on shore.
It would be very beneficial to take the next few weeks of fall to go through the boating checklist and make sure you a prepped as soon as the weather turns. Happy Boating!
(Remember to inspect your boat lines and dock ties and replace as needed. Boat lines and dock ties weather and weaken over time.)
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