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How to Prepare Your Boat for the Water

Published: June 2019

Before you take your boat out for your first voyage of the year, it’s important to make sure it’s ready for boating season. Consider these maintenance tips to help get your boat ready for the water.

Man repairing outboard motor in boat house.

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Inspect the Hull and Propellers

Check the hull of the boat — look for cracks, blisters or misshapen areas, says Discover Boating. Have any holes or cracks fixed so that you avoid potential leaks while on the water.

Next, inspect the propeller for damage, such as dings, pitting or cracks, says Discover Boating. Even a small dent may cause performance issues or vibrations that may damage bearings and seals. Also, make sure that the propeller is properly secured.

Don’t forget to put the drain plug in place before you launch the boat, says Discover Boating.

Check the Boat’s Systems

Whether you have a mechanic look over the boat or you handle the maintenance yourself, it’s important to know that your boat’s mechanics are in good working order. Discover Boating recommends you check the following.

Fuel System

  • Inspect hoses, connections and tank surfaces for leaks or damage.
  • Replace cracked, brittle or soft hoses.
  • Check that fittings and clamps are secure.
  • Be sure the exhaust and ventilation systems are working properly.

Electrical System

  • Look over electrical connections and make sure they are clean and tight.
  • Clean corrosion off of terminals and cables using a wire brush.
  • Test and, if necessary, charge the battery. Boats.com also recommends greasing the terminals.

Belts, Hoses and Cables

  • Replace any belts, cables and hoses that are cracked or brittle.
  • Make sure belts are tight around pulleys. (A worn belt will be loose and may leave residue around the pulley.)
  • Check steering and throttle cables for kinks and make sure the connections are tight, says Boats.com. Also, test that the steering nozzle turns easily.

Fluids

  • Check the engine oil, power steering fluid and coolant. Top off or replace as needed.
  • Change the oil and filter if you did not do this prior to storing your boat for the winter.

Clean It Up

If your boat was covered or wrapped during the off-season, it may not need more than a quick cleaning with an all-purpose cleaner, says Boat Planet. If you notice heavier dirt and grime, such as rust stains or tree sap, use an appropriate cleaner to remove it. Once the boat is clean, wax it with a heavy-duty polish that will last throughout the boating season, says Boat Planet. You’ll also want to clean any deck vinyl and apply a UV protectant to help prevent sun damage.

Safety Precautions

Before you put the boat in the water, do a safety check. Make sure your life jackets are in good condition and that you have enough for all passengers, says Discover Boating. It’s also a good idea to check the sizes, says Boat Planet — kids may have outgrown their life vests during the winter. Discover Boating recommends that you ensure fire extinguishers are charged and that there is at least one working carbon monoxide detector in any enclosed or semi-enclosed area. Also, remember to check and restock your first aid kit, says Boat Planet.

With some basic maintenance and the right precautions, you can hit the water knowing that your boat is ready for time on the water.

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Our pages are filled with helpful tips and information about the topics that most of us face in our everyday lives. We focus on safety and maintenance issues with regard to your home, auto, apartment, motorcycle, boat, small business, finances and more. Please recognize that a particular tip may not be effective in every circumstance and that taking preventive measures cannot guarantee any outcome. We encourage you to use your own good judgment about what's appropriate for you and your property and always consider safety.
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