Use The Right Aluminum Cleaning Products
When dealing with most boats, fiberglass maintenance is the name of the game. But its important to understand how vital aluminum is to your pontoonand how to care for this light metal. We recommend a dedicated Aluminum Cleaner to deal with all that aluminum and make quick work of it.
Why a dedicated cleaner? Wont soap and water do just fine? Youll want this cleaner for your pontoon boat maintenance, because it has brightening and polishing properties that you cant get from soap. The appearance of aluminum can be difficult to restore once youve lost it. But regularly using an anti-oxidant cleaner will help to maintain its like new appearance over time.
The Ultimate Guide To Boat Maintenance
Whether your boat frequents rivers, lakes, or open seas, your attention to detail and regular maintenance will help you enjoy your vessel for many years to come. Most boat maintenance tasks are easy to learn and perform on your own. However, major repairs should be taken care of by a professional.
This boat maintenance guide will cover boat maintenance tips and specialized information for a variety of boat types.
Jump to a section in this guide on how to maintain your boat:
Common Boat Maintenance Issues
As a boat owner, there are a few common issues that you may be able to fix yourself. A knowledge of how to diagnose the symptoms can save you time and money. New boats require a lower annual maintenance budget than a used boat, at least for the first few years of ownership.
There are many different electrical issues your boat can face. From faulty wiring connections to battery problems, electrical issues can lead to major problems, including onboard fires.
If your boat has problems with steering, its likely due to low hydraulic fluid. This is usually a quick fix you can take care of on your own.
When your boat is taking on unchecked water, is performing heavier than usual, and the bilge pump is being overworked, it could be due to an issue in the engines cooling and exhaust system. If a hose has burst, youll need to have it replaced immediately. There are some short-term fixes you can apply yourself, but its inevitable that the hose will need to be replaced.
If the boats ride has suddenly become less-smooth, the unwanted vibrations could be due to damaged propeller blades. Depending on the level of damage to the blades, you can decide whether to replace them or repair them.
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Easy Ways You Can Maintain Your Boat
The most basic maintenance tasks are simply keeping things clean and, where appropriate, well-lubricated. This has a huge impact on a boat. The fiberglass gel coat, for example, will oxidize and turn chalky if you dont wash and wax it regularly. So a basic boat hull maintenance chore with any fiberglass boat is washing and waxing. Dirt that sits on canvass and upholstery allows mold and mildew to attach and grow, so again, regular cleanings are very important. And having a dirty bilge means you may not spot leaking fuel or fluids, and can lead to clogged bilge pumps.
After a day out on the water, other than cleaning the boat and lubricating parts as necessary there arent many maintenance tasks you need to worry about. One important task, however, is flushing your engine after boating in saltwater. See Outboard Engine Care and follow your engine manufacturers recommendations, to get the low-down on how its done .
The one other maintenance chore that should be done after every trip is making a simple visual inspection of all the boats systems. If you spot anything wrong, then you can decide whether to tackle the challenge yourself or take the boat in for repairs.
A Checklist For Spring Boat Maintenance
Each year, you should complete maintenance on your boat. These steps will help ensure you dont have to make costly repairs during the summer when you really want to be out on the water! Each year, your maintenance team should:
- Check the battery charge, clean any dirt and re-fill the batter with fresh distilled water
- Test all electronics and lights
- Check fluid levels, such as power steering and coolant, and change the oil
- Inspect the gas tank, fuel lines and engines for leaks, rust or cracks
- Ensure you have all your boating safety gear floatation devices, up-to-date fire extinguishers, proper licensing and registration, flares, whistles and horns
- If youre not sure what to keep on a boat for safety check out our Water Sports Safety Guide
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Maintenance Steps To Do Regularly
It is essential to keep your boat in good condition that you keep up on all maintenance needed.
Some maintenance will need to be done more than once a season. This will make sure that you have less to do when it comes time to winterize or store your boat.
This also will help to make sure your boat stays nice throughout the entire boating season.
Check Before Every Outing
Every safely operated vessel should have a pre-departure boat maintenance checklist of things that need to be checked before each and every trip on the water. These are things that are generally related to basic mechanical functionality and essential safety items.
While these boat care tips are meant to help and give examples, they should by no means be considered complete and final lists of all needed maintenance.
Engine Oil Levels
One of the most important aspects of caring for your boat is proper boat engine maintenance. It will often be operating for periods of time at very high revolutions per minute, so it needs to be properly lubricated. Most larger boat engines are 4-cycle, meaning their engine oil is separate from the fuel. In smaller 2-cycle motors, however, the oil is combined with the gas.
