Boat Maintenance Tips

Topics: specialty risk

Summary: Following boat maintenance procedures will keep your boat running safely for many years. Another way to protect your boat is to have marine product coverage for the engine, windshields and other necessary boat mechanicals. Learn the critical safety, mechanical and cleaning tasks that must be maintained every time you take the boat out on the water.

Boat Maintenance Tips

Just like our cars and other vehicles, boats need regular maintenance to continue running safely. With proper care and upkeep, boats can last a very long time. However, if you don’t maintain your boat, cleaning oxidation and bacteria regularly, it can lead to costly damage.

Keeping a boat maintained prevents damages and looming safety hazards, but accidents are also common. External factors – inclement weather, rough waters, other boaters, and human error can damage a boat. Following proper boat maintenance procedures and having the correct type of insurance, including warranties on the boat’s mechanicals, are critical before you set sail.

How to Maintain a Boat

Boat maintenance involves keeping your boat lubricated and clean inside and out. Most boat maintenance should occur each spring as you prepare to put the boat in the water for the boating season. However, specific tasks need to be done after every outing, such as for damage to the outside, invasive species on the hull, inside and the vinyl, wood and any mechanicals. For saltwater boats, it is critical to routinely clean the boat and check the engine after the saltwater exposure to reduce potential corrosion.

As part of a regular boat maintenance program, owners should make sure to clean the following properly:

Fiberglass and Gelcoat

Fiberglass boats are protected with gelcoat or the tough glossy exterior finish that protects the fiberglass from sun and salt. A gelcoat finish will need attention when it starts to look chalky. To keep the gelcoat in good condition, it must be maintained with regular cleaning using high-quality boat soap with a soft scrubber or sponge after each outing throughout the boating months. For additional protection, add waxing and polishing at least twice a season, once before you launch the boat and once before it is put in storage for the winter.

Marine Canvas

Marine canvas includes durable fabrics on a boat, such as cockpit and console enclosures, Bimini tops, boat and sail covers, and more. Keeping the canvas clean is essential to overall boat maintenance. To clean the canvas, use a light brush, mild soap, such as Woolite or Dawn, and lots of fresh water to remove dirt, salt, bird droppings, and other abrasive materials.

To clean the clear PVC that creates windows in the canvas covers, use a quality spray polish designed to use with PVC. Never clean them with an ammonia-based product, as it breaks down the plastic and can make it brittle over time. The zippers and snaps that hold everything together should be cleaned at least once a year with a specific lubricant.

Upholstery and Vinyl

Vinyl is the most common material used for furniture and exterior seating on a boat. It is very durable, but using the wrong type of cleaner could ruin it. Upholstery and vinyl on the boat should be cleaned regularly with a sponge and mild, soapy water to prevent dirt buildup, mold and mildew. Deep cleaning can be done with specially-made vinyl cleaner and a vinyl protectant.

Movable vinyl furniture or cushions should be removed and stored in a locker or below the deck at the end of each day. Permanent furniture can be protected by covering them when not in use.

Brightwork or Wood Surfaces

All wood surfaces and trims exposed to UV rays must be properly kept up to ensure they remain in good shape. Most of the wood on a boat is made of teak, a durable hardwood. The teak will turn a silver or gray color and last for years but should be cleaned occasionally throughout the boating season. Use a mild teak cleaner with a soft bristle brush and scrub the wood against the grain.

Engine and Mechanicals

A properly maintained engine is vital to a boat’s performance. After every trip, the motor should be flushed to remove sand, dirt and other debris. The propeller, engine belts and fuel lines should be checked for wear and replaced as needed. The boat’s battery and connections should be checked at least once a year or more often during the boating season for corrosion. The oil and oil filter should be changed regularly. The coolant and power steering fluid should also be checked and refilled as needed.

Storing a Boat

Properly storing your boat during the off-season is a critical part of a yearly maintenance program and a key way to protect it from ice, snow and rain damage. There are three methods of boat storage:
  • Outdoor: Storing a boat outside requires proper coverage to protect the boat from the elements, such as a tarp or having a professional shrink-wrap the boat.
  • Indoor: Storing a boat inside, such as in a storage unit or dry dock, protects the boat from weather and the sun.
  • On the water: Some harbors will allow boats to be stored in the water throughout the year. This is a better option for larger boats. Even though a boat is stored in the water, it should still be protected against the elements.

Boat Storage Tips

A boat should be prepared for storage during the winter. Doing proper storage procedures will help keep up the maintenance of the vessel for years to come. Boat storage tasks to follow to get your boat ready for the off-season include:

  • Properly clean the boat
  • Disconnect the battery and store it in a cool, ventilated area
  • Remove all of the boat’s canvas and store it inside during the winter months by folding the canvas and/or carefully rolling the clear PVC sections in butcher paper
  • Remove all food, carpets and electronics from the boat
  • Clean the propeller and shaft and inspect them for damage
  • Flush the engine, water lines and water tanks with fresh water to remove salt

Boat Insurance and Other Marine Products Coverage

Boat owners’ insurance covers theft, physical damage, or loss of items stored on a boat. It also can cover any injuries or death caused in the vehicle’s operation. AmTrust Warranty and Specialty Risk offers vehicle service contracts and ancillary coverages on the marine products on a boat. The boat products include:
  • Service Contracts: Outboard, Inboard, Stern Drive and Jet Drive Engines
  • Pre-Paid Maintenance
  • Paintless Dent Protection
  • Theft Protection
  • Appearance Protection
  • Windshield Protection
  • Key/Remote Replacement
  • Boat Trailers
  • Electrical Components
  • Compasses
  • Stereos
  • Trolling Motor Components
  • Oxygenator Components

Partner With AmTrust Warranty & Specialty Risk

AmTrust Warranty & Specialty Risk is a leading global provider of service contracts and insurance for third-party administrators, manufacturers, financial institutions, retailers and distributors. From underwriting to reinsurance, we can help your business meet the coverage needs of your partners and their customers. Contact us to learn more about our marine products coverage and other specialty warranties.

This material is for informational purposes only and is not legal or business advice. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact your local RSM for more information.

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