Once temperatures drop, wind picks up, and rain showers come your way, you just know that the boating season is officially over. With that, you might turn toward other hobbies, like going glamping, to stay busy through the fall and winter. But before you do, make sure to prepare your boat for the downtime so that it is ready to go come spring. If you’re not sure where to start, here’s a helpful boat maintenance and service guide you can rely on.

Service the Inboard Motor

The engine in your boat is not a fan of sitting still, especially if all the old fluids are left to stagnate. Thankfully, you can make the off-season much easier on your trusty power plant with these steps:

  • Drain and replace the oil along with the filter
  • Replace the fuel filter and inspect the lines
  • Put in a new water separator filter
  • Perform a coolant flush with new fluid
  • Check and replace the cap, rotor, plugs, and wires
  • Inspect the belts and hoses, replace as needed
  • Fit a brand new water impeller
  • Lubricate the shift linkage and prop shaft
  • Put the battery on a trickle charger

If your inboard motor is a gas engine, you’ll need to fog it to protect its internal parts. Use a high-quality fogging oil and follow the directions in the repair manual for your boat’s engine.

Care for Your Outboard Motors

Your outboard motors need almost as much attention, or they could fail to start up as you eagerly hit the water next season. To keep them in great shape, you’ll need to:

  • Flush the system using clean water
  • Open all the drain plugs
  • Hand crank the engine to clear water out
  • Drain the fuel out of the tank and lines
  • Spray fogging oil in the carb and sparkplug holes
  • Turn the engine over by hand to spread around the oil
  • Lubricate the propeller shaft, starter mechanism, and linkages
  • Change the oil in the gearcase and leave it full

Once you are done, you will need to store your outboard motor vertically in a dry, cool area.

Fully Flush Out the Bilge

Built to clear out extra water, the bilge often has a bit of standing water left inside after you pull your boat onto the trailer. To keep the water from damaging your hull in freezing conditions, you will need to empty out all that you can. Since it’s impossible to fully drain the system, add about a ½ pint of antifreeze, allowing it to settle around the pumps.

Then, do the same for the holding tank, hot water heater, and freshwater system. Remember to use propylene glycol antifreeze in the hot water heater and freshwater system since it is non-toxic.

Protect Wiring from Corrosion

Humidity in the air can cause your boat wiring connectors to corrode. To prevent that issue, you’ll need to spray the connectors with a lubricant designed to prevent corrosion. This is especially important if you will be removing your radio or other electronics and leaving the connectors exposed to the elements.

Clean Your Boat from Top to Bottom

Now is the perfect time to clean your boat from top to bottom, inside and out. Start by vacuuming all the interior surfaces and wiping them down with your cleaner of choice. Lubricate hinges, zippers, and other moving parts to keep them in good working condition.

Then, wash the outside of the boat while working hard to remove any stains you can see to keep them from becoming permanent. Make sure to apply a coat of wax to the hull and the upper surfaces to protect them from sun damage.

While you do all that cleaning, watch for any signs of damage that will need attention through the fall and winter months. Even nicks and scratches demand prompt repair or the issues could get worse over time.

Once you are done, add dehumidifiers to the inside area to keep mold and mildew at bay. After completing these boat service tasks, your boat is finally ready for the off-season! Just be sure to check on it often through the fall and winter season.

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