DIY Basic Maintenance for your Boat - Part 1

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DIY Basic Maintenance for your Boat - Part 1

For the first time boat owner, the care and maintenance of a boat can be a daunting task. Where do you begin? How do you know what to do? How often? Some boat owners turn to practical boat owner maintenance guides, boat maintenance software apps, boat maintenance software free etc. There are many aids out there to help you determine what needs to be done and when. 

What is boat maintenance?

Boat cleaning and maintenance is vital to the safety and effective functioning of your boat. Properly maintained boats will avoid the damage caused by:

1. Corrosion:  90% of corrosion problems on a boat arise from the inside out due to the lack of access and maintenance. Ventilation is important. 

2. Contamination and Sediment: The chief problems of mist fuel systems in water intrusion that allow in sediment, which leads to fuel contamination. 

Do you need any specialized boat maintenance tools?

Having the right tools on board your boat will make it easy for you to fix unexpected problems and take care of basic maintenance chores both on and off the water. You should consider putting together a boat maintenance tool kit for yourself in order to handle the boat maintenance basics. You will want to include:

Metric and standard sockets
Metric and standard wrenches
Allen keys
Various Phillips and flat screwdrivers
Hammer
Duct tape
Adjustable wrenches
Vise Grips
Spark Plug Socket

Utility Knife
Wire Strippers, Cutters, Crimpers
Accessories like a funnel, drip cups, pads, rags, trash bags

Either uses a traditional tackle style toolbox or a flexible soft side tool bag to store your tools if you don’t have a tool drawer or cabinet on your boat. 

It goes without saying that these tools are in addition to the essential boat safety equipment like your VHF radio and flares in case the problem is not easily fixed! Click here to see more important boating safety measures.  

How to conduct basic boat maintenance

There are a lot of boat maintenance requirements. You will want to keep a boat maintenance schedule or a boat maintenance calendar so you do not forget what boat maintenance tasks need to be done and when. Typically, you want to pay attention to Boat maintenance procedures as follows:

 1. Spring Start-up or Pre-Season boat maintenance such as that detailed in this checklist.

  • Belts, Cables, and hoses: Check all belts, cables, and hoses to make sure they fit tightly and are not worn, brittle or cracked. 
  • Fluid levels: Check to be sure that engine oil power steering fluid, power trim reservoirs, and coolant are all filled. 
  • Fuel System: Check hoses and connections for wearing, brittleness, and cracking and make sure all clamps and fittings are tightly secured. Test the exhaust; ventilation and engine systems go be sure they are operating, as they should.
  • Electric System: Check all electrical connections to be sure they are tight and do not have any corrosion. Make sure the battery is charged. 
  • Propellers and hulls: Check the propeller to be sure it is tightly secured and had no damaged areas. Inspect the hull for blisters or cracks and be sure the drain plug is tightly in place.
  • Safety Gear: Check to make sure life jackets, fire extinguishers, carbon monoxide detectors are all in proper working order.  

2. Semi-Annual maintenance such as that detailed in this checklist from NMMA.

3. Winterizing or post-season maintenance such as that detailed in your boat’s owner’s manual (if you're an InterMarine customer, chances are you do not need to worry about this unless you're taking your boat back up north!). 

In addition to those generic guidelines, there are additional boat maintenance tasks that are important to prolong the life of your boat:

1. Boat battery maintenance and charging: Charge your battery pre-season, semi-annually and post-season and test it to be sure it can hold a charge. 

2. Boat bottom maintenance: Regularly inspect the boat bottom for blisters or cracks and cleaning with an environmentally safe cleaning formula will keep the hull in great condition for years to come. 

3. Boat top maintenance:

  • Boat canvas maintenance: With all of the water and weather conditions that your boat is exposed to, boat canvas and the vinyl enclosures should be cleaned periodically with mild soapy water and rinsed clear. After drying, use a plastic scratch remover to remove light scratches from the vinyl. The canvas should be treated every two years with Fabric Guard to keep it water repellant. 
  • Boat canopy maintenance: The boat canopy, also known as the Bimini top, should be cleaned in the same manner as boat canvas. 

4. Boat deck maintenance: Regularly inspect the deck for cracks and clean it with an environmentally safe cleaning formula. Teak boat decking maintenance may require periodic oiling of the teak wood in order to prevent fading and cracking.

5. Boat diesel maintenance: Modern diesel engines on a boat contain many electronic controls and some things on your maintenance checklist for the engine should be left to a mechanic or professional. However, there are certain things that a boat owner should be attentive to.  Each time you run your boat, you should check the boat maintenance fuel level, oil level, coolant level, belt tightness and strainer obstruction. This subject is substantially more extensive than this article allows. We strongly recommend seeing a professional for diesel engine maintenance, which consists of the fuel system, lubrication system, cooling system, and the electrical system. Having said that, the only one you really should keep your eye on between service visits is the fuel system.

Maintaining your diesel engine’s fuel system is not difficult, but it does require diligence to keep it running smoothly. Before you take your boat out for a spin, always check the fuel and engine and marine oil levels and refill if necessary. At least monthly, you will want to drain the water and sediment from the fuel tank to prevent any debris from entering the fuel system and messing up the engine. 

At the end of the season, again drain the fuel tank and replace the fuel filter element. Before you change the oil, it is a good idea to treat the fuel system with a diesel fuel stabilizer and a diesel conditioner and anti-gel. Once you have put in the additives, run the boat long enough for the treated fuel to get into the fuel lines, filters and engines. Then, go fill your tanks and screw down the fill cap so your tank will be free of water. 

Every 1000 hours, you should have a professional boat mechanic check the fuel injection timing and the fuel injector spray pattern and, if issues are found, repair or replace the fuel injection system. 

The next part of your boat that needs attention is the BOTTOM of the boat, and then the INSIDE of the boat! Do you know how to help maintain the hull, head, generator, etc? Stay tuned for Part 2 of Basic Boat Maintenance for your Boat!

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While many boaters prefer boat maintenance DIY, there are some tasks that are best left to professionals. If you want help maintaining and servicing your boat, InterMarine's Service Technicians are here to help. Call us at 866-725-7495 or click here to schedule your boat service online. We service boats in Fort Lauderdale and Jupiter, Florida.