The 10 Most Common Boat Maintenance Tasks You Should Be Doing

As a savvy boat owner, keeping your boat safe and reliable should be a top priority. Here are important maintenance tasks that’ll keep your vessel seaworthy. 

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What are the most important boat maintenance tasks?

The most common boat maintenance tasks you should be doing include engine maintenance, electrical maintenance, safety maintenance, cleaning your boat, cleaning your boat’s hull, plumbing maintenance, waxing the gel coat, maintaining canvas and upholstery, and preparing your boat for winterization.

In addition to my practical boat knowledge, I’ve done extensive research on this topic across various boat ownership forums and I can tell you for a fact that regular boat maintenance is important in terms of increased safety, better performance, and lower repair costs. 

So keep on reading and learn a thing or two that will make your voyages more enjoyable. 

The Importance of Boat Maintenance

Although boating is about having fun and enjoying the waters, this will only happen if you maintain your boat and keep it in tip-top condition.

You should always keep in mind that your boat isn’t just about enjoying the waters and having fun. Instead, it should also be about ensuring that everyone aboard is safe and the vessel is in top shape.

So, why should boat owners maintain their vessels? Well, proper maintenance of your boat will obviously prevent breakdowns, which will ultimately help you avoid costly repairs like repainting your boat in the long run.

But that’s not all; regularly maintaining your boat will extend the life of your boat while also ensuring that your vessel is operating at its best in terms of fuel efficiency and optimal performance. 

As such, taking your time and effort to maintain your boat is essential as it’ll make your vessel seaworthy and allow you to have some good adventures the next time you go on the water. You, however, must have a boat maintenance schedule that will guide you on when these boat maintenance tasks should be carried out. 

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What is a Boat Maintenance Schedule?

Although many boat owners may assume this, it’s important to have a boat maintenance schedule that is essentially a basic boat maintenance guidance on what and when maintenance services need to be done. 

It basically revolves around a monthly or annual boat maintenance checklist and the boat maintenance tasks that need to be done at a given time or period. 

For example, you can schedule to have your boat’s canvas washed and waterproofed once a year. On the other hand, you can schedule to have the fluids of your boat including engine oil, gear oil, and coolant checked once a month.

Boat Maintenance Tasks to Check Before Heading Out

Now that we’ve briefly discussed the importance of boat maintenance, it’ll only make sense if we go through the most common boat maintenance tasks you should be doing before taking your boat out.

So without further ado, let’s roll on and look at some boat maintenance tips and ideas. 

Engine Maintenance

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Ask any boat owner and he’ll tell you that keeping your boat’s engine in great condition is, without a doubt, one of the most important boat maintenance tips. The idea here is that your boat will consistently perform at its best in terms of maximum speed and power if the engine is well-maintained. 

No matter the type of boat that you own, it won’t work at its best if the engine is poorly maintained. So if you want your boat to offer better fuel economy while remaining safer and more reliable, then you have no option but to ensure that the engine is well-maintained. 

This can include inspecting the engine and ensuring that its internal combustion is functioning efficiently. You should also ensure that the engine has sufficient oil and that the engine is clean and free of debris. 

And because you might not be a boat engine expert, you can consider having a professional technician inspect and maintain your boat’s engine. This will not only allow you to navigate your boat safely but will ensure that you avoid problems with engine mounts and such.

The table below, therefore, highlights some routine maintenance tasks that must be carried out on your engine.  

Engine Maintenance TasksDescription
Inspect the engineLook for cracks, leaks, and any other signs of tear and wear. 
Change the oil and filtersYou have to change the engine oil and oil filter as per the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Inspect and change the fuel filterInspect the fuel filter for clogging and damage and replace it as needed.
Inspect and replace spark plugsInspect the spark plugs regularly for wear and tear and replace them if need be.

Electrical Maintenance

We all know that your boat won’t be the same without its electrical systems and electric power. The boat’s electric power is divided into two; the DC power system and the AC power system.

The DC power system is that battery-generated power system, which powers the engine and most of the vessel’s equipment and systems. On the other hand, the AC power system is the alternating power system that’s used when the boat is docked. 

That being said, let’s go through various electrical basic boat maintenance checklists that you should be doing if you want your boat to function optimally. 

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Check the Boat Batteries

Although the average life of a boat battery is between 3 and 4 years, you need to maintain it properly to even last its full lifespan. 

In addition to regular testing, the most crucial aspect of boat battery maintenance is proper charging. In other words, you have to make sure that the battery isn’t overcharged as this can reduce its life expectancy. 

Differently, you have to make sure that you do not use all its charge as this can be harmful to the battery in the long run.

It’s, therefore, important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions in terms of charging or using the battery. Some essential things to observe include:

  • Choosing the right battery for your boat
  • Having a qualified technician regularly check the battery
  • Ensuring that the battery terminals are clean and not corroded
  • Charging and discharging the battery as per the manufacturer’s instructions
  • Storing the battery in a cool dry space when not in use
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Nav lights are an important component of your boat. Besides helping prevent collisions at night or during reduced visibility, nav lights provide information on your direction of travel, the size of your vessel, and activity. 

Given their importance, you should make sure that the inspection of all the nav lights is included as part of essential boat maintenance tasks. 

In other words, boat owners must ensure that all the navigation lights are well-maintained and working correctly in terms of the correct voltage and the right bulbs. 

