Spring Awakening: Early Season Boat Maintenance

Hasn’t it been a long winter? We think it’s high time to break the boat from its shrink-wrap cocoon and get it ready to run. The Skipper has compiled a few important points for spring maintenance to ensure smooth sailing this season.

How’s the battery? Did you pull your battery out and store it separately from the boat, or did you leave it installed? Either way, give it a good going-over in the spring. Check its charge with a voltmeter and if it’s low, charge it up to its recommended level. The insides of a battery are caustic and poisonous, so put on gloves and goggles if you open your battery to check its electrolytes. Clean the battery carefully if it’s dirty, and scrub any corrosion off the terminals. Once the terminals are clean, grease the threads with petroleum jelly or an automotive lubricant. This video by Boating Local shows how to do spring prep for lead-acid boat batteries.

If your boat’s battery is more than four years old, replace it.

Clean the distributors. Remove the distributor cap and check for corrosion; scrub it away if you find any. Also clean out the cap itself if you see corrosion there (it looks a bit like bread mold). Some DIY boaters use rubbing alcohol or baking soda paste on an old toothbrush, followed by a thorough rinse, dry, and a light coat of lubricant like WD-40. If you’ve got a lot of corrosion or your distributors are older, just replace them and start fresh.

Bucket photo: Vassili67/photobucket.com

Change the oil. If you didn’t change the engine oil before putting the boat to bed for its long winter’s nap, now’s the time to do it. Change the oil filter, too, and if you have a sterndrive/lower unit, check the oil there, too. When you drain the oil, watch for water or metal shavings in the oil; if you see either, it’s likely there’s a problem with the engine that requires attention from a mechanic.

Try a Jabsco oil absorber pad from GLS to soak up and dispose of used oil!

Coolant. Fill your boat with the proper coolant mixture. Carefully examine your boat’s coolant hoses and replace them if worn or cracked.

Don’t forget the belts. Worn belts break, and that’s no fun for anyone. Prevent an in-water headache by checking your boat’s belts and replacing any that show wear and tear.

Not the handy type? If you’re not into DIY, your local mechanic or marina can go over your boat to make sure it’s in good running condition. Before you hitch up to haul the boat to the shop, though, check that your boat trailer’s tires are sound and properly inflated.

As in so many other situations, an ounce of boat prevention is worth a pound of potentially expensive cure. Treat your boat with care and it will reward you with years of enjoyment.

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