Do you hear that? Something’s coming. It’s getting closer every day. Oh yes, friends – boat season is almost here! That means it’s time to get our boats out of hibernation and onto the water. But before we can do that, we need to make sure everything is shipshape and ready for you and your crew to enjoy.
If you haven’t done it already, get cozy with your boat’s owner/service manual. Read it, know it, love it. That’s the best way to learn about all the little ins and outs of caring for your boat. Even if you’re a seasoned boater who’s done this dozens of times, it never hurts to get a refresher.
Before you even turn the key, open the engine compartment and do a thorough inspection of your engine to look for signs of wear, rust, or damage. Check the spark plugs and replace if necessary.
Battery and electric systems
Most batteries will last for around five years, but that can vary based on usage and care. Check the battery’s connection points for corrosion, then clean and lubricate them with lithium grease. Grab your battery tester and make sure you’re pulling the right amount of amps and voltage. If your battery is charged but not producing any juice, it’s time for a new one.
Check all of your wires to make sure nothing is frayed and that no gremlins made a meal out of the casings over the winter. Next, test each switch at the helm one at a time to make sure everything is working properly, especially your lights and horn.
Oil and coolant
If you didn’t change the oil and filter before putting your boat into storage, now’s the time to do both. If you did, double check the levels to make sure you don’t have a leak somewhere.
If your boat has a closed-loop system, check the coolant hoses for signs of wear, corrosion, or dry rot. Also, look for any blockages and be sure to clean the raw water strainer (if your boat has one). If everything looks good, go ahead and refill the coolant.
Fuel tank and lines
Hopefully, you tucked your boat away for the winter with a full tank of stabilized fuel to prevent condensation from building up. If you did, all you’ll need to do now is change the fuel filter and inspect the fuel lines. Cold weather has a tendency to make fuel lines crack, so be on the lookout!
Belts and hoses
Do a quick visual inspection of all belts and hoses to look for signs of dry rot, excessive wear, and to make sure nothing came loose during storage or transport.
Tighten the belts if they look loose. Belts should have a little bit of wiggle room if you push down on them but still be tight enough that they won’t slip out of the pulley groove.
Prop and hull
Walk around your boat to look for cracks, dents, holes, or anything that might compromise the integrity of the hull out on the water.
Spend a little extra time inspecting your motor’s prop. This includes the blades, prop shaft, hubs, and seals. If you drive an inboard boat, be sure to inspect the rudder as well.
An out-of-balance prop can cause major damage to your boat, so be sure to get it tuned if you notice any dings or dents on the tips. Give our friends at Prop M.D. a call if you have any questions.
Check the bilge to make sure it hasn’t been damaged, that it’s still mounted properly and securely, and that the hoses are secure and in good condition.
It’s super important to inspect and maintain the water pump impeller every season. Over time, the rubber can dry out and break down, causing bits of rubber to get sucked into the water pump system. If that happens, you’ll need to inspect and flush the entire system to prevent the motor from overheating due to blockages.
If you only gave your ballast bags a quick rinse and left it to dry in the sun before storing it for the off-season, there’s a good chance they’re smelling a little funky. Be sure to clean them regularly with a mixture of bleach and water to kill odor-causing bacteria.
Just like the exterior of your boat, make sure you spend some quality time with your trailer to look for any damage or wear on the frame, coupler, or hitch.
Triple check your tire treads, air pressure, and wheel bearings. If your trailer doesn’t have sealed wheel bearings, be sure to service them (grease & repack) based on the recommendations in your owner’s manual. Last, but not least, make sure the trailer’s lights and turn signals are working properly.
Deck and dock cleats
Ropes and fenders are great, but not if they don’t stay connected to your boat or dock. Inspect all the cleats on your boat and dock to make sure they’re firmly secured and able to hold your boat in place.
Grab rails are not recommended for tying off your boat. So, if your boat doesn’t have cleats, think about installing some. Call your local boat dealer for more information.
Don’t wait until your boat is drifting away to realize that your lines are frayed or rotted. Do a visual inspection, then give them a stress test by tying them off and pulling by hand to see if they can still get the job done. Yearly cleaning with soapy water will keep your lines fresh and strong.
You might be a smooth operator while docking your boat but once the engine is off and the lines are tied-off, you’re at the mercy of the wind and water. Having the right fenders will keep your boat protected from dents, scuffs, and scratches. If you’re tired of dealing with the mold, frayed lines, and dated style of old-school bumpers, check out our SENTRY Fenders.
Watch: Docking Your Boat with SENTRY Fenders
There are two important rules when you’re on the water: Safety first and fun a close second. Hopefully, you never need to use some of your safety equipment but it’s still important to inspect, restock, or replace them regularly so you’ll always be prepared if the unexpected does happen.
Flotation devices and fire extinguisher
It’s not only smart, but it’s also the law to make sure your boat is always equipped with one life jacket (or personal flotation device) per passenger and a United States Coast Guard-approved fire extinguisher. Even if your fire extinguisher doesn’t “expire” for another five years, it could still lose pressure or become damaged over time. Be sure to inspect it regularly and replace if needed.
Also, be sure your boat is equipped with a throwable floatation device that’s easily accessible to the driver. This can be a ring buoy, cushion, or sling – just make sure it’s Coast Guard-approved.
Keep your first-aid kit stocked with the basics and be sure to check the expiration dates on things like pain relievers, antiseptics, chemical ice packs, sunscreen, and bug repellant.
Boat safety course
Whether you’re new to boating or a seasoned veteran, taking a boat safety course will help keep you, your passengers, and other boaters safe out on the water. Check out the courses offered by:
MISSION Boating Essentials
Now that your boat and safety equipment are ready for the season, it’s time to make sure your boat is stocked with all the essentials to enjoy a fun, full day on the water. Yes, it’s shameless marketing time but at least we waited until the end of the blog to do it!
TUKO Towels absorb more water than cotton and stow small, saving valuable space on your boat while keeping you dry, warm, and cozy. There’s even an integrated strap that serves double duty by letting you hang the TUKO for faster drying or keeping it rolled up for easy storage.
We designed TUKO for drying off humans but that doesn’t mean you can’t use it to wipe down your boat, boards, or other gear.
REEF inflatable mats will change the way you and your friends experience a day on the water. Unlike floppy floating foam mats, REEF's rigid construction won’t bend, flip, or submerge – which means it can handle whatever brand of fun you throw at it. REEF is incredibly stable when inflated but easily packs down into most boat storage lockers.
There’s nothing refreshing about a lukewarm beverage on a hot summer day. Keep your favorite canned or bottled drinks (and yourself) sippable for longer with MISSION drink coolers.
We’ve got the perfect hats, shirts, and shades to keep you in style all season long – on and off the water! Check out all the MISSION dry goods >