When you own a boat, it can feel like you are on top of the world. You can head out into the open water whenever you feel like it, and freedom like that doesn’t come to everyone. But, you need to make sure that you are maintaining your boat properly. If you aren’t sure about all the things you need to do to properly maintain your boat, that’s okay because we are going to discuss everything that you need to know. When you have finished reading this article, you will be fully prepared to maintain your boat. So, let’s get straight into the boat maintenance.
There are two specific parts of the boat that need to be cleaned, the fiberglass exterior and the vinyl interior. Keeping both materials beautiful and pristine is simply a matter of taking the right steps and using the best cleaning products.
To know how to clean your fiberglass exterior, you need to know a little about the structure. Typically, it will be protected with a resin known as gelcoat. This is simply to protect the hull and provide a colorful, shiny finish. After time and significant exposure, this gelcoat will fade and leave a chalky finish. To clean the chalky oxidation and reclaim most of the color and shine, you’ll actually need to start by giving your boat a bath. Yes, they need them too. A good boat wash as a first step will help remove grime, dirt, and other residues on the gelcoat finish in preparation for step two, removing the oxidation. Cutting compounds are usually the best at 'cutting' through the chalky oxidation so you are left with just your gelcoat finish. They come in different strengths for everything between lightly to heavily oxidized finishes. If you have tougher stains, then you’ll need to use a concentrated cleaning solution. If all you have are water spots, try a water spot detailer to eliminate the spots. This will typically be necessary after you come off the lake. If you have oil and grease to clean, you can do this by wiping the surface with MEK but be sure to use rubber gloves to protect your skin. Once you have your cleaning done, you need to polish and wax which we’ll discuss in the maintenance section further down.
To clean the marine vinyl, you should avoid using bleach as this can actually damage the material. All you need to do is clean the vinyl with a damp cloth to remove any salt, grime, or debris. You can then use a thin layer of vinyl cleaning solution and rinse. For mildew build-up, you may need a firm brush with a mixture of ammonia and water to get it removed. You can use a multi-surface cleaner for both vinyl and fiberglass as well as cleaning parts of your engine. But what about issues with UV damage? UV light can damage your boat interior and to avoid this, you need to make sure you are spraying on a vinyl & rubber protectant to keep it looking new and flawless for years.
You need to keep your fiberglass in top condition. You should be checking for scratches, scrapes, chips, cracks, and gelcoat damage. If you check and notice any issues such as a crack, investigate how deep it goes. If it is only an aesthetic issue, all it will take is a little bit of gelcoat to fix this issue. You’ll find a range of fantastic kits for minor to moderate fiberglass and gelcoat repair jobs from our store. Alternatively, larger jobs are going to have to look into getting this repaired. So, if you notice that is has gone down to the laminate, you may need to call in a professional to sort this out for you. Professionals have the tools and knowledge to complete larger repairs more effectively. However, you’ll find that our DIY kits are ideal for most smaller jobs.
Another thing that you can do to keep this in good condition is to give is a regular polish and wax. You may find that the color of your fiberglass is fading, and polish will help preserve the color. If you have a large area that needs doing, the best thing that you can do is use an electric polisher to save your hands. Additionally, an electric polisher works best on faded areas as they can do it more thoroughly than your arms can. If you have an issue with oxidation on the surface of your boat, refer back to the cleaning section and you may want to think about using an oxidation removal such as M771 from Meguiar's or M67 for severe oxidation. You might be wondering how often you need to wax your boat. It’s best to do this in the spring, mid-season, and again before the worst of the winter weather arrives later on. Maintaining a good layer of wax will help you avoid the labor-intensive oxidation cleaning you have done up until now.
Maintaining Your Engine
Next on your boat maintenance list is your engine. If you have not been maintaining your engine this far, it's a wonder that your boat is still going. You need to make sure that you are keeping up with your engine maintenance at least once a year. If you have a diesel engine, then these need to be checked regularly, but at a bare minimum of once per year. This is going to require changing the engine and drive oil, changing the fuel and oil filters, changing your impeller and/or water pump housing, topping off fluid levels, cleaning the bilge, inspecting seals and components in the fuel system, draining water off and looking at the oil pressure. If you don’t do this, you will find that your boat does not perform at the level it used to, if at all. And don't forget that you need to be winterizing your engine when the winter season rolls around.
If you are using your boat daily, you should be doing everyday checks over several components. The drive belt condition and tension should be checked once per day. The coolant level also needs to be checked and sorted if there are any issues. Don’t forget about the wire and pipework as well. You need to be checking these for a loose connection or any fraying along the wires. This check should be done every day if you are out at sea, or every time you take your boat out.
Changing The Oil
You need to familiarize yourself with your boat's oil needs. Each boat is going to be slightly different, so you need to make sure you take the time to get to know what your boat needs. This will depend on the type and model of the engine that you have. You can find out the information you need in your engine manual or alternatively, just ask a helpful member of the Boater’s Outlet team. Oil needs to be changed quite regularly after every 50-100 hours of operation. Unless you have a new engine. If that’s the case, you must follow the specific instructions provided. As for the oil filter, this should be changed every time you change your engine oil. We also believe it's good practice to change your filter again just before you put your boat away for winter.
Check Your Propeller
Before every use, you should be checking your propeller for any obvious damage. Every so often through the year, you need to remove your propeller so that you can get a closer look at it. You are going to be looking for debris or dirt that could have been trapped in the places you can’t see. If you find a load of gross stuff in your propeller shaft, or you notice that it has been damaged in any way, the best thing you can do is take it to a professional and have them help you.
You should also take the propeller off to make sure that there isn’t any fishing line caught in there. Fishing line in the propeller shaft could cause your boat some issues, so if you have found this, take it to a dealer so they can check for any further problems.
Watch Out For Corrosion
It doesn’t matter what part of your boat it is, if it is metal, it can corrode. You should be checking your metal components regularly to avoid this issue. It is vital that you check your engine for this issue, but it is more likely that you will find corrosion on the outdrive or lower unit. Salty water is one of the things that can cause corrosion, so make sure that you are rinsing off your boat when you come back from our excursions.
Do not hesitate to replace any metal part of your boat that seems to be showing signs of corrosion. It is better that you replace them as soon as you notice than wait and experience issues later on.
If you want to prevent corrosion on your boat, you can use sacrificial anodes that are sold at Boater's Outlet. Created from a metal alloy, these can be used to protect a less active material from corroding. These need to be changed during a dry dock, roughly every two or three years. If at any time the anodes have been discovered corroded, fresh anodes should be swapped in.
Keep An Eye On Your Battery
It's a poor idea to just have your battery sitting in your boat and not do anything with it in the offseason. Your boat probably won’t start for you on your next trip if you do this. Take the batteries out, clean them, lubricate the terminals, charge or place a battery maintainer on them [read our article about choosing the right battery charger], and then put them somewhere safe for storage. Be aware that your battery will react to temperatures, so ensure that wherever you are going to store your battery will not end up damaging it.
If you don’t do this, you will find yourself replacing your battery after every offseason, costing you a fortune.
We hope that you have found this guide on how to maintain a boat useful in some way. You should now know everything you need to be able to maintain a boat. Be sure to browse our website for any of the maintenance products that you need!