Midsummer Boat Maintenance Tips

From Seaworthy Damage Avoidance Program

Preventive maintenance will help you avoid the headaches and keep your crew or fishing buddies comfortable and safe.

Seaworthy, the Damage Avoidance Program from BoatUS that helps boaters and anglers prevent damage to their vessels, recently looked into some of the more common reasons for on-the-water boat troubles that occur mid-season.

Going over the boat's systems in the spring is very important. But now after a couple months of use, it's time to look at things again. A midsummer check-up will ensure you make it back to home port without a problem.

Here are some midsummer maintenance tips for both power and sail:

  • Through-hulls: Make a thorough check around any below-the-waterline hole or opening. Check all through-hulls for leaks and cycle seacocks to ensure they close properly. If it's hard to move the handle, make a note to service it next time the boat is out of the water. Any hose clamps should be tight and hose ends secure. A bilge pump cycle counter is a simple upgrade and the best early warning system that unwanted water is coming aboard.
  • Engine belts: For inboard engines, look in areas near the belts checking for evidence of black dust — a sure sign that engine pulleys need to be realigned and the belt replaced. Push on the longest run of the belt — it should not deflect more than one half inch.
  • Engine hoses: Squeeze coolant and fuel hoses with your hands, looking for softness, cracks or bulges. Replace any that are suspect. Wiggle the ends to ensure they are secure and inspect for any possible chafing issues in the engine compartment.
  • Sterndrives: Inspect the folds in the bellows and replace if they show signs of cracking.
  • Sacrificial zincs and anodes: A wasted zinc is a sure sign of trouble, possibly stray current at the dock. Ensure all zincs are no less than half gone — and replace them now if they are.
  • Control cables: Look for chafe, splits or swelling of the plastic jacket — a sure sign the cable needs replacement.
  • Outboard engine mounts: Smaller engines can sometimes vibrate loose, so re-tighten clamps and ensure the cut-off switch is operable.
  • Hydraulic steering system and trim tabs: Ensure reservoirs are full. If you have to add fluid, there is leak that must be fixed immediately.
  • Batteries and electrical system: Dead batteries are often nothing more than corroded connections — sandpaper can easily clean them up. With conventional batteries check water levels and add if necessary. Inspect cables and wiring for chafe, especially wherever they may pass through a bulkhead.
  • Shower cable: Look for burn marks on the plug ends and the connection to the boat. Replace both the plug and receptacle immediately if you find any.
  • Head: If your boat has a flushing toilet and its handle is getting hard to operate, you've likely got calcium buildup. Pour a cup of vinegar into bowl pumping only once or twice. Let it sit for one night before flushing with one-fourth cup of mineral oil.
  • On deck: Old, stiff, or chafed dock lines should be replaced. Also check anchor line and chain shackles and any splices.
  • Sailboats only: Look for any broken strands on standing rigging. You can find them by running a loose rag up the rigging, which will snag on any broken ends. Cracked swages are an indicator for immediate replacement. Contact a rigger if you suspect a problem. Running rigging also needs to be looked at — especially the roller furling line.
  • Trailers: Inspect bearings and ensure they are well packed with grease. Hydraulic brake reservoirs should be full. Lastly, check the tires for wear and ensure lugs are tight.