The Top Boat Maintenance Tips for Summer

As the weather warms and the boating season kicks into gear, it's time to bring your vessel out of storage and onto the water. After a winter in dry dock or storage, summer maintenance is the key to your boat's longevity – and the safety of everyone on board. 

Summer Boat Maintenance Checklist

Maintaining your boat during the summer involves more than just a pre-launch inspection. It requires ongoing care to keep your boat in top condition throughout the season. Creating a personalized boat maintenance checklist can help streamline your process and ensure no detail is overlooked.

1. Check Your Safety Gear

Before you launch, confirming your safety equipment is on board and in good working order is a nonnegotiable step. 

Summer Boat Maintenance

Life Jackets: Affirm that you have enough life jackets for all passengers and that they are in good condition.

Fire Extinguisher: Check the expiration date and that it's easily accessible.

First-Aid Kit: Make sure your first-aid kit is fully stocked and current.

Flares and Signaling Devices: Verify that all flares and signaling devices are functional and not expired.

Coast Guard Radio: Check that your radio works properly, especially if you're out of cell phone range.

2. Update Your Boat Insurance

If you don't have boat insurance, consider waiting to hit the water until you do. If you're insured, take a moment to confirm that your policy is up to date and active. 

3. Inspect Your Boat Before First Launch

While you are eager to get on the water, a thorough inspection of the major components of your vessel will keep your first summer launch memorable for all the right reasons.

4. Hull Inspection

Start by visually examining the hull for any signs of damage, such as cracks, blisters, or gouges. Pay close attention to the areas around fittings and attachments, as these are common spots for wear and tear. Tighten any loose fittings and replace any that show signs of corrosion or wear.

Inspect the hull's paint and protective coatings. Touch up any areas where the paint has chipped or worn away to prevent further damage from water exposure.

5. Propeller and Steering System Check

The propeller and steering system are essential for safe and efficient navigation. Check the propeller for any damage or debris. Ensure it's securely attached and in good condition.

Inspect the steering mechanism for any signs of wear or stiffness. Lubricate moving parts and tighten any loose connections.

6. Electrical System Check

You don't have to be an expert to check your boat's electrical system. But if you find any issues, it's best to call a professional.

Start by visually looking over your electrical systems and cleaning off any corrosion on the battery terminals and cables. Check that all the wires are in good condition and securely connected to their terminals. Test your battery and, if needed, charge or replace it.

7. Fluids And Fuel System Check

Just like your car, it's important to routinely check your boat's fluids. Before hitting the water, confirm that your boat has adequate and clean engine oil, power steering fluid, and coolant, especially if it has been in storage.

Learn More About Boat Storage

Most boat owner's manuals recommend changing the oil at the end of the boating season or before storing it. 

If you still need to change the oil before storing your boat, prioritize it now. You can handle this task yourself or have it done by a professional boat mechanic.

8. Bilge Pump and Drain Plug Check

A properly functioning bilge pump and drain plug are essential to prevent water from accumulating in the boat. Test the bilge pump to confirm it's working correctly, then clean any debris from the pump and its strainer.

Don't make the rookie mistake of forgetting to secure your drain plug. 

9. Deck and Upholstery Care

Maintaining the interior of your boat is just as important as the exterior. Regularly clean the deck and any upholstery to prevent the buildup of dirt and grime. Apply UV protectant to prevent sun damage to seats and other surfaces.

10. Boat Trailer Maintenance

Maintaining your boat for summer may also include your boat trailer. Check the tire pressure and look for any signs of wear or damage. Check that all trailer lights and brakes are functioning properly. 

Inspect the hitch and couplings for any signs of wear or corrosion. Lubricate moving parts as needed.

Learn More About Boat Trailering

Ongoing Summer Boat Maintenance

To keep your boat in top condition throughout the summer, here are some quick maintenance tips:

Before Each Outing: Verify that life jackets, fire extinguishers, and first-aid kits are in good condition. Confirm that the drain plug is secure.

While on the Water: Pay attention to engine sounds and performance, promptly addressing any unusual noises or behaviors.

After Each Outing: Rinse off water and dirt to prevent corrosion and grime buildup. Inspect your hull, propeller, electrical connections, and other major systems. 

Weekly: Check that the engine oil, coolant, and power steering fluid are at proper levels. Inspect the battery regularly, check for corrosion on terminals, and clean as necessary. Check that all electronic devices and lights are functioning correctly. Make sure the bilge pump is operational and free of debris.

Protect Your Boat from the Sun

Now that you're ready to hit the water, it's time to consider the sun. Over time, sun exposure can cause significant damage to your boat, affecting both its appearance and functionality. 

To protect your boat, start by investing in a high-quality, UV-resistant cover that fits properly and provides full coverage when the boat is not in use. 

Regularly apply a UV protectant to the gel coat, vinyl seats, and plastic components to prevent fading, chalking, and cracking. 

Waxing the hull at the beginning and end of each season also adds a protective barrier against UV rays. 

Store your boat in a shaded area such as a garage or under a canopy whenever possible. Use a temporary shade structure or tarp if that's not an option. 

Equip your boat with a bimini top or canopy for on-water shade for both your passengers and your upholstery, and consider installing UV-blocking window tint to protect the interior and keep it cooler. 

Regularly inspect your boat for signs of sun damage and maintain seals and caulking around windows, hatches, and fittings. 

Boat Maintenance Tips

These are just some of the ways to care for your boat! Check out our comprehensive boat maintenance guide for more information on keeping your vessel at its best.