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Boat maintenance – what you can do to keep your boat pristine

Owning a boat is a fantastic experience for slowing down the frenetic pace of modern life and enjoying a cruise down a calm river or lake, coupled with some fishing and tranquil reflection, or a picnic lunch on the waters. However, a boat requires periodic maintenance much like an automobile. If you’re not sure how to maintain your boat, learn how to keep your boat up and running with AutoZone. This article will explain the concepts of boat maintenance, boat servicing, how to keep your boat battery in pristine order, boat motor maintenance and more, as well as when it’s time to call a professional. You can get everything you need to maintain your boat at AutoZone and keep your boat at its best. 

Boat maintenance basics 

Maintaining a boat at a basic level is not difficult, and there aren’t a lot of complex tasks to be done on a regular basis. Here are a few basic things that anyone can do to ensure that their boat’s condition is maintained in as pristine an order as possible. 

  • Always ensure that your boat is docked and tied up in a safe place, so that it is sheltered from the elements, not at risk of floating away, or being stolen. This article from AutoZone will explain everything you need to know on docking and tying up your boat, including where it’s legal to do so. 
  • If you reside in an area where winter comes by every year, learn how to winterize your boat. Winterizing your boat properly will save you a ton of repairs costing several hundreds of dollars come springtime. 
  • Invest in a budget boat cover and ensure that your boat is properly covered when not in use, even if you store it in a covered garage or shed. 
  • Ensure that your boat is safe and complaint with the Coast Guard guidelines, which you can read about here
  • Learn about the basics of boat maintenance including battery checking, fuel level checking, oil changing, cleaning, waxing, and most importantly, what requires professional attention and when to seek it. 
  • Check with your boat manufacturer and engine manufacturer for their recommended maintenance tasks and maintenance intervals, which are typically measured in hours of use, or running hours. 

Checking your marine battery 

It can be extremely frustrating to prepare for a day of boating, only to discover that your boat’s battery is depleted. It’s important to periodically test a boat’s battery using a boat battery tester. You can also invest in a battery charger to keep your boat’s battery topped up, for which AutoZone has options starting at $25. 

If the battery cannot be rejuvenated through charging and is shown to be faulty as per the battery tester, a battery replacement will be required. As it can be confusing to choose the right battery for a boat, this helpful AutoZone article will be a useful read. 

Changing your boat oil 

The engine in a motorboat requires periodic oil changes, just like an automobile engine. The oil change interval on a boat is typically measured in engine run hours, although it may be recommended to change the oil regardless of if a significant time interval has passed since the last oil change and run. 

Changing the oil is not difficult per se, although the process may vary depending on engine make and model. Nevertheless, the owner’s manual will provide a comprehensive guide on how to perform the task, as well as the type and brand of oil required. If unsure, an oil change may be performed by a professional. 

Checking your engine 

Before setting out on the water, it’s always prudent to perform a few checks on your boat engine and its related systems. Start by ensuring that there is sufficient fuel in the tank. If your boat is equipped with a fuel gauge, ensure that the fuel gauge is accurately displaying the correct amount of fuel. If your boat fuel gauge is not working, you may need to seek the assistance of a professional to repair it. 

Remember that a boat’s gas tank should never be filled completely, as space must be left for gas to expand, minimizing the risk of fuel spilling out. The accepted rule of thumb is to fill a boat’s gas tank to 90% of its total capacity and consider that as a full tank. The gas tank cap should be tightly closed, and all seals checked for leakage periodically. Tank air vents and valves should also be checked to ensure that they function as intended. Of course, it goes without saying that a boat should be refuelled in an open area, away from any sources of spark or flame.  

Next, check the functionality of the engine, start it up and listen to ensure that it runs as it should with no unusual sounds, vibrations, hesitancy, or backfiring. Allow the engine to gradually come up to operating temperature before revving it up; it isn’t recommended to hard rev a cold engine. 

Once you are satisfied that the boat’s engine is functioning as intended and there is adequate fuel in the tank, set off. Neglecting any one of these checks could leave you stranded in the middle of the lake, and you may have to row yourself to shore or call for help. It always pays off to keep a set of oars aboard if your boat is a small one that can be rowed by yourself if you are setting out alone. 

Waxing boat exterior 

Waxing a boat’s exterior, particularly the hull is a great way to ensure that it remains in pristine order. Boat hulls are constantly in contact with water, unless stored out of the water when not in use, and even if this is the case, can be exposed to dust and airborne pollutants.  

AutoZone carries a great range of marine wax products that can be used to wax a boat, and cost less than $15. Comprehensive instructions are provided on the product page, ensuring that waxing a boat can be done by a layperson and does not require professional attention or special equipment, as long as the boat can be taken out of the water to be waxed. 

Getting professional help 

While there are plenty of things you can do for a boat to keep it in pristine order, some of the more advanced maintenance and repair activities are best performed by a qualified professional, in a well-equipped workshop. Examples of these include hull repairs, electronic system repairs and upgrades, boat motor repair, and other complex tasks. If you are unsure of how to find a professional, a quick internet search of “boat maintenance near me” will usually yield useful results, with user reviews where applicable.  

For any of your boat maintenance product needs, search at AutoZone first. Discover waxes, fluids, batteries, and more at competitive prices, or ask an associate for help. 

Advice, how-to guides, and car care information featured on AutoZone.com and AutoZone Advice & How-To’s are presented as helpful resources for general maintenance and automotive repairs from a general perspective only and should be used at your own risk. Information is accurate and true to the best of AutoZone’s knowledge, however, there may be omissions, errors or mistakes.

Be sure to consult your owner’s manual, a repair guide, an AutoZoner at a store near you, or a licensed, professional mechanic for vehicle-specific repair information. Refer to the service manual for specific diagnostic, repair and tool information for your particular vehicle. Always chock your wheels prior to lifting a vehicle. Always disconnect the negative battery cable before servicing an electrical application on the vehicle to protect its electrical circuits in the event that a wire is accidentally pierced or grounded. Use caution when working with automotive batteries. Sulfuric acid is caustic and can burn clothing and skin or cause blindness. Always wear gloves and safety glasses and other personal protection equipment, and work in a well-ventilated area. Should electrolyte get on your body or clothing, neutralize it immediately with a solution of baking soda and water. Do not wear ties or loose clothing when working on your vehicle.

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