May 22 , 2020

How to Prepare Your Boat for Summer

If you’re a boat owner, there’s nothing better than getting out on the water for that first excursion of the season. Before you do that, however, there are a few things you’ll need to take care of. Proper boat preparation is important for safety and ensuring your craft stays in service for years to come. The process may seem overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be. This checklist will help get your boat in top shape for the coming season.

Registration Renewal

This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many boat owners forget to renew their registration. There’s nothing worse than preparing to launch your boat, then discovering your registration lapsed. Before going any further, make sure yours is up-to-date.

Boat Cleaning

Next step: Cleaning. Start by scrubbing the interior space with a mild detergent before hosing it down. If there’s serious mold or staining in your boat, you may need a mold stain removal product to get it completely spotless. (Oxygen-based stain removers are better than bleach because they remove staining without changing the original color and appearance of the surface.) Next, scrub the body with a boat hull cleaner and rinse it off.

Visual Inspection and Repair

While cleaning your boat you may have noticed cracks and other damage. Do a more thorough check now, from top to bottom, inside and out. Search for cracks, scratches and hull damage that could pose a safety issue, and complete any needed repairs. If you’ve found damage on your fiberglass hull and you’re unsure how to fix it, refer to our how to fix fiberglass guide.

Battery Check

If your boat has one, of course. Inspect acid levels and make sure the battery has a good charge. Use a mixture of baking soda and water to clean off any corrosion around the terminals.

Lights and Accessories

First, test all lights. If you take the boat out late at night or early in the morning, you’ll need them properly working to be legal. Next, examine your trolling motor and power trim (which controls the angle of your main motor) to ensure both are in good condition.

Engine Maintenance

If you skipped engine maintenance in the fall before putting your boat away, this step is especially important now. First, drain any old fuel left in the tank. If your motor is a four-stroke, change the oil. As a final step, fire up your motor and make sure everything’s running smoothly.

Trailer Check

This is an often-overlooked part of boat preparation, but it’s essential. Check tire pressure on your trailer, including your spare. Top off with air as needed. Raise each trailer wheel off the ground with a jack, individually, and test to see that the wheel spins freely, with no noise coming from the bearings. Test your trailer lights, too.

The Family HandymanHow to Hook Up a Trailer The Family Handyman editor, Rick Muscoplat, will show you how to hook up your trailer the right way, to keep your trailer attached to your vehicle.

Safety Gear

Check your safety gear and ensure it complies with state laws. As a general rule, you should have a life jacket for everyone when the boat’s at full capacity. You’ll need to keep a variety of sizes to fit family and friends. Also, check your fire extinguisher and make sure it’s fully charged and in working condition. You may want to stash a freshly-stocked first aid kit on board, too.

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