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Boat Maintenance
Getting Ready for the Boating Season!
Before You Launch
1.    Hose clamps should be inspected and replaced as necessary. Double clamping hose connections with marine-rated stainless hose clamps, or keeping seacocks closed when you are away, are wise moves.
2.    Inspect cooling hoses for stiffness, rot, leaks and cracking. Make sure they fit snugly.
3.    Replace deteriorated sacrificial anodes.
4.    Inspect prop(s) for dings, pitting and distortion. Make sure cotter pins are secure. Grip the prop and try moving the shaft – if it’s loose, the cutlass bearing (on inboard drive systems) may need to be replaced.
5.    Check to make sure the rudderstock hasn’t been bent.
6.    Inspect the hull for blisters, distortions and stress cracks.
7.    Make sure your engine intake sea strainer is not cracked or bent from ice, is free of corrosion, clean and properly secured.
8.    With inboards, check the engine shaft and rudder stuffing boxes for looseness. A stuffing box should only leak when the prop shaft is turning, and needs to be inspected routinely.
9.    Inspect and lubricate seacocks.
10. Use a garden hose to check for deck leaks at ports and hatches. Renew caulk or gaskets, as necessary.
11. If equipped, ensure that the stern drain plug is installed.
12. After the boat is launched, be sure to check all through-hulls for leaks.

Your Engine and Fuel Systems
 
  1. Inspect rubber outdrive bellows for cracked, dried and/or deteriorated spots (look especially in the folds), and replace if suspect.
  2. Check power steering and power trim oil levels.
  3. Replace anodes that are more than half worn away.
  4. Inspect outer jacket of control cables.
  5. Cracks or swelling indicate corrosion and mean that the cable must be replaced.
  6. Inspect fuel lines, including fill and vent hoses, for softness, brittleness or cracking. Check all joints for leaks and make sure all lines are well supported with non-combustible clips or straps with smooth edges.
  7. Inspect fuel tanks, fuel pumps and filters for leaks. Clamps should be snug and free of rust. Clean or replace fuel filters. Owners of gasoline-powered boats with fiberglass fuel tanks should consult a marine professional to inspect for any ethanol-related issues.
  8. Every few years, remove and inspect exhaust manifold for corrosion.
  9. Clean and tighten electrical connections, especially both ends of battery cables. Wire-brush battery terminals and fill cells with distilled water (if applicable).
  10. Inspect bilge blower hose for leaks.
 
If you flushed your cooling system with antifreeze, flush it again BEFORE getting to the water. Certain types of antifreeze are toxic to fish and wildlife.

Your Boat
Check your boat for dry rot, cracks or leaks. In a wooden boat, poke at joints with a screwdriver to make sure the wood is firm and not deteriorating. Many fiberglass boats have plywood within the transom - look carefully to make sure the plywood is still rigid and not deteriorating. Make sure the bilge pump is functioning or that you have a bailing bucket on board.
 
Also, be sure to add a fuel stabilizer to your boat.  Click here for information about E-10 and blended fuel precautions.

Your Trailer
 
  1. Inspect tire treads and sidewalls for cracks or lack of tread and replace as necessary. 
  2. Check air pressure — don’t forget the spare tire!
  3. Inspect wheel bearings and repack as necessary.
  4. Test tail lights, back-up lights and winch to make sure they’re working properly.
  5. Inspect hitch chains.
  6. Inspect trailer frame for rust. Sand and paint to prevent further deterioration.
  7. Inspect brakes and brake fluid reservoir.

Safety Equipment Checks
 
  1. Check expiration dates on flares and fire extinguishers.
  2. Check stove and remote tanks for loose fittings and leaking hoses.
  3. Inspect bilge pump and float switch to make sure they’re working properly.
  4. Inspect dock and anchor lines for chafing.
  5. Check shore power cable connections for burns, which indicates the cable and/or the shore power inlet must be replaced.
  6. Make sure your registration is up to date.
  7. Review your boat insurance policy and update coverage if needed.
  8. Make sure you have properly sized and wearable life jackets in good condition for each passenger, including kids. Check inflatable life jacket cylinders.
  9. Test smoke, carbon monoxide, fume and bilge alarms.
  10. Be sure to get a free vessel safety check from the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary or U.S. Power Squadrons. Find out more at www.SafetySeal.net.  
 
 

More Information
 
BoatU.S. Foundation offers excellent tips, (with pictures!) about preparing your boat, trailer and equipment for boating.  Launch into Spring!  
 
The U.S. Coast Guard also has a pre and post underway checklist for your maiden voyage!