When spring comes and you’re ready to take your boat out for the first launch of the season, remember to go through the steps of preparing it properly. If you do most of your own boat maintenance, prepare yourself a checklist of items you should do every spring before you start trips: one for things to do before each trip during the season, and another for winterizing your boat.
1. Changing the Oil
One of the first things to be concerned with in at the start of the season is lubrication. Oil that has been sitting stationary for a while will congeal and become very thick. You might get a couple of seasons out of one oil change, but it’s better to change it each year and not worry about the condition of the old oil. With an inboard motor, changing the oil can be a bit tricky, and it requires a special pan to catch the old oil. It’s not a good idea to let it puddle under the motor and bilge pump it out, or let it leak out the drain hole to pollute the waters. If you don’t know how to drain the oil, ask a mechanic before you attempt to perform this task. There are specific environmental considerations regarding the disposal of used motor oil.
2. Gasoline in the Tank
Prior to a long storage, you should remove the gasoline from the tank because moisture will build up in it while sitting. When you replace the gas in the spring, you might want to add a gas treatment along with the first new tank fill-up.
3. Plugs & Battery
If plugs were taken out to drain water from the block for winterization, make sure they are put back in before cranking the engine. Check out the battery energy level and charge it with a battery charger if it has lost charge during the off-season.
4. Out of Water Maintenance
Motor boats have water-cooled engines like your car, but they don’t have a radiator. This design allows for the water that the boat sits in to cool the engine. For this reason, any time the boat motor is cranked, it has to have water circulation or the block will get too hot and can rupture, which would be very bad news. If you plan to do any tune up work with the motor running while your boat is out of the water, you need to have a water supply to keep the motor cool. On most inboard motors, there is a vented area just above the propeller where you can clamp earmuffs and hook a water hose to them. This pulls water through to keep the motor from overheating.
5. Air Filter Maintenance
Depending on the kind of boat you have, there may be an air filter to clean or replace at the carburetor. Depending on the amount of use your boat undergoes during a season, it may not be necessary to do this every spring.
6. General Clean Up
If your boat is stored inside a building over the winter, you may not be bothered with pests, but if it stays under a tarp exposed to the elements, there is a good possibility you may have ants, wasps, birds, spiders, and many other kinds of uninvited guests when you take the tarp off. Be prepared to face some “tenants” who must be removed prior to going afloat. A thorough cleaning and inspection of the boat and trailer is a necessary part of getting ready to go on the water. Wasps and other biting insects will build in the trailer frame and other areas that are open and not protected. It is better to find and remove them when you are still on dry land.
7. Trailer Check Up
Don’t forget the trailer when you are checking out the seaworthiness of your boat. The hubs of the trailer axles need to be packed with grease when they become dry, and the frequency depends on how much time the trailer spends in the water when putting the boat in, and taking the boat out. Trailer tire pressure should be checked every time the boat is pulled. Check the trailer lights to be sure they are operative and the reflectors aren’t broken.
8. Taking Her Out
After you have checked everything out completely, you might want to wax your boat to make it really shine when it goes out the first time. Check out your safety equipment and get ready for a fun summer on the water. Take proper care of your boat, and she’ll provide you with prolonged and dedicated service in return. A well cared for boat is a happy boat, and so are its passengers.
by Captain Jonas on June 3, 2010