How to get your boat ready for summer
After sitting in storage over the winter, your boat needs to be cleaned and prepped before it's time for another summer of safe boating on the water. While summer boat maintenance is a lengthy process, be sure to check these seven steps off your to-do list before leaving the dock:
- Charge your boat's battery. Many types of boat batteries can lose as much as 30% of their charge over the winter, so it's important to charge your boat's battery before heading out on the water. If you've owned your boat for a while, it might be time to test the battery using a voltmeter or by taking it to your local mechanic, as boat batteries typically only last for four to five years before they need to be replaced.
- Inspect the fuel system. A boat's gas tank and fuel line are prone to rust and damage in the winter. While your gas tank will likely be fine if you filled it up before putting it in storage, there's no way to prevent cracks in your fuel line. Be sure to check your fuel line for cracks and, if you see any, replace the fuel line immediately.
- Top up your fluid levels and check your filters. Your coolant, engine oil, and transmission fluid will likely need to be topped up for summer. If you filled the cooling system with water and antifreeze before the winter, drain out whatever liquid is left and fill it back up with new coolant. Boat oil should be changed every six months or every 375 hours of boating, whichever comes first. If you didn't change your oil and filters before putting your boat into winter storage, then it's time to do it now! While you're checking your boat's fluid levels, also check hoses for cracks and leaks and replace them if you find any.
- Look for signs of corrosion and clean your boat. Even in storage, water can still get to the many electrical and mechanical components of your boat, including the engine and navigation system. To prevent breakdown, pressure wash your boat and take time to carefully clean your boat's electronics. Contact a qualified technician to assess the damage if you notice any signs of corrosion.
- Check the propeller. A damaged propeller can cause vibrations that will harm your boat's drive train if left alone. To make sure your propeller is in tip-top shape, thoroughly inspect the blades for any dings, missing chunks, or bends. You should also check the propeller's shaft — if the propeller visibly wobbles, then the prop shaft is bent and will need to be repaired or replaced.
- Inspect your safety gear and equipment. In Canada, you're legally required to have a life jacket or a personal floatation device on board for each person on your boat. Each year, you should inspect your floatation devices for holes and tears and replace any that are damaged. This is also a great time to inspect your fire extinguishers, flares, horns, and whistles to make sure they're all in working condition.
- Make sure your boat is insured. You can add a watercraft endorsement to your home insurance policy to cover damage to your boat (while you're using it or while it's docked), and to cover liability claims that result from the use of your boat. However, it's important to note that a watercraft endorsement generally only applies to smaller, recreational boats — larger models and boats with higher horsepower or modifications may require separate policies.
If you don't have a watercraft endorsement or separate insurance coverage for your boat, reach out to your group's broker before taking your boat out this summer. Your group's broker can help you get the coverage you need to protect yourself and your boat while you're out on the water.
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