If you need to do some boat motor maintenance, checking your oil is going to be the first step, heres how:
- Remove the cowl from the engine, exposing the dipstick, often with a bright yellow handle.
- Remove the dipstick and wipe it clean with a rag or towel, then reinsert it into the tube.
- Remove the dipstick and evaluate the oil level, replacing it when finished and adding oil as needed.
Battery and Battery Cables
This can be a particularly important maintenance item for those who need to perform saltwater boat maintenance since the salt environment will cause connections and cabling to corrode and degrade quicker than in freshwater environments.
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Understand Your Cooling System
The majority of engine failures are caused by problems in your engines cooling system, so pay attention here or, better yet, watch this video from Ed Sherman of the American Boat and Yacht Council . He takes you on a tour of the cooling system on a new Volvo Penta engine and shows some basic maintenance practices.
The boat in the ABYC video uses a raw water system with a heat exchanger, connected to a freshwater loop that cools the engine. This is the most common type used in recreational marine diesels. Typical problems happen when there is a blockage of the flow in the raw water side of the system. Perhaps theres plastic debris, kelp or barnacles obstructing the raw water inlet outside the hull. Most often, the impeller in the raw water pump disintegrates.
Check the Raw Water Strainer to make sure it is not clogged by debris.
When this happens, your engine overheats very quickly. This is much more serious in a diesel engine than in gas-powered boats. Since diesels run at piston compressions of 350psi to 500psi, which is three to four times that of a gas engine, heat builds up very rapidly. Within 60 seconds, this high compression builds up a lot of heat that can do damage.
Because your cooling system is so critical, owners of inboard diesels routinely check their wet exhaust every time they start up the engine. If you hear the usual burbling and belching sound, youre fine. If not, shut down the engine immediately!
Nigel Calder recommends this Impeller Puller tool.
Simple Diy Boat Fixes
Many of the typical maintenance costs associated with boat ownership can be lessened by doing it yourself. Exercise due diligence in researching everything needed to complete these simple boat fixes and ensure you dont create larger and largely unforeseen problems down the road.
One task you can do yourself is painting the hull of your boat, which is something that most boats need every year. Its important to have a strong understanding of the hull painting process. A poor paint job will be quickly destroyed by the rigors of daily exposure to sun and water. Not only does an improper hull paint look bad and discolor the hull, it can lead to weakening of the hull. Knowing how to properly paint your boats hull will save money, look great, and extend your boats lifespan.
First prepare the hull with industrial solvent so the paint can stick to the surface. Next, make repairs to abrasions or holes in the hull with epoxy and sand the entire surface. Before applying the paint, you should evenly roll primer over the hulls surface. After all these steps are completed, you can paint the hull.
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Why Complete Annual Maintenance Early
You may not be thinking about getting out on the water yet, but you SHOULD be thinking about completing your annual maintenance and de-winterizing your boat. Spots at local shops like Hagadone Marine are filling up fast, and you dont want to have to be doing work on your boat or trying to squeeze it in to a time at the shop when you really want to be out on Lake Coeur dAlene.
Clean Fuel Clean Fuel And Clean Fuel
Okay, were being repetitive here, but clogged fuel filters will shut your engine down. Lack of fuel wont damage your engine, but could put your boat in a dangerous situation if the engine shuts down at the worst possible timeas it often will.
Water can accumulate in your fuel tank, especially when the boat sits unused with a tank that is partially or mostly empty. When I bought my Cal 40, which had been neglected for about three years, I took it to a fuel polisher, a specialist who removed all the diesel and pumped it through a series of filters. He opened and cleaned my fuel tank and then replaced both the primary and secondary filters. This gave me confidence before making a long offshore delivery, as ocean waves can stir up sludge from the bottom of the tank and clog your filters.
Your boat should have both a primary filter and a secondary filter, which is usually mounted on the engine itself. Primary filters remove water and larger particles in your fuel. Primary filters with clear sediment bowls are great for a visual check, and the #2 diesel should look red in color. You can see water in the bottom of the bowl and drain it easily. Centrifugal filters, like the Racor Turbine Series, are a three-stage system that removes nearly all of the water and all of the harmful solid particles in the fuel.
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Routine Maintenance ‘best’ Boat Check
To assist skippers and reduce the number of boating breakdowns DoT has developed the BEST boat check. The BEST check should be completed prior to every trip to ensure your Boat, Equipment, Safety equipment and Trailer are all in good order for a day on the water.
The BEST check ensures your day is not ruined by an oversight, it’s a quick activity to give peace of mind.
A well serviced boat should not let you down. The annual 45 point check will help skippers identify issues before they become a problem, but it all starts with having a regular service. Take the time to have your boat serviced at least once a year.
