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Boat Maintenance Tips

One of the most important boating skills you will ever learn is proper boat maintenance. A boat is not like a car, and unless you use a full-service marina it will take consistent care and watchfulness to keep it sleek, safe and operating correctly. Here are 10 of the top maintenance tips to keep in mind when caring for your boat.

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1. Manage Your Gelcoat with the Right MaterialsFreedom-Studio/Shutterstock

1. Manage Your Gelcoat with the Right Materials

The gelcoat on your boat needs proper maintenance to continue to protect it – yes, gelcoats are strong, but the wrong cleaners can dissolve them or stain them, so pick the right boat cleaners and use them regularly. You can remove most stains with careful buffing when the gelcoat is strong, but if it starts to wear down then you may not be able to remove all stains, so protection right from the start is very important.

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2. Wipe Off Moisture – Any MoistureViaStar/Shutterstock

2. Wipe Off Moisture – Any Moisture

Always keep a couple towels around, and wipe off your watercraft when it is wet. We don't mean just when you pull out of the water, either – although drying after use is an important part of preventing waterline stains. But all types of moisture are bad for your boat if they linger. Saltwater will corrode boat components, morning dew will encourage mildew, scupper water can stain the hull with microscopic minerals...but you can make a difference by drying off water when you see it.

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3. Know Your Oil ScheduleFilimonov/Shutterstock

3. Know Your Oil Schedule

Be aware of the specific oil requirements for your boat, which vary based on the model and type of engine. Change your oil whenever required. The easiest way is to take your boat to a certified dealer and have them change your oil. You can change it yourself with an oil extractor pump, oil wrench, and the time to work/cleanup, but it takes a little practice to learn the process (unlike cars, boats also require a stream of water via the water intake while changing oil). Don't try changing the oil if you don't know what you're doing.

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4. Always Check the Engine Before an Outingnevnm/Shutterstock

4. Always Check the Engine Before an Outing

A boat engine requires careful maintenance, especially before you take your boat out for an excursion. Every time you use your boat, run through a checklist so that your engine is ready for the journey. Check the bilge and hoses for any sign of leaks, check the fuel level and never go out without plenty of fuel, and check the water coolant level if necessary. Make sure you have enough oil in the reservoir, and while using your boat, watch both the oil pressure and the voltmeters to make sure everything is running as expected. This is also a great time to check your wiring.

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5. Dewax Before Applying a New Wax CoatImfoto/Shutterstock

5. Dewax Before Applying a New Wax Coat

A new wax coat is a common pre-season step to getting your boat ready for the waves. However, you can improve the efficiency of the wax coat by dewaxing beforehand. Dewaxing solvents are readily available and easy to use, and your new wax coat will go on more smoothly afterward.

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6. Protect and Maintain Your Battery in the Off Seasonadmin_design/Shutterstock

6. Protect and Maintain Your Battery in the Off Season

If your boat has batteries, don't just let them sit there in the off season! Take them out, thoroughly clean them, lubricate metal terminals and bolts, charge them up, and store them somewhere safe. Understand settings like float charge, know how your battery reacts to temperatures, and make sure that your particular battery won't be damaged during off-season storage.

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7. Carefully Manage Fuel and Use Fuel Stabilizers When Necessaryd13/Shutterstock

7. Carefully Manage Fuel and Use Fuel Stabilizers When Necessary

In addition to making sure you have enough fuel, understand the proper boat maintenance necessary for your fuel type. Keep your tank filled when possible to prevent moisture from gaining entrance, and understand what additives your fuel may or may not need. In the off season, drain your fuel or add a protective fuel stabilizer to help prepare your boat for the next year.

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8. Kill and Protect Against MoldMartien van Gaalen/Shutterstock

8. Kill and Protect Against Mold

Mold can be insidious, ugly and annoying on your boat. In addition to drying off your boat to remove all excess moisture after use, you should also wash your boat down with a mild solution to kill any mold spores that may be trying to grow. A light mixture of common white vinegar is usually enough to kill mold without harming any of your coatings.

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9. Check Your Propeller FrequentlyNeramit Buakaew/Shutterstock

9. Check Your Propeller Frequently

If your boat has a propeller, it also needs to regular maintenance (so does rigging, although this article is focused primarily on motorboats). Check the propeller before use for any obvious damage. At intervals throughout the season, carefully detach the propeller with help from a friend and look for any debris, fishing line or gunk that may have gotten trapped in the propeller shaft. If there is a lot of junk, or if your propeller shows any signs of serious damage like dents, then take your boat into a shop for a closer look.

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10. Watch for CorrosionPokin Sethapokin/Shutterstock

10. Watch for Corrosion

Any part of a boat that is metal can corrode—yes, even aluminum can develop that familiar white crust as time goes on. Check your boat's metal attachments and components regularly for signs of corrosion. It's especially important to check your engine for this, but all metal on your boat is exposed, especially in salty water. Keep metal pieces protected and dry, and don't be afraid to replace them if they start showing signs of any type of rust.