Avoidable maintenance oversights account for 8 percent of boating accidents and 4 percent of boat-related deaths. Rather than place yourself at extra risk, you can ensure your boat is water-ready by adhering to a strict maintenance schedule. Here are tips to remember, assembled by boating experts.
SOUTHERN CALIF.—With boat sales expected to rise in 2022, more people are out and about, including boat showrooms. For our new boaters, Luke Ackerman, Co-founder of DockWorks and Head of Industry, has some professional tips for necessary boat maintenance.
“The biggest tip that most new boaters don’t know is preventative maintenance is probably the most important thing that a new boat owner can do for their boat,” said Ackerman.
Most new boat owners don’t recognize what needs to be done on their vessel but have not developed any bad habits yet.
“Before you leave the dock to go out on a trip, you should have a checklist, and you should go down it every time,” said Ackerman.
This checklist should include:
- Did you untie the boat?
- Do you have all your fenders in the correct spot?
- Is the boat easily moving in and out of gear?
The same importance applied to your checklist before departure needs to be applied to your boat’s maintenance log as well.
“Preventative maintenance will always cost so much more after the part fails, whereas if you had done preventative maintenance in advance, that repair wouldn’t be as bad,” said Ackerman. “It is significantly cheaper to replace a bilge pump every three to five years instead of waiting until the float switch fails, and then the boat fills up with water, and now you have water damage that will help destroy electronics.”
A difficult part of preventative boat maintenance isn’t only knowing what needs to be done but keeping track of what was done the last time you serviced your boat.
“I know it sounds so simple, but the best example I can provide is last time you put synthetic oil in your engine for your oil change and this time you can’t remember so you put regular in your engine; that will permanently damage your engine,” said Ackerman.
Therefore, keeping a maintenance log is valuable and will outline, what you did last time, and when you had it done. However, unlike a car, there is currently no standard system that a marine technician or a boat mechanic would be able to save the records of your boat maintenance to, according to Ackerman.
“The more accurate and thorough your records are, is a much better way to have a good resale value,” said Ackerman. “And the better your records are, the faster you’ll be able to sell your boat and the more value you will get out of it.”
Another tip from Ackerman is to pay attention to how backlogged marine mechanics are, specifically in Southern California.
“If you need a 100-hour service done, it’s a minimum six to eight weeks wait, minimum,” said Ackerman. “So, if you have to have a propeller swapped out, you’re not going out on the water for a month or two. Knowing about it well in advance is very important.”
Second to preventative maintenance, Ackerman stresses the importance of having a departure and arrival checklist when taking your boat out on the water.
“Things can be as simple as making sure that before you leave the dock, you have opened all the thru-hulls; turned on the engines; test the boat in forward and reverse; make sure everything is working,” said Ackerman.
Each checklist should be catered to the make and model of your boat and should be checked off the same way for arrival to the dock as it is from its departure.
Lastly, Ackerman recommends that everyone take a boater safety course and wear a lifejacket on every voyage, no matter their vessel’s size.
“Those three things are the most important.” said Ackerman. “And after that, just have fun and use your boat as often as possible. The more you use your boat, the better condition it will stay in. You don’t want to just leave it sitting.”
In addition to Ackerman’s expert tips, other valuable tips include cosmetic and internal maintenances:
- Manage your gelcoat with suitable materials. The gelcoat on your boat requires proper maintenance to protect the boat’s surface. Yes, gelcoats are strong, but the wrong cleaners can dissolve them or stain them, so pick the right boat cleaners and use them regularly. You can remove most stains with careful buffing when the gelcoat is strong, but if it starts to wear down, you may not be able to remove all stains, so applying protection right from the start is effective.
- Always wipe off all moisture from the watercraft. Always keep several towels around to dry off your vessel when it is wet. This doesn’t mean only when you pull out of the water. However, drying after use is an effective part of preventing waterline stains; still, all types of moisture are harmful to your boat if they linger. For example, saltwater will corrode boat components; morning dew will encourage mildew; scupper water can stain the hull with microscopic minerals. You can make a difference by drying off the water when you see it.
