The Basics of Boat Maintenance
Keeping up with routine boat maintenance not only helps your watercraft look its best, it may also help keep your boat running well. Follow these basic boat maintenance tips to help maximize its life and performance.
Clean Your Boat Regularly
Dirt, salt and even moisture can leave your boat looking dingy and possibly damage it over time, which is why it’s important to clean your boat regularly, says Boats.com. Here are a few things to consider:
- If boating in salt water, rinse your boat with fresh water when you return from an excursion. The residue from salt water can corrode metal, fasteners and other components, says Discover Boating. Over time, it can also eat away at the gelcoat, which is the hard, glossy finish that helps protect the fiberglass.
- Give your boat a thorough cleaning at least once a year, says Salt Water Sportsman. (Boats.com suggest washing it after every excursion to remove dirt.) Scrub the boat with a marine boat wash, which will be gentle on the gelcoat, and a long-handle, soft-bristle boat brush, says Discover Boating.
- The Family Handyman recommends wiping moisture off the boat, including the deck, whenever you notice it — not just when the boat is out of water. This can help to prevent corrosion and waterline staining and remove minerals from the hull.
Restore and Protect the Gelcoat
Gelcoat helps to protect your boat from sun, salt and water, but it requires some maintenance to keep it in good shape. You’ll want to wax or polish your gelcoat throughout the boating season, says Boats.com. What you’ll need depends on what shape your gelcoat is in. For instance:
- Waxes can help protect and seal the gelcoat, while providing protection against water, dirt and salt. They may also protect against sun damage.
- Polishes can be used to remove oxidation and help restore the gelcoat’s shiny finish.
- Cleaner-waxes are made of both polish and wax. If your gelcoat has light or moderate oxidation, a cleaner-wax may be a good option.
If your boat’s gelcoat has turned chalky and hazy, you can typically help restore its shine with some wax and polish, says to Boats.com. Once your gelcoat is clean and shiny again, be sure to wax it at least twice during the boating season. If you aren’t sure how to best care for your gelcoat, consult a professional.
Pay Attention to Fabrics
To care for your onboard fabrics, follow the manufacturer’s recommended cleaning method. Generally, however, Boats.com recommends the following:
- Canvas. From cockpit enclosures to boat covers, caring for your boat’s canvas (the generic term for durable fabrics used on a boat) can help it retain UV blocking and waterproofing properties. Use a light brush and gentle soap to remove salt, dirt and debris.
- Upholstery and vinyl. Clean the vinyl or upholstery on your seats with a sponge and a mixture of mild soap and water. To deep clean vinyl, use a vinyl-specific cleaner. About once a month, you should also apply a vinyl protectant after cleaning.
Check Mechanics Before You Hit the Water
Before you take any excursion, it’s important to give your boat a once-over. The Family Handyman recommends these basics before each outing:
- Examine the bilge and hoses for leaks.
- Be sure you have enough fuel.
- Check the oil and oil pressure.
- Check wiring and electrical systems.
From making sure your boat is in good mechanical condition to protecting it from the elements, keeping up with maintenance is an important part of owning a boat. By taking some basic steps, you may help keep your boat running smoothly and looking its best.
Originally posted on June 3, 2011.