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Man enjoying his outboard motor boat Man enjoying his outboard motor boat
Watercraft, Jet Ski, Outboard Boats
July 19, 2021

HOW TO MAINTAIN YOUR BOAT FROM RUGGED U

If you’ve ever maintained a vehicle, boat maintenance is generally comparable. There are several basic points that require continual maintenance that you, as the owner, can typically handle. But there are other items you may choose to leave to the experts.

BASIC BOAT MAINTENANCE CHECKLIST:

  1. Motor(s)
  2. The craft’s hull (bottom) and topsides
  3. Electrical components and systems
  4. In larger boats, the plumbing and HVAC systems
  5. Hinges, tracks, and zippers, or anything that has a moving part
  6. Upholstery and canvass surfaces

EASY BOAT MAINTENANCE

The most fundamental maintenance duties are keeping everything clean and greased. This has a significant impact on a boat. Washing and waxing your boat hull is a basic step to prevent oxidation. If you have a fiberglass boat, this also helps prevent the surface from becoming chalky. Dirt that accumulates on canvas and upholstery enables mold and mildew to adhere and develop, so frequent cleanings are essential. Keeping your bilge clean can help you detect leaking gasoline or fluids.

Other than cleaning the boat and lubricating parts as needed after a day on the lake, there aren’t many maintenance duties to worry about. However, when boating in saltwater, it’s critical to flush your engine. When flushing your craft, follow your engine’s manufacturer guidelines. See “Care of Your Outboard Motor / Engine” below for helpful tips.

Another maintenance task that should be completed after each voyage is a basic visual examination of all the boat’s systems. If you see anything incorrect, you may choose whether to take on the task yourself or delegate it to a professional.

CARE OF YOUR OUTBOARD MOTOR / ENGINE

Even if you’re not a technician, it’s simple to keep your outboard in good working order. Preventive boat motor maintenance promotes safe boating and can extend the life of your engine.

Flush the engine after each trip. This is important not only for saltwater excursions but also for freshwater excursions. Start the engine and let the water pump do the work. Be sure that no one shifts the boat into gear or goes near the prop to maintain safety.

Check the water pump’s function while you’re flushing the engine. The water may be warm, but it shouldn’t be scorching. If the output is weak, debris might be lodged in the outflow tube. To avoid overheating and damage, turn off the engine immediately. Work a piece of wire back and forth through the flow tube. Restart the engine and examine the output. If it doesn’t fix the problem, you might need to replace the water pump. Visit The ROP Shop’s Watercraft section for replacement water pumps, parts, and rebuild kit options.

People enjoying a motor boat ride People enjoying a motor boat ride

After you’ve flushed the engine, burn through all of the fuel in the carburetor by shutting off the fuel line. Once the fuel in the system has been depleted, turn off the key and the battery switch if your craft has one. Remove the cowl that covers the engine and inspect for any fuel or water leaks. If you discover any leaks, don’t use the boat again until it has been repaired by a professional boating mechanic.

Using an anti-corrosive like Quick-lube or WD-40, wipe down all moving parts, such as the shift, throttle cable, carb valves, etc. When you’re done, put the cowling back on and wipe it down as well. Do this last so you’re cleaning as you reassemble it. This will save you time and prevent you from having to go back and clean something again if you happen to touch it later.

Between adventures, cover the engine with a canvas or plastic cover.

Know how old your fuel is and only use new gas. Part of proper regular boat motor maintenance should involve draining your tanks and disposing of the gasoline to the appropriate recycling authority.

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REGULAR OUTBOARD MOTOR MAINTENANCE

  1. Check the gas lines for cracks and worn areas on a regular basis.
  2. Examine the fuel primer bulb, making sure it’s still flexible.
  3. Make sure the fuel-line fittings are correctly seated and not leaking.
  4. Examine clamps for signs of corrosion.
  5. Ensure there isn’t any corrosion or damage to the fuel tank.
  6. See that the tank vent is correctly aspirating.
  7. Check for water in the gasoline on a regular basis.

