Whether you own a small, cozy boat, a sleek fishing boat or a big, party-sized pontoon boat, all boats need proper maintenance to remain operational and safe. Just like cars, boats require mechanical upkeep, periodic replacement of worn-out parts, and occasional repairs.
Before you put your vessel on the water this boating season, here are some general boat maintenance tips all owners can do themselves.
Change the Oil
Sterndrive boats, inboards, and four-stroke outboard boats need regular oil changes to prolong the life of a motor. Boat technicians recommend changing oil for every 100 hours of boat use or at least once a year. Instructions for changing your boat's oil can be found here. Make sure you use only marine grade oil in the vessel's engine. Boat engines labor harder than auto engines to move boats over the strong resistance water presents. Automotive oil will not protect boat engines adequately.
Use All-Purpose Lubricant/Lanolin
Applying lubricant designed for boats protects battery terminals from corrosion. It also prevents rust and moisture from deteriorating the motor and helps rejuvenate the color of fiberglass boats.
Perform a Propeller Check
Remove your propeller with a deep well socket several times during boating season to check for fishing line or other items wrapped around the shaft. If you do find fishing line tangled in the propeller shaft, ask a boat mechanic to examine the gear case, as fishing line may cause leaks. Repairing a leaky gear case is not a DIY job.
After you have removed the propeller, check it carefully for dents or nicks. Missing paint is OK, but even minor damage will minimize performance, burn extra fuel, and cause vibration that stresses seals and bearings. Before replacing the propeller, apply waterproof grease liberally to the shaft to inhibit corrosion and freezing. Tighten the nut and secure locking tapes. This stops the nut from backing off the shaft threads.
Registering Your Boat
It's common that your boat/pontoon will need a title and/or registration. In the state of Minnesota, for example, even kayaks that are 10ft require registration. To avoid fines or any sort of trouble this summer, make sure you cover all necessary steps when it comes to titles/registration. To find out if your boat needs a title and/or registration, contact your state's Department of Motor Vehicles.
Stay Safe This Boating Season
Essential safety items you should put in your boat include life jackets, emergency medical kits, visual distress signaling devices, a fire extinguisher, and emergency sound devices, such as air horns or whistles. Equipping boats with anchors, extra anchor line, bilge pumps, and oars is also highly recommended, although not mandatory in most states. It's also a good idea to bring lights for your boat, so you can light up the vessel in poor visibility conditions.
Finally, never drink and operate a boat. You could cause injury to your passengers, other boats and their passengers, and have your boating license revoked. In addition, getting caught operating under the influence (OUI) while cruising your favorite lake could cost you several thousand dollars in fines and even put you in jail. If you want to drink during boating season, nominate a designated boat driver for the evening. For more information about boating under the influence, visit the National Coast Guard's website.