Boat Maintenance Checklist – Annual Tasks for All Systems
I recently spoke with Angela Britt, the service manager at Buck’s Island Marina. She is part of the family that continues the legacy of Buck Lumpkin, who started the family-owned and operated business in 1948. They are located on Neely Henry reservoir near Southside, Alabama, and know a thing or two about a boat maintenance checklist. The six-acre facility has 19 service bays staffed with factory-certified mechanics. They have serviced over 60,000 boats and sold more than 10,000 watercraft to customers from all over the southeast and even Canada.
“Combining routine and annual maintenance items at the end of the year can offer added protection during the cold weather,” Britt said. “Owner’s manuals are a great place to start when prepping a boat for storage or year-end maintenance, but there are a few added things to consider.”
Britt said that pontoon boats need an acid wash at year-end and that boats with covers can benefit from moisture absorbing desiccants placed in the front and rear. She also recommends adding a fuel stabilizer midway through the summer for added protection during the offseason.
“Saltwater use can add a few items to the list, but the majority of boats will benefit from having a good checklist,” she noted.
Below is an annual boat maintenance checklist that can help keep those trips on the water enjoyable and trouble-free:
- Wheels– Most boat trailers use grease for lubricating axle bearings. Inspecting and repacking them is a relatively simple process that many owners perform themselves. Many tournament fishermen have trailer bearings lubricated by oil. This system dramatically extends maintenance intervals, but many sight windows are plastic and require frequent inspection. Check tires (including spare) for tread wear and proper inflation. If equipped with brakes, check pads for wear and fluid reservoir.
- Wiring- Inspect wiring, connectors, light covers, and gaskets. Use dielectric grease on plug ends. Test the running, brake, backup, and signal lights to verify they are working correctly.
- Coupler- Ensure the locking or screw mechanism works freely and lightly lubricate pivot points, ball socket, and clamp face. Clean and grease tongue jack. Check that safety chains, pins, and connecting links are in good shape.
- Winch- Clean and lubricate the mechanism and inspect the rope/strap and bow hook. Make sure all tie-down straps are in good condition.
- Frame– Clean and check runners, rollers, bolts, clamps, and welds on the trailer and its suspension system. Wire brush any rust and repaint.
- Propeller-Inspect your prop for blade symmetry, bends, and dings. Examine the leading edges for rolling. Light filing is acceptable. Remove the propeller, check the shaft for straightness and fishing line. Inspect the inner hub for deterioration and the shaft seal for leakage. Lightly grease the shaft and reinstall. Tighten the nut and install a new cotter pin.
- Lower Unit– Drain gear lube and check drain screw washers for brittleness and cracks. Replace the drain screw and fill the foot with oil. If you often navigate in sandy or shallow water, replacing your water pump is a good idea. Check sacrificial anodes and replace if needed.
- Trim & Tilt- Clean, then check the fluid condition and level. Check for seal leaks and grease rod tips, and contact points. Keep piston rods fully retracted when in storage.
- Steering– Both mechanical and hydraulic steering units need annual cleaning and maintenance—grease all fittings on the motor before proceeding. For mechanical units, detach, clean, inspect, and grease cable ends before reattaching with new marine locknuts. Hydraulic units require taking a fluid sample and looking for contamination before confirming the proper fill level. Inspect hoses and fittings for wear and leakage. Clean cylinders, lube and look for seal damage. Check for any slack in the steering after maintenance. Saltwater use requires biannual inspection.
- Fuel Filter– Locate and change the fuel filter. Inspect all the engine fuel lines and clamps; replace if cracked or damaged.
- Fuel Tank– Wipe down the fuel tank’s exterior and check the fuel fill cap for proper fit. Locate and trace each section of fuel hose from the filler neck to the engine. Check all lines and clamp connections and look for deterioration or cracks. If equipped with a primer bulb, pressurize and check for leaks. Squeeze all hoses, and if soft, replace.
- Oil/Filter– Clean around filter, dipstick, and drain plug. Check engine hours since the last change.
- Spark Plugs– Fresh plugs will ensure good starting and conserve fuel. Check the gap on the new set before installing.
- Fiberglass– Wash and dry your boat’s exterior and inspect the gelcoat for any scratches, cracks, or blisters. Apply a good coat of wax.
- Aluminum– After cleaning, examine welded hulls for excessive wear or damage. Riveted models require inspection of the rivet seams and braces for any looseness or deformity. Mark and reseat or replace any loose rivets.
- Battery– Remove the cables, clean both posts, and apply petroleum jelly or other corrosion preventative. Use a good battery tester or carry them for a load test. Clean connectors and replace them if damaged. Remove the starter cables at the motor and flex. If they are stiff or make a crackling sound, replace them.
- Wiring– Inspect all wiring for cracked or damaged insulation. Look at all connections at switches, instruments, and gauges for signs of corrosion. Locate all fuses/breakers and verify each is correctly labeled. Verify an adequate supply of replacement fuses with the proper amp ratings.
- Instruments/Switches– Switch on the power and make sure all gauges and switches are working correctly. Verify all running lights, electronics, trolling motors, and pumps are in working order.
- Snaps/Zippers– Clean snaps and zippers using a small brush. Inspect snaps for damage or corrosion and replace them as necessary. After cleaning, apply a lubricant designed specifically for zippers and snaps.
- Fabrics– Yearly cleaning can maintain the appearance and extend the life of fabric tops, covers, and upholstery. Mild soapy water and a brush are adequate for most cleaning. Check your owner’s manual for stubborn stains.
- Hinges– Clean hinges with a paste made with baking soda and water. For stubborn stains, use a brush and add a little vinegar to the paste. When dry, use a corrosion-resistant lubricant such as CRC.
- Bilge Pumps– As part of your boat maintenance checklist, thoroughly clean the bilge area and strainer to remove any oil or debris. Inspect the pump’s impeller for wear or broken blades and spin it by hand. Feel rubber diaphragms for flexibility and check for tears. Ensure wire connections are secure and watertight. Test its operation by adding a few inches of water to the bilge. If there is room, store an oil pad near the unit.
- Tanks– Most boats have at least one live well. They consist of a fill pump and a recirculating pump. Clean, rinse, and check the pump operation of each tank and check through-hull fittings.
- Freshwater- Fill your system with clean water, open all taps (hot & cold) and pump till the system is empty. Check for any leakage and verify all connections have two clamps. If contamination is suspected, then sanitize.
A boat is a collection of mechanical and electrical components that weather and wear over time. The average boat owner can perform much of the preventative maintenance necessary to avoid breakdowns and costly repairs. For owners who lack the time or expertise, a marina with factory-trained mechanics can bridge the gap to ensure your time on the water doesn’t include greasy hands
Now is a perfect time to take a close look at your boat and trailer and make a boat maintenance checklist of things you may have put off. If you’re in the market to upgrade your boat or have any questions, give Britt and her team of service professionals at Buck’s Island Marina a call.
Buck Island Marina