You’ve dreamt of owning a boat since you were little. Now, you’re a first-time boat owner and it feels surreal. As a child though, you probably didn’t think about all the maintenance involved in boat ownership. You’re still a big kid at heart, but now you know the importance of maintaining your precious vessel and keeping it in tip-top shape.
So, let’s find out how you can keep your prized possession running and looking like a champ!
3 Things to Keep in Mind
Keep it Moving
Just as you should with your car, you need to keep your boat moving if you want it to continue working properly, unless you have fully winterized it for the offseason months. Take your boat out every so often to keep the engine, steering column, and other moving parts happy. The recommendation is to take it out for a few hours every week rather than doing a full day 2-3 times a month. Taking your boat out regularly will also ensure you are consistently checking for signs of damage. Every time you go out, test different features and functions; raise and lower your anchor, check all gizmos and gadgets at the helm, turn on any un-used air conditioners, run the shower, check the fridge. Just make sure everything is in working order so that your boat can’t surprise you with any unexpected behavior.
Keep it Clean
Like houses, cars – really anything in our lives – boat maintenance also refers to keeping your boat clean. Taking care of the appearance of your dream boat, both exterior and interior, will make it last longer. For example, while cleaning, you may come across some debris that could be clogging a drain or you may find some leaks or surface damage. Spotting these issues quickly is essential for long-term functionality and boat health.
Use Your Senses
Your senses will always tell you if something is wrong with your boat. Keep your eyes, ears, nose, and body in tune with your baby, and it will never lie to you. If something smells weird, this could be due to a gas leak. If you don’t feel that your dream boat is running like before, it may be time for some well-deserved motor maintenance. If you spot some leaking, instantly take care of it to avoid further damage.
Routine Motor Maintenance
After Each Trip
Routine boat maintenance cannot exist without a bit of motor maintenance too. There are a series of steps you should take after each trip to prevent corrosion and damage. For starters, you should always flush your engine immediately after a trip, whether you were in fresh or saltwater. Check the owner’s manual or manufacturer guides on proper flushing as inboard and outboard motors have slightly different techniques. While flushing, check the pump’s water flow rate for any changes. This will alert you to any potential clogs.
In most cases, you will also want to disconnect the fuel line and let the engine burn off the excess fuel. Please be sure to check your manual on this though as some engines do not require this and you could do more harm than good. Once this is done, turn everything off and check for fuel or water leaks by removing the cowling. Before you replace it, dry everything off, spray with an anti-corrosive and lubricate moving parts. Put the cowling back, wipe it down and cover it.
It is advised to get your engine serviced after every 100-hours of usage, which should include an oil and filter change, lubrication and a comprehensive inspection. It is best to take your boat to a professional for this type of service. The Ingman Marine service department is ready to help you keep your boat happy and healthy.
Expected Boat Maintenance Costs
As with almost anything in our lives, the more effort you put into routine care and preventative maintenance, the longer that item will last and the less it will cost you in the long run. Now, maintenance costs will of course vary from boat to boat, given size and feature differences, motor types, your preference for fresh or salt water and your usage amount. Whether you prefer to do the maintenance yourself or have a professional do the work for you, you will need to consider: cleaning, oil changes, engine maintenance, hull maintenance, winterizing and any repairs for damage or wear and tear, at the minimum.
With all that being said, you can count on anywhere between 5-10% of your boat’s value per year in maintenance costs, with the first few years costing the least.
Equipment to Maintain
Outboard Engines (Preventative Maintenance)
The first step in properly maintaining your engine is to read the owner’s manual. It will detail regular maintenance steps for keeping your engine pristine. It should go without saying that your boat’s fuel tank, fuel line and fuel line clamps should be regularly checked for any sign of corrosion, rust, damage or water infiltration. Be sure to check that all fuel line fittings are properly secured and aren’t leaking. Finally, inspect that the tank vent is aspirating without any issues and that your boat’s primer bulb shows no signs of cracking.
Oh, and don’t forget your propellers. You should check your prop shaft for any debris or fishing line at least twice a year and consider getting your propellers re-conditioned if you see more than a few nicks.
Follow the advice in the below sections, particularly fuel and battery-related information, to avoid engine damage.
Gas, Oil and Water Lines
It is recommended that you use only gasoline with less than 10% ethanol to fuel your boat. You may also want to consider a fuel additive if you don’t plan on using fresh gas every couple of weeks (in other words – if you aren’t going out on your boat for more than 2 weeks). Oxidation occurs at this point, leaving deposits that can be damaging.
You should change your oil at least every 50 to 100 hours or every year, whichever is occurs first. Of course, this is going to depend on the specifications of your boat, so your boat’s manual should come in handy. You can also flush your engine, water lines, and water tanks with fresh water to clear them out and keep them clean.
Batteries and Electrical Systems
Regardless of the type of battery you have, it is important to inspect it as regularly as you do your engine. Keep it clean and dry once it’s outside of the water and check for any corrosion, cracks, or damage to the casing. Recharge the battery after every outing and before storing it for an extended period of time.