ADDITIONAL BOAT ENGINE MAINTENANCE & MOTOR CARE TIPS

Here are some extra tips to work into your maintenance routine so an engine problem won’t ruin your day out on the water:

1. READ YOUR OWNER'S MANUAL

Your engine owner’s manual should cover basic manufacturer-recommended maintenance methods and includes a maintenance plan. If your owner’s handbook has been misplaced, you might be able to get a replacement from a dealer, or download or buy a paper copy from the manufacturer’s website.

2. AVOIDING FUEL PROBLEMS

Fuel system failure is the most common problem boat owners tend to experience. If possible, use ethanol-free gasoline in your boat. If ethanol-blend is unavoidable, use only E10, which contains no more than 10% ethanol. To avoid pumping old gas into your system, try to purchase new gas at a busier or more frequently visited fuel dock or gas station.

If you don’t plan on consuming the majority of the fuel within the next couple of weeks, use a fuel stabilizer additive. Modern gasoline can begin oxidization quickly, causing deposits to develop in the fuel system. Older engines without fuel injection are especially susceptible.

Install a fuel filter with 10-micron water separation, and a spin-off filter element between the fuel tank and the engine. Be sure to also carry a spare onboard. Many newer boats already have these filters, which can help keep water and minuscule trash particles out of the engine.

If you happen to run diesel, avoid microbiological development by keeping the tank full and using a high-quality fuel additive. Before each journey, examine the fuel filter inspection bowl for water.

Clogged sea strainers are the most common cause of inboard diesel engine failure (and inboard gasoline engines). A clogged strainer keeps raw water from entering the cooling system. Before each excursion, double-check yours.


3. PREVENTING BATTERY ISSUES

Battery problems are also extremely common in the marine engine world. One way to help avoid battery issues is by replacing the engine cranking battery with a marine battery. Marine batteries have a more rugged design due to thicker plates which allows them to resist the vibration and hammering that a boat may inflict much better than a typical battery. Make sure your battery doesn’t get sea-sick while being tossed about in rough waves. You can do this by ensuring your battery tray is stable by having the base screwed or fastened to the boat and a strong locking strap to hold it in place. Check the battery terminal connections on a regular basis for corrosion. Make sure the cables are secure when you do. If you only use the boat occasionally, utilize a maintenance-type battery charger to keep the battery completely charged in between trips.

4. REGULAR YEARLY SERVICE

Follow the service schedule stated in the owner’s handbook for your marine engine. The majority of outboard, sterndrive and gasoline inboard engines require simple servicing every 100 hours, or once a year. This basic service will include changing the oil and oil filter (for four-stroke engines), changing the gearcase lubrication in outboard and sterndrive engines, replacing the fuel filter element, and perhaps fitting new spark plugs. You or a mechanic should also inspect and replace sacrificial anodes on sterndrive and inboard engines, as well as check the quality of the power steering and hydraulic trim fluids. Ensure that the water pump impeller is replaced on a regular basis. This service is frequently combined with winterizing the engine for off-season storage.

5. MOTOR WINTERIZING

This process will be described in the owner’s handbook as well. If the boat will be stored in a climate with below-freezing temperatures, the cooling system of a sterndrive or inboard engine will need to be cleaned with antifreeze. This flushes out all the fresh water in the cooling system, which would otherwise freeze and harm the engine. Even engines with an antifreeze-filled closed cooling system may require flushing to remove water from the exhaust and heat exchanger.

6. PROPSHAFT INSPECTION

Owners of outboard and sterndrive engines should remove the propeller(s) at least once a year to inspect the prop shaft. The fishing line tends to become wrapped around the shaft, and can eventually break the prop shaft seal. A seal break would allow water to enter the gearcase and cause catastrophic failure at the worst times and/or an exorbitant repair bill. You’ll want to consult your owner’s handbook for details on removing the prop and checking the shaft.

These tips will help get both new and experienced boaters on the water and enjoy life. The best way to avoid costly repairs is to have a good maintenance schedule, but if you do have to replace a part, be sure to look at The ROP Shop's great selection of watercraft parts and accessories for boats, jet skis, and many other watercraft.

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