6 boat maintenance tips for spring

Published: May 19, 2021 · Updated: May 20, 2021

Close up of man changing an outboard engine By VidEst/Shutterstock

Boat washed? Check. Safety gear stowed? Check. Spring boat maintenance is usually straightforward, but here are a half-dozen tasks that handy DIYers can do now to prevent ka-ching! later.

1. With your outboard running, check for the tiny “telltale” stream of water coming from the engine-cooling outlet. 

Don’t see water? Carefully poke a small, thin wire, such as a strand of electrical wire, into the opening to clear bugs and debris.  

Still nothing? See No. 2.

2. Inspect the outboard’s impeller; replace if worn or damaged. 

The what, now? It’s an inexpensive part on the driveshaft that pumps cooling water to the engine.

If I don’t do it? There’s potential for a cracked block when the engine overheats.

3. Change the engine oil and filter (if you didn’t last fall).

How to know? The oil should look clear brown or amber.

Can this wait? Bad idea. Dirty oil can damage the engine. A clogged filter will prevent vital lubricant from reaching it.

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4. Change the water-separating fuel filter, if you have one, or consider installing one. 

What’s the point? It removes condensed water from the fuel prior to burning in the engine.

If I don’t? Poor-burning fuel can make your engine hard to start and run rough.

5. Tighten deck hardware like cleats and railings.

How? Remove the screws (or bolts). Clean and reinstall the fasteners with bedding compound.

So much work! Totally worth it. Leaks can damage the deck core; pulled cleats cause havoc when your boat drifts off down the lake.

6. Gently wash your canvas top with a mild soap or a specialty marine cleaner (away from the water, of course). 

Why? It extends the life of your top.

If I don’t? Bird droppings, leaf stains, and other dirt will erode the fabric. Harsh cleaners and brushes can break it down and reduce its water repellency.

Cottage Q&A: Storing an outboard for two years

Bonus tip Repair or replace a damaged propeller.

Repair or replace? This depends on the damage and the cost. Stainless steel is more expensive to replace than aluminum, for example.

Maybe later Do it now. A damaged prop will be unbalanced and can cause poor performance and possible drive damage.

This article was originally published in the March/April 2021 issue of Cottage Life magazine.

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