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Boat And Trailer Maintenance Checklist

Take care of the boat, trailer, and engine and the chances of a problem occurring on the water or the road will be minimized. Here's what you need to know and when to do it.

Fishing boat on Lake Cumberland

So you're a new-boat owner. Your new center-console sits proudly in your driveway, the outboard shining brightly in the sun, and even the trailer is sleek and polished. How can you keep it at least close to looking and performing as it does now, fresh from the dealership? Maintenance is the key. A well-maintained and cared-for boat will always perform better than a neglected one.

But if you're not mechanically inclined, how can you properly care for your new rig? If you're all thumbs, budget in some bucks for dealer maintenance. In this case, it's probably best for both you and your boat if you leave the mechanical details to the pros. You can, however, perform all the tasks that don't require technical expertise. Such tasks as keeping fittings and moving parts lubricated, cleaning and waxing the finish, checking the drive lubricant and engine oil, making sure that fishing line isn't wrapped around the prop shaft — these are all examples of simple skills a responsible boater should learn, especially to protect his or her investment. While boats have never been cheap, they seem to be more expensive than ever when compared to the average paycheck, so it's smart ownership to make sure that all is up to snuff.

Trailer safety chain

Always ensure trailer safety chains are properly connected to the tow vehicle every time you hit the road.

Drain plug

It's a great idea to remove the drain plug when laying up the boat. Just don't forget to replace it before launching.

To help you out, we've created a simple Timeline and Maintenance Chart, one that works for DIYers and tech-savvy boaters alike. Refer to the chart to check maintenance items before every outing and at every 20, 50, and 100 hours of use. Seasonal boaters should consult the chart before every layup. With our chart as your guide, your rig will stay like new for longer and command top price at resale or trade-in time.

Download a copy of this maintenance chart

  Every 20 hrs. 50 hrs. 100 hrs. Seasonal
Always follow recommendations in manual first
Engine And Drive
Check oil/fill
Check transom mounting bolts or jack plate bolts (if equipped)
Check propeller and skeg for damage
Check drive/gearcase for water/burnt lubricant & refill  
Treat fuel with decarbonizer  
Check engine operating temperature each outing if there is a gauge, otherwise:  
Check engine for proper operating RPM @ WOT  
Check fuel lines for alcohol and UV degradation    
Lubricate all grease points      
Check power trim/tilt fluid, refill if necessary      
Coat electrical with silicone protectant spray      
Have linkage & synchronization checked      
Retorque all accessible bolts & fasteners      
Touch up paint      
Check engine mounts and swivel & steering bracket for excessive play      
Replace water pump impeller        
Treat fuel with storage conditioner, fog engine, drain & refill oil, replace oil & fuel filters        
Steering System
Check for excessive play or movement
Check fluid level & check for leaks & bleed system (hydraulic)    
Check engine free-play and adjust (dual cable/NFB)    
Lubricate all grease points    
Check for kinks (hydraulic and mechanical) and/or binding (mechanical)      
Boat: Interior, Tops, Safety Gear, Hull, Hardware
Check hull for damage; repair if necessary
Check transom for possible cracking
Wash hull and deck
Check registration and inspection to ensure up-to-date
Check bilge pump and auto switch for proper operation
Check battery(s) for proper charge
Check all other electrical accessories and systems for proper operation
Check safety gear to ensure up-to-date and in good condition
Check fire extinguishing systems
Clean and protect interior  
Wax/polish hull and deck    
Clean bilge    
Check top, cover, etc. for condition, proper storage and clean/protect    
Check bow and stern eyes for tightness and secure mounting      
Check rub rail for damage and repair if necessary      
Check all cleats, rail fittings and deck fittings for tightness and secure mounting      
Check coupler mechanism for proper operation; lubricate w/silicone spray
Check safety chains for rust, damage
Check winch and winch strap; check emergency retention chain/strap
Check tiedowns and tiedown eyes
Check lights, connector and wiring harness for condition and repair if necessary
Check tires for proper inflation pressure (include spare)
Check wheel bearings for proper grease level, binding, excessive noise  
Check suspension for rust, damage, missing bolts; repair if necessary    
Check tires for age, weather checking, low or uneven tread (check spare also)    
Check wheels for condition    
Check boat support bunks or rollers for condition    
Check frame for rust; paint if necessary      
Repack wheel bearings        

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John Tiger

Contributor, BoatUS Magazine

John Tiger is a freelance boating writer and frequent contributor to many magazines.