Top Boat Maintenance Tips

Simple preventive maintenance tips to keep your boat shipshape.

You’ve pulled the tarp, painted the bottom and checked the expiration date on the flares. We just know you remembered the garboard drain plug. Before you splash the boat, you’ll give it a good once-over to make sure all systems are go. Preventive maintenance is the best insurance — and a key to boating enjoyment.

There are a gajillion things that could go wrong aboard a boat. A small runabout or trailered fishing boat may have 10 separate DC electrical circuits, pumps for the bilge, head and washdown, dozens of fittings, and many hundreds of fasteners like nuts, bolts, screws and clamps. Aboard a large cruiser or sportfisherman, the systems are exponentially larger, and in fact more complex than those of a house, what with dual-voltage electrical systems and at least two sources of fresh water. Barring the rare superboater who’s a certified mechanic, fiberglass technician and American Boat and Yacht Council-rated electrician rolled into one, most of us can’t find or fix everything.

You may not have a lot of technical expertise, and you may not even be very handy. But if you’re lacking a shed full of tools and diagnostic equipment, here are 27 simple checks even novice boaters can perform. And for you old salts, we think this serves as a good reminder.

We can’t cover everything. Nobody can. But if you use these tips, and the principles behind them, we guarantee a smoother start to your season.

Seeing Is Believing: Not everything that looks bad is bad. For instance, some corrosion is normal. Develop your diagnostic vision with these checks.

Ophelia Geary: What "honey" doesn't appreciate a sweet caress? Reaffirm affection for your boat with these touchy-feely tips. Limited access often makes touch the "go-to" sense.

Can You Hear Me Now?: Listen analytically. Pick out the individual noises that make up your engine's clatter. Knowing what they sound like when all is well, you'll hear a problem early on.