Note: This is a guest post by Jim Reed, President of Rebo Inc. dba
Spend A Day Marina, a family business started by his parents in 1950 dedicated
to recreational boaters. His 55 years of experience includes servicing and
sales of watercraft throughout the range of 10’ jon boats, pontoons, and 60’
Cruisers in both fresh and salt water.
Now that the ice is off the area lakes it is time to think
about getting your boat ready for the water! The goal in performing a spring
check list is to make sure that you and your family get the most out of your
boating season. Generally money and more
importantly, weekends can be saved through good preventative care. Every boat
(and motor) has their own unique requirements however the following list will
provide boaters with an idea of what to check and consider. For the “do it
yourselfer”, your owner’s manuals will provide you with more specific
information. For those a little less handy, your boat dealer will have
professional certified technicians that can perform any services required.
FUEL SYSTEMS: Check
all of the exposed fuel components for signs of rot or deterioration. If the
system has a primer bulb (most outboards) squeeze it to provide pressure and
look for leaks at all fuel connections. If any leaks are spotted we suggest
that the unexposed areas of the fuel system be accessed to ensure that there
aren’t any bad areas “hiding” from you. Bad
fuel hoses can show up as too soft AND too brittle. A good hose will remain
pliable but firm as you move it. Our preference for fuel is what is known as
“90 Rec”. This fuel doesn’t contain Ethanol and is 90 octane. In newer engines
that are run consistently so that fuel doesn’t sit around in the tank, 10%
Ethanol is ok. In engines that see limited use and infrequent fill ups however,
Ethanol tends to draw moisture creating pockets of water in the fuel which is
very tough on engines and fuel systems, causing corrosion, clogs, and generally
“mucking up the works”. If you must use fuel containing Ethanol make sure to keep
a good fuel treatment available for every fill up.
ELECTRICAL SYSTEMS: Nothing can ruin a perfectly good
weekend like being stuck on the lake in a boat that won’t start due to a dead
battery! In the spring, charge the battery deeply by using a slow charger
(about 3 amps) overnight. Let the battery sit for a day and then take it to a
dealer or parts store to have it “load tested”. This simulates the battery
getting used and will give you reliable knowledge of whether the battery should
be replaced. The average boat battery, if stored properly, will generally last
about 4 or 5 years. A small PWC battery will generally need replaced every 3
years. When you hook up your battery, remember to connect the positive leads
(should be the red ones) to the positive battery terminal and the ground leads
(black ones) to the negative terminal. Mix that up and you will blow fuses at
minimum and could do significant damage! If you are unsure, let a professional
figure it out and properly label the wires. Make sure that any corrosion is
cleaned from the wires and the terminals, and tighten the clamps securely. The
terminals should be covered so that nothing can accidentally touch them causing
a short. The battery must also be clamped or restrained in some fashion to keep
it upright and in place, in a vented compartment or open area.
FLUIDS, BELTS, HOSES, CABLES: Be sure to check and top off
all of your fluids like engine oil, gear case oil, antifreeze if it is present,
power steering, and power trim. If you have an inboard engine that was
winterized using standard automotive antifreeze (the green stuff) you must
capture that and dispose of properly! Most marine dealers are using the blue
stuff now that is non-toxic but check and know before you let it run off onto
your driveway. Check your belts and engine hoses, looking for signs of rot and
to make sure they are tight and secure. The movement range of all the cables
(steering, throttle, and shift) can be very lightly lubricated. If the
operation of any of the cables is stiff and they are over 10 years old don’t
think you can “grease them into submission”! These are maintenance items that
need to be replaced on occasion.
PROP: If you did not remove the prop at winterization to
grease the shaft and check for fishing line you need to do that before you
“splash”. That old fish line can cut into the gear case seal allowing oil to
leak out and causing total gear failure! It is also a great idea to put a thin
layer of grease on the prop shaft to keep the shaft and prop hub from corroding
and becoming difficult to get off.