The BEST and 45 point annual checks lists will not cover all types of boats and voyages but there’s no doubt they can help make your next voyage less stressful and possibly much more enjoyable.
Clean The Interior And Exterior
Keeping your boats interior and exterior clean is an essential part of maintaining the materials that make up your boat. Youll want to clean your boat after taking it out on the water, before putting it in storage, and after its been exposed to severe weather or other unusual conditions.
Take these steps to thoroughly clean your boat:
- Clean your boats fiberglass exterior after every outing, and wax it twice a year.
- Use a brush and mild soap to clean canvas parts in your boat.
- Routinely wipe down the upholstery seats in your boat to prevent dirt, mold, and mildew build-up. Keep vinyl seats covered between outings.
- If your boat has woodwork, clean it occasionally with the mildest teak cleaner available.
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Necessary Boat Service After One Year Or 100 Hours Of Boating
These maintenance items should be performed by an authorized dealer:
- Change engine oil and replace the oil filter. The oil should be changed more often when the engine is operated under adverse conditions such as extended trolling
- Inspect thermostat visually for corrosion and or for a broken spring
- Check engine water separating fuel filter for contaminants. Clean and/or replace filter
- Check corrosion control anodes. Check more frequently when used in salt water
- Drain and replace gearcase lubricant
- Check power trim fluid
- Check power steering fluid
- Inspect battery
- Saltwater usage: Remove and inspect spark plugs for corrosion, and replace spark plugs as necessary. Apply a thin coating of Anti-Seize Compound only on threads of spark plug prior to installation
- Check wiring and connectors
Maintenance Tips For A Pontoon Boat
Pontoon boats have the same cleaning and engine requirements as other boats, but pontoons have additional needs. The pontoons on your boat are what keeps it afloat. Taking care of the pontoons will keep your boats overall performance in check at all times.
Tips for pontoon maintenance include:
- Check for dents or leaks regularly: Be sure to inspect your pontoon boat for any dents or damages before and after each time you take it out on the water.
- Remove salt buildup: After sailing in saltwater, clean the bottom of the boat and pontoons to eliminate salt buildup.
- Use aluminum solution for cleaning: Care for all aluminum parts on your pontoon boat with a specialized aluminum cleaning solution to keep your boat looking new.
- Check for leaks: Routinely take note of how your boat sits in the water. If its sitting lower than usual or one side is low, you may have a leaking pontoon. Its important to have a leaking pontoon fixed immediately by a professional. Leaking pontoons slow down your boat and put excess strain on the motor.
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Ways To Maintain Your Boat
Generally speaking, boat maintenance involves keeping your boat clean and lubricated. Just as you wouldnt drive your car without engine oil, you wouldnt want to take your boat out for a ride without proper fluid levels. Likewise, you probably know weather and debris can damage your cars exterior over time. The same principle applies to boats. For example, a fiberglass boat with a dirty exterior will turn chalky if you dont wash and wax it regularly.
To help you keep your boat sparkling and in great shape, well show you how to clean a boat in the next section. Well also cover proper storage options and boat motor maintenance.
Prioritize Boat Engine Maintenance
You dont have to be a mechanic to maintain your boats motor. By taking preventive measures, you can keep your engine running for a long time, and you can preserve the value of your boat. Before you perform engine maintenance, its a good idea to check your manufacturers recommendations first. With that said, here are a few general tips for caring for an outboard motor before every trip:
- Check that you have fuel and that the fuel tank vent is open.
- Make sure the engine mount screw clamps are tight and secure.
- Ensure the water intake is free of debris.
- Check your propeller for caught fishing line and excessive oil buildup.
After every single trip, whether you travel in saltwater or freshwater, youll want to flush the motor to eliminate sand, dirt and other debris. To do so correctly, take these steps:
Here are more boat maintenance tips to apply regularly:
- Replace spark plugs as needed.
- Regularly check for water in the fuel.
- Keep an eye on the engines oil level.
- Check the fuel lines for cracks and wear.
- Check the propeller and engine belts for wear, and replace them as needed.
- Replace damaged fuel hoses.
- Make sure the tank vent is clear, with no blockages.
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Additional Maintenance That Could Be Needed
Every boat is different. This means that boat maintenance is different depending on what type of boat you own.
Below are some possible maintenance items you might have that are not true of all vessels.
Some possible maintenance needed could be:
- If you have a sailboat, make sure your lines, sails, and all additional equipment is in proper working order. Check for tears, frays, or other structural damage to your equipment.
- If your boat has any wood, no matter the amount, make sure you treat it and clean it. Even wood trim needs to be taken care of. This will help maintain the wood and keep your boat looking like new.
- Vacuum any carpet and wipe down all seating and surface areas.