How to Maintain and Care for Your Boat


No matter what type of boat you buy- a ponton, a runabout, or a fishing boat, one thing every boat requires is proper upkeep and regular maintenance. Although some routine maintenance is not very complicated, some tasks will require assistance from a dealer or technician with specialized tooling. Keeping up with boat maintenance will ensure the safety of your passengers, reduce major repair costs and surprises, and will support the value of your boat.

Each boat and motor will have a defined maintenance plan to follow, but the points below are universal:

Maintaining a Clean Boat

Wash your boat regularly and scrub hull thoroughly to remove marine growth and scum. If you are using the boat in salt water, rinse the boat with fresh water after every outing. Not having a clean hull will deteriorate the boat’s fuel efficiency and appearance. Spray rinse all the boat and engine surfaces, wash with a foamy brush and dry the boat with soft absorbent towels. Periodically apply a coat of was on the hull and polish all deck hardware. After cleaning the interior, make sure that everything is completely dry and that air can circulate freely throughout the boat.

Engine Maintenance

Check your engine on a regular basis for any cracked hoses or corrosion- this includes visually inspecting the fuel system for any deterioration or leaks. Make sure that your outboard motor is secure and tightly clamped. After every trip, flush the motor to eliminate any accumulated deposits to prevent clogging of internal water passages.

Oil and Fluid Changes

Refer to your engine’s manual for the recommended frequency for an oil change, but at a minimum you should change the oil once every season or 100 hours. Similar to your car, you can change the oil yourself with the right tools and time. It is always advisable to use a marine grade engine oil - refer your owner’s manual for recommended oil. Other fluids such as gear oil and any hydraulic fluids should be checked at recommended intervals and changed as necessary.

Propeller Inspection

Inspect the propeller for any damages and send it off for repair if you see any dent. Also be sure to check the propeller shaft for any debris or fishing lines. Spin the prop to see if there is any ‘wobble’ to it- if significant, this could indicate misalignment and/or strike damage. It is important to keep your propeller shaft adequately greased to prevent corrosion.

Battery Inspection

Your battery is a critical item and should be inspected before heading out on water. Turn the engine off and ensure that the batteries are secure. You may want to clean the battery terminals if required. Ensure all the connections are tight and properly installed and check fuses.

Trailer Maintenance

With your trailer’s wheels, you should make sure that there is grease in the bearings, the lug nuts are tight and that the tire pressure is appropriate. Check the trailer’s lights to ensure they are working properly. If your trailer is older, you will want to check the trailer for corrosion. Applying dielectric grease wherever there is a connection will prevent the connection from corroding.

Cold Climate Considerations

In colder climates, you will need to prepare your boat for the winter to prevent the engine block from suffering any costly freeze damage. Protecting boats from the worst of winter weather helps ensure a hassle-free launch in the spring. It is recommended that you get the engine winterized, and then de-winterized in the spring, from an authorized facility. To protect your boat from sun, moisture and  freezing temperatures while it’s sitting still, take the following steps:

  • Dry-docking is advised in regions where snow and ice are likely, because ice can crack the hull of the boat.

  • Clean the boat inside and out. Apply mildew and rust protection and ensure the boat is completely dry before it’s covered.

  • Remove accessories, water equipment and fishing equipment to prevent moisture build-up. 

  • Cover the boat whether it’s kept inside or outside. If possible, shrink-wrap the boat before you cover it to lock out moisture.

  • Remove the battery, fully charge it, and store in a cool, dry place where they won’t freeze.