As we slowly creep towards spring, it's time to start thinking about what you need to do in order to dewinterize your boat. Why? Because it can save you money, time, and keeps everyone happy and safe! Put in the time for proper maintenance before you have a problem and prevent all sorts of expensive issues down the line. By getting a jump start on this list, you can give yourself enough time for repairs before those warmer days arrive and you actually want to be out on the water.
1. Check your battery. A good place to start is with your battery. They typically last 4-5 years and should be checked regularly. How do you check your battery? Refill it with distilled water and use a battery tester to make sure it can hold a strong charge. If you're battery is good to go, clean off any corrosion. If you're battery test doesn't go so well, it's better to be safe than sorry. Replace it.
2. Check engine and motor belts. If you press on your belt and it's loose, it should be replaced. You should only be able to press down slightly on it and belts should have a snug fit. Remember that the alternator belt usually wears more quickly. It's wise to have a spare and the tools needed to make replacements. If the engine area around the belt is covered with black dust, it's not a good sign. The belt may be misaligned or is too loose.
3. Change the engine oil. Change the oil and make sure you're at the right oil levels. Don't forget to check the oil in your outdrive.
4. Take care of your gas tank and fuel lines. Fuel lines can crack if it gets cold enough, so check them and replace if needed. Make sure nothing has rusted over and check the condition of your fuel filter.
5. Fill or replace your cooling system. Drain out your cooling system if you haven't already and replace it. Before replacing it, inspect for any problems such as cracks or leaks. Reconnect spark plug wires.
6. Care for your distributor cap. Remove your distributor cap and check for corrosion. Clean it off and make sure you restore any connections.
7. Test every electronic switch and device. Make sure smoke alarms work and your lights turn on. Having spare light bulbs on board isn't a bad idea either. Test your GPS, compass, radio, other electronics and inspect your antennas.
8. Test your bilge pump. Inspect bilge pump and float switch. Make sure your automatic bilge pump works.
9. Don't neglect your safety gear. Did you know that fire extinguishers have expiration dates? You also want to make sure you have flares, flashlights, and other equipment and that everything is in working order. Flares need to be replaced every three years. Check how many flotation devices you have on board and make sure they are all in a good state. If you find a life jacket with tears, replace it. It's also a good idea to test every life jacket before the season starts. Don't forget to make sure your horn works.
10. Organize your paperwork. Make sure you have all of your documents and know where they are in case you need to pull them out. Find your registration and make sure it's current. In every New England state except for Maine, you must have the state-approved boating education course certificate on board. Keeping your important documents in a waterproof container isn't a bad idea either.
P.S. Think you don't need insurance for your boat? Think again! Imagine this, you think your boat is safely tucked away in storage for winter, but the property is vandalized. Your boat may be out of the water, but it's been damaged and you're responsible for the repairs. Or you're on the lake and your teenage daughter can't put down her brand new tablet. She carelessly places it on the floor of the boat, you hit a rough patch, and the entire thing is soaked and broken. The right coverage can protect you. Not sure what types of coverages are available or which ones you do and don't need? We'll work with you to ensure your specific needs are met rather than sell you the same thing we've sold our last three clients. You can request a quote using our online form.
From everyone at SJ Markham, we wish you a safe and enjoyable boating season! When the time finally arrives, don't forget the sunscreen!