It’s springtime, and with warmer weather – and warmer water – it will soon be time to take the boat out again. Before making that first pleasure trip, it’s always a good idea to go through a series of mechanical and safety checks. Small preventive measures taken now can help ensure that every trip is trouble-free.
These are some recommended checks that every boat owner should make at the beginning of boating season.
- Inspect hoses, belts and cables. Cracks or swelling on hoses are a sign of deterioration, and a warning that they might fail. Belts should fit snugly on their pulleys. A black residue near pulleys can be a sign that a belt is loose and slipping. Brittle, cracked rubber and exposed fabric are also signs a belt needs replacement. If the outer jackets on steering or throttle-control cables are cracked or swollen, it’s likely the cables themselves are starting to corrode.
Replacing these critical components is often a fairly easy do-it-yourself job, but it’s also something that our mechanics at MarineMax can do efficiently and economically. For more about hoses and clamps, see my recent Insights about winter-time maintenance projects.
- Check fuel and replace if needed. Ideally, you either drained your fuel tank or treated it with a fuel stabilizer when buttoning the boat down for winter. If you didn’t, it’s a good bet that the fuel has deteriorated, accumulated water, or both. Nothing is more likely to cause marine engine problems than running bad fuel through carburetors and fuel injectors.
An important note about fuel: The ethanol content of most gasoline these days makes it unsuitable for marine use. Ethanol has a nasty habit of accumulating water from the atmosphere, which is especially harmful in the corrosive environment in which boat motors operate. Be sure to use only ethanol-free gasoline in your boat.
- Check fluid levels and replace as needed. Be sure all fluids, including engine oil, coolant if relevant, and hydraulic fluids (for power steering or power trim) are at their proper levels.
If you didn’t do this before winterizing the boat, change the engine oil and the drive lubricants. Fresh, clean lubricants are the best way to ensure that engines and gear boxes run smoothly and last as long as possible.
Used oils, stale fuel and dirty coolant are all hazardous substances and must be disposed of safely. Our technicians have the know-how and equipment to handle such waste products correctly, which is an excellent reason to let us help with these important maintenance jobs.
- Test the battery and check the electrical system. Make sure your battery has a full charge before leaving the dock, and have it tested while you’re charging it. Replace the battery if it won’t hold a full charge.
Examine battery terminals for corrosion and clean them as needed. Inspect other electrical wires and connections to be sure they are tight and free of corrosion. Use a wire brush to clean corrosion from terminals.
A professional inspection and testing of your boat’s electrical system can help identify problems that may not be obvious. Repairs and replacements made at the dock or in the shop are always preferable to an emergency out on the water.
- Examine hull and propellers. I talked about anti-fouling paints in my winter-maintenance Insights. Even if your hull doesn’t need painting this year, you should still give it a careful look-see, ideally while cleaning off winter’s accumulated grime. Cracks, blisters or warping are all signs of damage that will get worse if not attended to.
Look for dents, scratches or other damage to props. These can cause excessive vibration that will damage your motors’ drive train, including bearings. A worn or damaged propeller will also hurt your fuel economy.
When looking at the prop, grasp it firmly to see if it wobbles. If so, it’s a sign that the bearing is worn and due for replacement.
Finally, be sure your drain plug is in good condition and in place before you launch the boat!
- Check all safety equipment. Ensure you have the right number of life jackets on board, and that they are all in good condition. If you will be carrying children, be sure you have correct sizes for smaller passengers, too.
Examine all your fire extinguishers and be sure they are the proper type for your boat, are fully charged and are properly stowed.
If your boat has enclosed spaces, be sure you have a properly working carbon monoxide detector installed.
Inspect anchor, mooring and tow lines for damage, including fraying, nicks or chafing. Replace any lines that show significant deterioration. Examine fenders and replace any that have become brittle or started to crack.
- Don’t forget the trailer. Be sure all lights – turn signals, brake lights, running lights – are working correctly. Replace bulbs as needed.
Inspect winch lines or straps and tie-down straps.
Test and lubricate the winch.
Repack grease in wheel bearings and test tire pressure.
These simple but important steps will protect your family’s safety and your investment in your boat, and head off the sorts of problems that you don’t want to think about on a summer’s day afloat. You can rely on the professionals at MarineMax to handle any and all of these inspections for you, as well as any necessary maintenance work. Give us a call to schedule your boat’s spring checkup.
Thom Cross is the general manager of MarineMaxWrightsville Beach. Headquartered in Clearwater, Florida, MarineMax is the nation’s largest recreational boat and yacht retailer. Focused on premium brands, MarineMax sells new and used recreational boats and related marine products and services as well as provides yacht brokerage and charter services. For more information, visit www.marinemax.com, find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/MarineMaxWrightsvilleBeach or call (910) 256-8100.