Proper Boat Maintenance

Learn more about how to maintain and operate a boat

Boating is a recreational hobby that is enjoyed by millions of people around the world. It covers a wide variety of activities, including fishing, competitive racing, water-skiing, and sailing. One essential part of boat ownership involves the process of maintenance. This includes storing the boat or yacht when not in use as well as cleaning and maintaining the vessel and its engine. This is necessary in order to keep a boat in the best condition possible, which will ensure a safe and fun ride for its owners and passengers. While it is possible to hire a service to take care of these things, it is sometimes cheaper for owners to do it themselves.


Cleaning a boat is necessary for keeping it looking attractive, and it is also highly important for other reasons, such as preventing the spread of non-native species. If possible, boat-cleaning should occur on dry land to prevent debris from getting into and potentially polluting the water. When cleaning in water, environmentally safe products such as biodegradable detergents are preferable. If at all possible, use products with borax, baking soda, and vinegar, and avoid products containing toxic substances such as ammonia, bleach, and lye. Rinsing the sides of the boat and the motor with fresh water will be necessary in order to remove corrosive salt, especially after boating in saltwater areas. When it comes to cleaning an engine’s parts, first use a wire brush to reduce the need for chemicals. Because animal and plant life can hitch a ride on a boat and travel with it to other areas where it can be invasive, it is necessary to safeguard against spreading organisms around. This involves thoroughly cleaning fishing gear, engine props, boat trailers, sea strainers, cooling systems, and other parts of the boat that can be exposed.

Seasonal/Winter Storage

A boat or yacht can endure significant wear and tear during use, but long periods of inactivity, especially during the winter months, can be just as harsh. When it comes time for seasonal storage or winterizing for the cold months, there are steps that owners can take that will minimize the amount of preparation they’ll need when they recommission their boat for use. Proper cleaning and engine maintenance are the first steps to take. In addition, check for and replace cracking hoses, lubricate spark plug holes with oil, and replace in-line fuel filters. In addition, owners should fill their fuel tank to at least 90 percent to reduce the risk of water condensation, then add anti-bacterial stabilizing agents to the fuel to prevent bacterial contamination. Disconnect the battery and store it in a ventilated, cool area that is not freezing cold. Cover the boat with a tarp to reduce dust buildup, and remove all food as well as carpets and all electronic equipment. Inspect the propeller and shaft for damage, clean the propeller and shaft, and apply grease to the shaft. Open the drain plugs so that precipitation can flow out, and leave water faucets and valves open as well. If the boat has a refrigerator, keep the door open. Also, open a box of baking soda and leave it inside the refrigerator to prevent odors from infiltrating. Flush the engine with fresh water to eliminate salt, flush the water lines and water tanks, and top off the boat’s antifreeze. Winter maintenance is especially important in areas with cold-to-moderate winters; yacht charters in France, for example, typically taper off in early fall to allow for winter maintenance.

Engine Maintenance

Proper boat engine maintenance is necessary to keep one’s vessel running in the best condition possible. To maintain the engine, check and clean the boat engine’s spark plugs and replace the ones that are malfunctioning or defective. Check the engine’s oil level to ensure that it is adequate. The oil should be changed after 100 hours and the filter replaced once every three months. Inspect the battery’s charge as well as its terminals, and clean and grease them if they have buildup. As needed, spray an all-purpose oil on the electrical components of the engine to prevent rust. Look over the propeller and the engine belts for signs of excessive wear, replacing them as needed. At the end of a boating trip, owners should remove the motor from the water and use fresh water to flush it. Inspect the fuel hoses and replace them if they appear damaged. In warm weather destinations, like yacht charters in the Bahamas, more frequent engine maintenance is necessary, as the heat and humidity can damage electrical components and cause faster corrosion.

Maintenance Schedules and Checklists

Maintenance schedules and checklists are important when it comes to the timely and proper care of one’s boat. Schedules can ensure that maintenance is done according to semi-monthly, monthly, annual, and seasonal needs. Schedules should be kept in a location that is easily accessible and should be followed faithfully. Checklists are invaluable to boaters in several ways. In terms of maintenance, a checklist is a smart way to ensure that no treatment or task is left undone. Checklists are also important when taking the boat out on the water. As with schedules, checklists are only beneficial if they are put to use. For the most success, care should be taken to refer to the list and check off items as they are completed. With proper use, both checklists and schedules will help keep one’s boat in good working condition.

Written by Katja Kukovic

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