Bilge Pumps

Safety should always be a priority whenever you’re on the water.  This is one of the main areas where a bilge pump comes in handy. This is a marine pump that’s designed to clear out any water that leaks into your boat.

In other words, a bilge pump is important in removing any water that enters the boat. With that in mind, its importance and efficiency cannot be downplayed. This is why you have to ensure it’s working properly. 

A bilge pump is designed with an override switch as well as a float switch. You have to make sure that these switches are working correctly. You should also inspect the fuse that connects the battery to the bilge pump and ensure that it’s working correctly.

Exterior and Interior Bulbs

In addition to offering security on your boat, exterior bulbs can be a perfect way to beautify your vessel and even add a personal touch. These bulbs are particularly important if you love staying on your boat’s dock when the sun is down. 

Maintaining these bulbs is essential in improving the overall appearance of the boat. You have to make sure that all the bulbs are working correctly or replaced accordingly. 

Safety Maintenance

We can’t refute the fact that spending time on your boat with family and friends is very enjoyable and adventurous. However, safety should always be a priority and that’s why you need to have enough safety gear in your boat at all times. 

While having a U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket for every person on board is a must, that’s not all as far as safety is concerned. 

You have to make sure that your boat’s safety kit includes items such as a fire extinguisher, flashlights, duct tape, a first aid kit, a whistle, ropes, a bucket, garbage bags, and a mirror.  Most of these items will come in handy should you find yourself in distress.

You should also consider requesting a free vessel safety check from the U.S. Coast Guard.

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Clean Your Boat Regularly

As a boat owner, one of your top priorities should be to keep your shiny boat in tip-top condition. But because your boat is sitting on salt water, which is one of the harshest environments on the planet, it’s likely to corrode and degrade if you don’t wash it regularly.

And because it can cost you a lot to restore the surface of your boat to its proper condition, especially if it’s a fiberglass boat, it only makes sense to wash your boat regularly to remove all the nasty residue and dirt that might affect your boat. 

Clean Your Boat’s Hull

While cleaning the shiny part of the boat is paramount, you should keep in mind that cleaning your boat’s hull regularly is also important.

A clean hull will reduce fuel consumption, mitigate the level of vibration, and prevent the boat’s engine from overheating as a result of blocked intakes. Although this is something that most boat owners assume, an object as little as a fishing line that was discarded in the water can get entangled on a given part of the hull or engine thereby blocking intakes. 

Cleaning your hull can also help in reducing antifouling costs, help in detecting problems early on, and increase the boat’s speed.

Wax the Gel Coat

As we’ve noted a couple of times, your boat should always look great and it only makes sense to give your vessel a thorough wax at least once a year. This is especially important for fiberglass boats as it helps protect such vessels from sunshine and salt. Make sure that you find some of the best paint for a fiberglass boat

Plumbing Maintenance

You shouldn’t wait until something happens to your boat’s plumbing system for you to take action. Instead, create a regular plumbing maintenance task to ensure that every part of your boat’s plumbing system including the bathrooms and water taps is functioning efficiently.

Maintaining Canvas and Upholstery

You want your boat to look its best at all times. This not only increases its value but is also vital in ensuring that you enjoy your time to the fullest. With that in mind, you have to ensure that your canvas and upholstery are well-maintained depending on how often you use your boat. 

From your seats, canvas, and upholstery, you have to make sure that they’re all cleaned regularly, protected from harmful UV rays, and replaced if need be. 

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Prepare Your Boat for Winterization

Although we all wish to enjoy as much time as we possibly can on the water, the winter season will finally arrive and you’ll have to winterize your boat. And whether your boat has a stern drive, gas inboard, or outboard engine, you certainly want to store your vessel properly so that it remains in top condition for the next boating season. 

With that in mind, here are a few maintenance tasks that you have to do when winterizing your boat. 

  • Replacing the engine oil – You need to drain out the dirty oil to flush out the impurities. You can then change the oil and filter before storing the boat.
  • Flush and drain cooling water – When water freezes, it expands and can cause damage to your boat’s engine. You should, therefore, flush the engine with clean water and make sure that water is drained from the engine.  
  • Stabilize fuel – The fuel that you leave in the tank during winterization can deteriorate in less than two months! This can cause gum and varnish to build up in your engine; eventually leading to a hard start, poor performance, and reduced engine life. You should consider adding a high-quality marine fuel stabilizer to prevent such issues and also ensure that the fuel is above the normal fuel lines.
  • Use a fogging oil spray – This is to protect internal engine components from being damaged by harsh winter elements.
  • Replace gear oil – Remove the old gear oil and replace it with new oil to remove any moisture contamination.
  • Grease and lubricate – Make sure that all the fittings are lubricated and greased to prevent rust, corrosion, and oxidation.
  • Remove all your valuables – Depending on where you’ll be storing your boat, it’s important that you remove all your valuables. This should be a priority, especially if you’re planning for outdoor storage in a boatyard where there’s likely to be little traffic in winter. 
  • Clean, wax, and cover your boat – Make sure that you clean, wax, and cover your boat before storing it until the next boating season. 
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Key Takeaways

  • Maintaining your boat helps it perform with maximum speed, power, and consistency.
  • There are various facets of maintenance including the engine, interior, exterior, and hull.
  • You can seek the services of professionals to maintain various facets of your boat.
  • With proper maintenance, your boat will remain valuable, reliable, and safe.