Our friends at Discover Boating have put together some general guidelines for pre-season boat preparation with six key areas of maintenance. (Always consult your owner’s manual for maintenance instructions specific to your boat model.)
Inspect the fuel system for leaks or damage; pay special attention to fuel hoses, connections and tank surfaces. Evidence of damaged fuel hoses includes softness, brittleness or cracking. Replace components when necessary and verify all fittings and clamps are properly secured. Ensure the engine, exhaust and ventilation systems are all functioning properly.
Belts, Cables & Hoses
Belts, cables and hoses are important to check, as they can become brittle and may crack during winter storage. Belts should fit tightly around pulleys to prevent slipping; a worn belt may have a black substance near the pulley and will fit loosely. Cracks or swells on the outer jacket of control cables may be a sign you have to take immediate action.
Inspect all electrical connections for cleanliness and tightness—corrosion is often a sign a connection may not be safe. To prepare electrical connections for the summer, remove the terminals and use a wire brush to clean them, along with all cable ends. Charge your battery and have it tested to ensure it can hold a charge. Electrical systems should be regularly inspected by a qualified technician.
Check all fluid levels including engine oil, power steering, power trim reservoirs, and coolant. Be sure to change the engine oil, oil filter, and drive lubricants, if these tasks were not done prior to winterizing your boat.
Propellers & Hulls
Inspect propellers for dings, pitting, cracks and distortion. Damaged propellers can cause unwanted vibration and damage to your drive train. Make sure the propeller is secured properly, and replace bearings when needed. When inspecting the hull, look for blisters, distortions and cracks. Be sure to clean the hull, deck, and topsides using an environmentally safe cleaning solution. And, make sure the drain plug is securely in place before every launch.
Check your life jackets to ensure they are in good condition and that there are enough on board for all potential passengers. It’s important to ensure that each individual has the correct size life jacket for their body weight. Be sure all onboard fire extinguishers are the correct class for your vessel, and are fully charged and stowed in the proper place. Take advantage of any safety inspections offered by the US Coast Guard (USCG), USCG Auxiliary or US Power Squadrons.