Boat maintenance also includes the electrical system, so make sure no water drips onto any panels or gets near any wiring. If it does, dry everything off and clean everything up quickly but safely.
Other than making your boat look gorgeous, the paint on the bottom has another purpose. Underwater marine paint deters the growth and collection of marine life, such as barnacles. The paint does start to lose its effectiveness over time though, so it is recommended that you get the bottom repainted every one to three years, depending on the paint type, your location, and the bodies of water you frequent.
Our Popular Boats
Take a look at some of our popular boat models. Our certified manufacturers make good quality boats of all shapes and sizes!
New 2023 27' Grady-White Freedom 275 Dual Console powered by twin Yamaha Outboards. Available for
New 2023 Bennington 22 SSX pontoon boat powered by a Yamaha Outboard. Available For Order!
New 2023 Cobia 301 CC Center Console Boat Powered by Twin Yamaha Outboards. Available for
Upholstery and Canvas
To properly maintain your boat’s beautiful upholstery, simply clean it at least once a month with some mild boat soap. Do not use bleach or ammonia, as this will ruin most marine materials, especially vinyl. If you need a deeper clean, you can use vinyl cleaner, but use this sporadically and apply protectant afterwards. The best way to keep the upholstery looking good for longer is to keep it protected from the elements as much as possible. Store any removable cushions in a locker or somewhere below deck and cover everything else with a canvas cover.
Canvas refers to the fabrics used for full-boat, console and cockpit covers or enclosures. If left dirty, you could have a pretty gross situation on your hands, as dirty canvas facilitates mold and mildew growth. Luckily, these fabrics simply need a good freshwater rinse after each use and every few weeks if stored in an uncovered area. You can opt for some light detergent or mild soap if a tougher cleaning is needed. Using a fabric sealer at least once a year can keep your canvas looking good as new. When cleaning areas of the cover that contain PVC (used to make “windows” for enclosures), only clean those areas with a spray polish made specifically for PVC to avoid yellowing and deterioration.
Fiberglass & Gelcoat
After your boat’s been on the water, it needs to be rinsed, no matter what. At least once a week, you need to wash your boat with mild boat soap that won’t strip away the wax. Use a soft brush or sponge on smooth surfaces to avoid scratching the gelcoat (the important exterior finish on top of your fiberglass that protects it from the elements). Tougher brushes can be used on non-skid surfaces. Ideally, if you live in the South or tend to ride on bodies of saltwater, you should wax your boat every 2 months. Northern and freshwater boaters can get away with waxing once every season. It will get harder to remove dirt and build-up when it’s time to wax. Not waxing will cause the gelcoat to oxidize and become chalky. If you notice some oxidation, try using a gelcoat polish to remove it and give your gelcoat a new shine.
The Head, Cabin Interior, and Air Conditioning
Proper boat maintenance also includes taking care of your cabin’s interior. As a first-time boat owner, you might go for the usual cleaning products; however, it is recommended to use only products designed specifically for boat cleaning. The materials used aboard are much different than what’s used in your house and even your car, so it’s easy to make a cleaning mistake. Additionally, always check the interior of your boat for any musty smells that may be a result of mold or mildew.
The head might also require occasional maintenance, so having tools on board is vital. Remember to regularly flush the pipes with freshwater to keep any bad smells at bay.
As part of your routine maintenance, check the air conditioner and all its pipes and plumbing for debris or poor water flow. Don’t forget to clean the cabin’s return-air filters monthly.
Let’s start with; many people – especially avid anglers – who live here year-round often forgo winterization in Florida. But for those that don’t like the wind-chill we get out on the water during Florida’s Winter storing your vessel for weeks or months at a time requires what the rest of the world call ‘Winterization’.
Because water expands when it freezes and can cause severe damage, the most important step is to drain all the water from your boat; your boat and engine need to be fully dry, inside and out, before storing. This includes all freshwater systems onboard. Be sure to remove drain plugs too! While it’s drying out, you can help this process along by thoroughly cleaning your boat inside and out.
Next, you will want to treat your fuel with an additive to help prevent oxidation and then run the engine for a bit. Stabilizing your fuel with a quality additive will save you a lot of time and money in the long run. You should also change your engine’s fuel filters.
Then, you will want to protect your engine from corrosions and fog the engine, if necessary (check your manual). Even though it hardly ever gets below freezing here in Florida, it is also recommended you flush your engine’s cooling system with antifreeze before storing for the winter months.
Lastly, cover your boat if need be and hook it up to a trickle charger for consistent charging throughout the winter (or come back once a month to charge it up and check on your boat’s well-being.
Boat and engine maintenance might sound like a lot of work, but it’s not if done properly and regularly. As a first-time boat owner, it’s important to learn how to spot even the smallest signs of wear and tear or damage. You will learn quickly that sticking to routine schedules and using the offseason to work on smaller, less frequent projects will help you out in the long run. Take note of the little things that bothered you during boating season and tackle those things in the months that you aren’t able to be out on the water.
We also encourage you to keep in mind that performing the steps detailed above in regular intervals, especially if done by you, should not replace an annual check-up by a professional. Ingman can tackle any service and maintenance request you have!