4 overlooked boat maintenance tips

No one should expect to pull their boat out of winter storage and head to the water without first performing some basic maintenance. Batteries need charging, oil needs changing, and belts, hoses, and cables need checking.

But in the excitement, we sometimes forget these other boating maintenance essentials.

1. Regulations and responsibilities

Familiarize yourself with state and federal regulations and changes since last season. Renew registration and insurance if necessary. New boaters should take a boater education course and carry their certification. If you’ll be fishing, carry that license too.

2. Safety equipment
Check the personal flotation devices (PFDs) to ensure they still fit the passengers they were meant for. If needed, recharge or replace fire extinguishers, expired signal flares, and air horns or similar signals. If your boat has an enclosed cabin, replace the batteries in the carbon monoxide detector. Restock the first aid kit.

3. Trailer

Don’t overlook the trailer. Repack bearings, inspect tires and spare, and tighten lug nuts. Check the safety chains and coupler hitch, and test the lights and turn signals.

4. Tools and parts

Despite your best maintenance efforts, breakdowns can occur, but with the proper tool kit you may still save the day. Allen wrenches, sockets, screwdrivers, a spark plug wrench, utility knife, adjustable wrench, vise grip, and long needle nose pliers are essentials. A telescoping magnet is handy for retrieving dropped nuts and bolts.

Cover the tools with a light coat of oil to prevent rust. Bring extra parts that are most likely to fail: spark plugs, fuel filter, fuses, belts, hoses, clamps, shear pins, and light bulbs. Add electrical tape, terminals and connectors, motor oil, and hand wipes.

Following these tips will help you prepare for all but the most serious boat breakdowns and make sure your day on the water is smooth sailing.

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