WATERPUMPS: The Spring is a great time to consider your need
for a new water pump impeller. If you haven’t put in a new impeller in 3 or 4
years you are likely due for one. Your engine depends on a constant flow of
water to stay cool and at high speeds a pump failure goes from just an alarm to
engine damage in seconds with little time to react. For economy and emissions
standards, today’s engines run hotter and are less forgiving to an overheat
situation. It is best to try and avoid failure with proper routine replacement.
Many manuals call for a new impeller every year. That is probably overkill for
the average fresh water recreational boater. There are many dependent factors
like shallow water that play a role so consider replacement now, look at the
condition of the old impeller and that will tell you whether you pushed your
luck and need to be more aggressive with your change interval. Again, you will
be looking for pliability, wear patterns and blade shape. Ask your mechanic,
they will tell you what the condition was. DON’T FORGET – NEVER fire up your
engine without correctly supplying it with water! You will burn up your impeller
in seconds by starting it dry!
TUNE- UPS: Tune-ups
on newer engines are best left to the pros because most work requires
specialized computer programs to properly “read” your engine. If you have an
older engine though, and are comfortable with the process, the spring is a
great time to consider doing a tune up. Why waste a great Saturday in June
doing a job that could have been done in April!
GENERAL GEAR CHECK: Remember to check and inventory all your
gear. Replace any life jackets that have rips or bad seams or that are no
longer pliable. Replace any lines that are starting to fray or rot. Consider
replacing any fire extinguisher that is over 5 years old, you can always keep
the old one around as a spare in your house or garage…it will probably still
work. You must have a life jacket for each person on board. Do you have enough?
Know your local regulations but normally in addition to the life jackets and
fire extinguisher, the other required gear is a working horn, distress flag,
throwable device (throw cushion), and anchor with line. Even if you do not plan
to “anchor out” the anchor is important because if you break down it may be
critical that you stop yourself from drifting. Make sure you have an anchor
that will do this job if it is needed! We would also suggest that a basic tool
kit and basic first aid kit always be on board.
GENERAL EQUIPMENT CHECK: After installing your charged and
tested battery, run through all of your equipment and check for functionality.
Blow the horn a few times. Operate the blower with the engine hatch open (on
inboards) and listen to make sure you hear the fan. You should also be able to
feel air flow on the outlet vent side of the blower system. Same thing with the
bilge pump and with that if you want to really make sure just use a hose and
run enough water into the bilge to activate the pump. Clean the bilge area
first so that the water doesn’t cause any oil to slosh around and make a mess
or get pumped outside of the boat. Navigation lights – check, Stereo – check,
speakers – check, fishfinder – check. Most instruments today are “free
floating” so where the indicator sets when the key is off is meaningless. Turn
the key to the on position and you should see all the instruments return to
their base line, the battery gauge should jump to about 12 – 13 volts and the
fuel gauge should move to an accurate indication.
TRAILER: Check your tire pressure, grease or repack your
wheel bearings (do you have a spare set?), check your trailer lights, and make
sure your coupler can latch securely. If your trailer has hydraulic brakes
remove the fill cap on the coupler. If you can see fluid, dip a q-tip into it
to check for water vs fluid. Water will have a distinctly different consistency
than fluid which feels about like mineral oil. If it is water, make plans to
get your brake system gone through. Water will rust up all of the components
internally and the brakes will not function. Hydraulic drum style brakes should
be gone through about every 3 years depending on use. We do see disc style
brakes going a little longer as long as the fluid is kept free of water.
THE FIRST TRIP OUT: First - Don’t forget to install your
drain plug! (we’ve all been there!). Before you load up all the troops, start
the engine with only you aboard so that you can SEE, HEAR, SMELL what is going
on aboard. If possible, open the engine hatch and have a look. Let the engine
warm up a few minutes. The first few minutes on your first start up of the year
can be very informative. If something appears, sounds, or smells wrong it
probably is! Stop the engine and safely check it out.
OK! Now get all of your household chores out of the way
because your boat is ready for that first day out on the lake! Enjoy a safe and
happy boating season!
WHERE LAND ENDS, LIFE BEGINS!
If you're buying a boat, or getting yours ready for the summer, please call us at (937) 592-4871 to discuss insurance for your boat. You can also request your boat quote via our website. For additional information about boat insurance visit our Watercraft & Boat page.