We’ve officially hit the middle of April, which means summer boating season has officially begun! Though, you may want to wait until the weather gets just a bit warmer before you launch into the freshwater of Idaho’s many lakes, rivers, and reservoirs.

Be a responsible boat owner while you wait and prepare for the upcoming season by participating in some regular summer boat maintenance. Doing so will not only extend the life of your vessel but also help to prevent bigger issues that may arise in the future.

Get Out of the Garage and Into the Water

Most boating aficionados will have kept their boats in a dedicated boat storage area during the winter months, but it’s time to pull it out for the summer season! Just like how you winterized your boat a few months back, it’s time to de-winterize your watercraft to make sure it can properly handle the fresh water it will be sailing in.

Your first step: remove the boat cover and make sure no critters have been using your boat as a refuge from the cold. Whether you’ve stored your boat indoors or outdoors, smaller animals like rodents and birds have a habit of making their homes in boats.

Trailer Check

Part of proper boat maintenance includes checking the trailer that will transport your boat to its future destinations. Boat owners should first inspect the trailer tires to make sure that they have not run flat during the off-season. It is also important to check the tire pressure, as you want to avoid any accident that may happen due to the shift in weight and movement the trailer will be experiencing.

You will also want to grab a friend to help test the trailer’s turn signals. Make sure the electrical connections are still working and road-ready. It’s smart to replace the bulbs if you have any doubts about the light’s integrity.

Essential Boat Maintenance

Moving onto actual boat maintenance is an essential step in de-winterizing your boat and acting to prevent bigger issues. Prepare your boat for summer by paying attention to these maintenance steps.

Visual Inspection

Visually inspect your boat for any leaks, scratches, or out-of-order materials. Doing so will help you determine if your boat has suffered from significant damage or corrosion, as well as let you know what you need to fix or replace. Inspect the transom by looking for signs of waterlogged wood, and check the deck to see if there has been warping or rotting.

Similar to how you checked your trailer lights, make sure to run your navigation lights to make sure they work and meet visibility requirements. Ensure that these lights are in a visible position and have not deteriorated due to age.

Finally, check your drain plug to ensure it still has a proper seal. Forgetting this plug can cause your boat to take on water and capsize, so do whatever you need to remember this necessary, small item.

Basic Engine Maintenance

It is important to conduct proper engine maintenance whether your boat has inboard, sterndrive, jet drive, or outboard engines. Check for engine damage first before proceeding to replace oil filters and have the boat’s oil changed. The fuel lines that carry engine oil have a tendency to crack or corrode over the winter, so be sure to pay special attention to that part of the boat’s engine.

Be sure to check fluids fully, including the engine oil, power steering, power trim reservoirs, and coolant to ensure your boat runs properly this summer.

Replacing lines, belts, oil, and other engine components takes time, so be sure to get a jump on this service task early to ensure you have the most boating time possible.

Systems Check

Pay close attention to the electrical systems onboard as you prepare to go boating. Your electrical connections should be tight and corrosion-free. Use a wire brush to clean the connections and cable ends. Batteries should be changed in preparation for summer, and we suggest any electrical system be inspected by a qualified electrician.

Make sure your propeller is in the proper operation by inspecting it for dings, distortion, or other damage. A damaged propeller can cause further damage to both your boat and your drive train and should be taken care of promptly. Be sure to secure your propeller, and replace bearings when deemed necessary. Finally, ensure your propeller is properly lubricated and in good working condition.

If your boat has an onboard bathroom, make sure your sanitation system is up to code. We suggest also cleaning the bathroom monthly by running a pint of white vinegar through the toilet head every month. Follow up this flush by utilizing a lubricant for marine toilets or mineral oil to moisturize the internal rubber and leather portions of the toilet.

Check the cooling system lines for cracks and holes that may have occurred over the winter. If the pipes are good to go and the strainer is clear, simply refill the cooling system.

External Maintenance

Boat maintenance doesn’t just deal with the internals of the craft. Be sure to check these areas out as well.

Safety Equipment

Your boat should contain essential safety gear for the event of an emergency. The five pieces of safety equipment you must have include:

  • Life jackets or personal flotation devices
  • Throwable flotation devices such as life rings
  • Fire extinguishers
  • Visual distress signals such as flares
  • Sound signals such as horns or whistles

It is important to double-check each and every piece of safety gear on board to make sure it is in proper working order.

Upholstery and Vinyl

If you boat regularly, you may be familiar with the fact that constantly stepping in and out of your boat can lead to damaged upholstery and ripped seats. The constant contact that these seats receive can reduce their lifespan. Properly maintain them by washing them regularly with dish soap and water, and wiping them down until they are fully dry.

We also suggest applying a protective sealant and conditioning the upholstery once the seats are dry.

If your upholstery and vinyl have been torn or ripped, however, you should schedule an appointment with a qualified boat repair professional to either repair or replace the damaged item.

Carpet and Stains

First, vacuum the carpet to remove any dust and let over sand particles. Then, wash the boat’s carpet by applying dish soap to a large sponge and blotting it around. Scrub the carpet to remove old stains, and rinse with clean water until no soap is left.

If your carpet is old and worn, or too heavily stained for washing to fix, it may be time to replace your carpet entirely.

Continued Maintenance

To continually maintain your boat, we recommend that you wash it every two weeks, or more often if you are an active boater. Simply hose the boat down and scrub it gently with a soft-bristle brush and mild soap to remove salt residue and prevent salt buildup.

Every three to four months we also suggest applying a gel coat wax/sealant to your boat. This acts as a waterproof barrier that will protect the fiberglass from UV damage and strengthen the boat’s structural integrity.

If you’ve run into larger rips, tears, damage, or holes during your boat inspection, don’t hesitate to contact the experts at McDowells! We specialize in vinyl repair, panel placement, carpet installment, stain removal, and bimini covers. We’ll make sure that your boat is all prepped and ready for the summer season, so you can get out there and have a great time in the waves!

Make sure to connect with McDowells on Facebook for updates, before & after photos, and contests @mcdowellsrepair

(208) 378-1530