Boat Maintenance for Beginners

By Discover Boating.

There’s nothing more disappointing to a boating family than having a mechanical issue ruin a day on the water. Fortunately, with a little basic maintenance boat owners can avoid the most-common situations that can bring an outing to an abrupt end.

Modern boats and engines are very reliable, and professional marine technicians tell us that the vast majority of engine problems today are related to fuel or the battery. Here’s how to avoid those issues.

7 Basic Boat Maintenance Tasks

  1. Check your batteries and battery cables before every outing.
  2. Use a battery maintenance charger for extended period of non-use.
  3. Replace your battery every four to five seasons.
  4. Always use fuel with no ethanol.
  5. Use a marine-specific fuel stabilizer to prevent oxidation and phase separation.
  6. Check your engine oil before every outing.
  7. Remove the propeller and check your propshaft a few times a season.

Marine Battery Care

Before every outing check the battery (or batteries). All boat batteries should be secured in either a battery box or frame that is firmly mounted to the boat. If the battery that is not secured it could bounce around as you pound through the chop, abuse that will shorten its life.

  • Check that the battery cables are tight on the battery terminals.
  • Just grip the red and black battery cables and wiggle them near the terminal. They should not budge.
  • A loose cable could be the only reason your engine won’t start, or can’t keep the battery charged.
  • Vibration from normal use can cause the nuts holding down the cables to loosen.

If you won’t be using your boat for a week or two and your boat has a battery switch, turn it “off” to disconnect the batteries from boat systems that could drain the battery over time. Consider using a battery maintenance charger to keep the battery up to full power and ready for your next outing. A battery that’s kept fully charged will also last longer.

Expect to get four to five season of life from a good marine starting battery that has been well-maintained. When it’s time to replace the battery, only use a marine battery, never an automotive battery. Marine batteries have the correct threaded terminals and are much more rugged, and will last much longer in marine duty, than an automotive battery.