- Keep track of your boat’s oil schedule. Refer to your boat’s engine manual to see how often your boat’s oil should be changed and with what type of oil. A general rule of thumb is to change your boat’s oil at least once a year or every 100 miles. The easiest way is to take your boat to a certified dealer and have them change your oil. You can change it yourself with an oil extractor pump, oil wrench, and the time to work/cleanup, but it takes practice to learn the process (unlike cars, boats also require a stream of water via the water intake while changing oil). Don’t try changing the oil if you don’t know what you’re doing.
- Always assess your engine before heading out for an excursion. A boat engine requires precise maintenance, especially before taking your boat out for an outing. Every time you use your boat, consider running through a checklist to prepare your engine for the journey. Check the bilge and hoses for any signs of leaking, check the fuel level, never go out without lots of extra fuel, and check the water coolant level if necessary. Be sure to have enough oil in the reservoir, and while using your boat, watch both the oil pressure and the voltmeters to make sure everything is running as expected.
- Always remove a wax coating before applying a new one. A fresh wax coat is a common pre-season step to getting your boat ready for the waves. However, you can improve the efficiency of the wax coat by dewaxing beforehand. Dewaxing solvents are readily available and easy to use, and your new wax coat will go on more smoothly afterward.
- Pay attention to your battery, especially during the off-season. If your boat has batteries, don’t let them sit there in the off-season. Instead, remove the battery and thoroughly clean them, lubricate metal terminals and bolts, charge them, and store them somewhere safe. Understand settings like float charge; know how your battery reacts to temperatures and ensure that your battery won’t be damaged during off-season storage.
- Carefully manage fuel and use fuel stabilizers when necessary. In addition to making sure you have enough fuel, understand the proper boat maintenance necessary for your boat’s specific fuel. To prevent moisture from entering your fuel tank, keep your tank full, and understand what additives your fuel may or may not need. Finally, drain your fuel or add a protective fuel stabilizer to help prepare your boat for the next year during the off-season.
- Kill and prevent mold. Mold can be sneaky, ugly, and annoying on your boat. Therefore, in addition to drying off your boat to remove all excess moisture after use, consider washing your boat down with a mild solution to kill any mold spores that may be trying to grow. A light mixture of common white vinegar is usually enough to kill mold without harming any of your coatings.
- Give your propeller the attention it needs. If your boat has a propeller, it also needs regular maintenance. First, check the propeller for any apparent damage before use. Then, at intervals throughout the season, carefully detach the propeller with help from a partner and look for any debris, fishing line, or gunk that may have gotten trapped in the propeller shaft. If there is a lot of sediment, or if your propeller shows any signs of severe damage like dents, then take your boat into a shop for a closer look.
- Be on the lookout for corrosion. Any part of a boat that is metal can rust. Yes, even aluminum can develop that familiar white crust as time goes on. Check your boat’s metal attachments and components regularly for signs of corrosion. It’s essential to check your engine for this but remember all metal on your boat is at risk, especially for saltwater. Keep metal pieces protected and dry, and don’t be afraid to replace them if they start showing signs of any rust.
Dockworks.com offers an all-in-one marine engine maintenance and repair software. DockWorks will set you up with a marine software professional by submitting an online form.
DockWorks will also easily create a new engine maintenance job and work orders; they notify technicians.
“What we do is we actually empower the technicians to actually do this reoccurring service in advance, this preventative maintenance,” said Ackerman. “We are experts on how to lower these expenses, and actually, for the first time, mechanics can save all their work to the whole ID note for the vessel. So, we are becoming that system that allows us to look the past maintenance and get on a schedule for the future.”
DockWorks has offices in San Diego and Wilmington. Their teams will simplify and automate marine service businesses, and their all-in-one, cloud-based dockside solution can help manage any marine business. For more information, visit www.dockworks.co