DIY Basic Maintenance for your Boat - Part 2

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In Part 1 of the DIY Boat Maintenance series, we discussed the basic seasonal maintenance, battery maintenance, and basic engine maintenance you can perform to help keep your boat in tip-top shape. In Part 2 of DIY Basic Boat Maintenance, we will talk about how to take care of the bottom of your boat and the interior of your boat.

Boat exterior maintenance:

Generally, regular inspection and cleaning of the boat exterior will prevent erosion or damage of the surface.

1. Boat hull and bottom maintenance:

All of the new boats for sale at InterMarine in Fort Lauderdale are fiberglass, but here is a general overview of different types of hulls and their individual issues:

  • Aluminum and Steel boat hulls: One of the biggest problems that can occur with an aluminum or steel boat hull is corrosion.
  • Fiberglass boat hulls: The biggest problem that can occur with a fiberglass hull is blisters.
  • Wooden boat hulls: One of the biggest problems with a wooden boat hull is rotting and worms.

The main issue that we want to focus on with any boat bottom are the dreaded barnacles. Barnacles are pesky crustaceans that love to attach themselves to various marine surfaces and can create many problems. For starters, having a hull that is full of barnacles will affect the performance of the boat because the barnacles will break the smooth surface of the hull, causing resistance in the water that in turn will make your boat run slow and burn up more gas. This is not desirable, but what is much worse than this is when the barnacles attach themselves to water inlets, clogging them and potentially causing overflows or engine overheating.

Removing barnacles usually requires having the boat taken out of the water and the barnacles scraped off by hand. Alternatively, if you are a diver, you can scrape them off underwater.

It is also a good idea to have your boat's bottom painted with anti-foulant to prevent a barnacle infestation in the first place. The process of painting your boat's bottom is extensive and will vary depending on the current state of your boat. We will discuss this process in a later article.

2. Boat fender maintenance: Most boat fenders are made of plastic. Regular inspection and cleaning with an environmentally safe cleaner will prevent erosion or damage to the fenders.

3. Boat generator maintenance: Prior to using your boat, it is a good idea to inspect and clean the exterior of the generator. Check to be sure the air inlets/outlets are not blocked and the wires/hoses are not worn or damaged. Then start the generator up and run it for about 30 minutes and look for any leaks or black smoke in the exhaust and listen for weird noises. Turn on all the electrical loads to check to see that the generator can handle the load. Be sure you can start/stop the generator from all control stations on the boat.

At the end of the season, you will want to prepare the generator for boat storage by wipe clean and oiling any parts that could rust, draining the water lift muffler, removing the impeller, draining the oil and replacing if necessary, and disconnecting the battery.

4. Boat impeller maintenance: Most manufacturers recommend that the cooling water pump impeller is changed out at least every year to avoid engine damage due to a blocked or malfunctioning water cooling system as a result of worn, cracked or damaged impeller blades. This job is best left to a professional mechanic.

5. Outboard maintenance: If your boat has an outboard motor, you will want to do some preventative maintenance to keep your motor running smoothly and safely.

Flush the engine. Always flush out the engine after every use. Just start the engine and let the pump do the flushing.

Check the water pump system. While the pump is running, put your finger in the water stream. If it does not seem that the flow is very strong, there may be debris in the outflow tube. *Shut the engine off* and insert a small wire piece in the outflow tube and work it back and forth to clear debris. Restart the engine. If the flow still is not strong, it may mean that a new water pump is needed.

Run the engine out of fuel. Disconnect the fuel line and let the engine burn off the fuel from the carburetor. This is a perfect time to check for fuel or water leaks and lubricate all the moving parts.

Drain the tanks at the end of the season and check for fuel-line cracks, worn spots, damage, and tightness of the fuel-line fittings and clamps.

6. Boat propeller maintenance is essential if you have a stern driven or outboard driven boat. *Before you launch your boat*, you should inspect the propeller to make sure there are no items attached that would obstruct the proper operation of the propeller. Fishing line can tangle around the propeller shaft prevent the propeller from turning, big nicks or dents can cause the propeller to vibrate and loosen bearings and seals or cause the boat to burn more fuel than it needs to and reduce its performance. If you notice big impact dents or severely tangled fishing line around the propeller, it is best to have a professional look at the propeller, shaft and gear case and repair any damage.

Maintaining the inside of your boat:

Tending to the interior of your boat is just as important as the exterior!

1. Boat toilet maintenance: While the toilet generally does not require a lot of maintenance, you do not want to skip its maintenance altogether because, over time, it can develop scale deposits in the hoses, channels, and valves that cause the toilet to become harder and harder to flush and become calcified and eventually back up. Big mess!!!

Once a month, pour a pint of white vinegar in the toilet and then give it one flush every 5 minutes about 3 times. Then pump a gallon of fresh water through to flush the lines. Follow that by pouring in ½ cup of mineral oil or marine toilet lubricant and flushing.

Check the hoses for leaks by running a damp cloth over them and smelling for foul odors. Also check the seals around the piston rod to be sure it is tight. Coat the piston rod with a light coating of Teflon grease.

If your toilet smells bad but does not have a leak or just isn’t working right, it may be time to call a professional mechanic to rebuild the toilet.

2. Boat fridge maintenance: Just like you would clean, inspect and maintain the refrigerator in your kitchen, you must also clean, inspect and maintain the refrigerator on your boat. Make sure you use an environmentally safe cleaner.

Additional miscellaneous housekeeping items:

1. Maintenance for boat trailer: Don’t neglect the maintenance of your boat trailer. You do not want to have a tire go flat on the highway on your way to the lake. Before you get on the road, run down this basic checklist.

  • Are the safety chains crossed and connected to your vehicle?
  • Did you pull the trailer tongue jack up, fold it and lock it?
  • All of the lug nuts in place and tightened?
  • Is the tie-down strap securely in place across the back of the boat?
  • Did you test the brakes and the trailer lights and turn signals?
  • Does the trailer ball fit snug on the trailer?
  • Is the fastener pin secure in the vehicle hitch?

After every use, spray down the trailer with clean water or if you are at a clean water lake, back just the trailer into the lake all the way and then pull it out before you seat the boat on it.

Before the season, it is a good idea to spray the U-bolts, nuts, winch gear, trailer jack and leaf springs with a rust inhibitor. Use some marine grease and a grease gun to lightly lubricate the bearings on the wheel hubs. Check the brake lines for signs of wear or damage and fill the brake fluid to the proper level.

2. Don’t forget the Boat trailer hitch maintenance! Check the Trailer ball and fastener pins for rust and signs of wear. Use steel wool to rub away rust and spray with a rust inhibitor.

As the old saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. There are a lot of things to do to keep your boat well maintained and if any are neglected, the result could be deadly, in many cases.

InterMarine's Service Techs will be happy to take care of all your maintenance needs for you. The added advantage of having professional do it is that while we are performing the required maintenance, if something is out of the ordinary and requires repair or replacement, we can take care of it right away. The biggest advantage is the time you save. Instead of spending countless hours on maintaining your boat, leave those tasks to the professionals so you can be out on the water enjoying your boat!

Contact InterMarine today to talk to a Boat Service Professional about your boat maintenance needs, or schedule a boat service appointment in Fort Lauderdale or Jupiter now. You can also reach out to us on the phone or in person at the location nearest you. View all InterMarine locations and contact information here