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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.

Changing oil in lower unit

Whether you do it yourself or leave it to the pros, routine maintenance is essential to keep your rig in tip-top shape.

So you're a new boat owner. Your pristine 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? Maintenance is the key.

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.

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, particularly if you keep records of what you've done and when. The chart is the suggested schedule, although some boats may require more frequent checks. If in doubt always follow the manufacturer's recommendations for your particular boat, engine, and trailer.

Click on checkmarks in the chart below to watch our how-to videos.

Always follow recommendations in manual first Every Outing Every 20 hrs. Every 50 hrs. Every 100 hrs. Before Layup Video
Engine and Drive
Check oil/fill View
Check transom mounting bolts/jack plate bolts (if equipped)  
Check propeller and skeg for damage View
Check cowl air intakes for blockages  
Check engine operating temperature  
Check oil pressure  
Check drive/gearcase for water/particulate/burnt lubricant & refill    
Check engine for proper operating RPM @ WOT    
Check fuel lines for alcohol and UV degradation      
Replace fuel/water separating filter      
Check power trim/tilt fluid, refill if necessary      
Check engine mounts and swivel/steering bracket for excessive play      
Lubricate all grease points        
Coat electrical w/silicone protectant spray        
Have linkage/synchronization checked        
Retorque all accessible bolts/fasteners        
Touch up paint        
Check spark plugs and replace as necessary          
Change and check condition of gearcase lube and powerhead oil         View
Replace water-pump impeller          
Treat fuel with storage conditioner, fog engine, drain/refill oil, replace oil/fuel filters          
Steering System View
Check for excessive play/movement  
Check fluid level/check for leaks/bleed system (hydraulic)      
Check engine free-play and adjust      
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 View
Wash hull and deck  
Check registration and inspection to ensure they're up-to-date  
Check bilge pump and auto switch for proper operation View
Check battery(s) for proper charge  
Check all other electrical accessories and systems for proper operation  
Check safety gear to ensure it is up-to-date and in good condition  
Check fire extinguishing systems  
Clean and protect interior    
Clean bilge    
Wax/polish hull and deck     View
Check top, cover, etc., for condition, proper storage, and clean/protect      
Check bow and stern eyes for tightness and secure mounting        
Check rubrail 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 and repair if necessary View
Check tires for proper inflation pressure (including spare), check brakes View
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/uneven tread (including spare)    
Check wheel condition for rust, cracks, or bends      
Check boat support bunks and rollers    
Check frame for rust, paint if necessary        
Check wheel bearings and seals, repack with grease       View

Download a copy of the checklist above.

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John Tiger

Contributor, BoatUS Magazine

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