We know you can't wait to get your boat out of storage and back in the water. Much as we'd all like to plunge right in and get going, it's better to be careful and prepare the boat properly for the season. Inspection and repair can be tedious, but it can also build excitement, like a countdown to launch.
DO drain and flush your engine coolant, if you didn't do so before storing the boat. Replace the coolant according to your owner's manual.
DON'T leave any antifreeze in your boat's drinking water and head systems. Flush with fresh water until the water runs clear.
DO check all hoses, clamps, and belts, and replace if worn.
DON'T make do with a stretched belt or a patched hose. Carry spares on the boat, too.
DO change the oil and replace fuel filters.
DON'T skip installing a new oil filter. Change your filter every time you change your oil.
DO check batteries and charge them. Clean the batteries' tops with an old toothbrush and a paste made of baking soda and water. The paste will fizz on contact. When the fizzing stops, rinse and wipe dry.
DON'T neglect your wires. Inspect terminals and connections for corrosion and scrub them clean. Replace any parts you can't get clean.
DO check your through-hull fittings. Clean them up if they’re rusty and lubricate them if they’re sticky.
DON’T forget to replace any drain plugs.
DO inspect the hull carefully. Repair any cracks.
DON'T let caulk get wet before it's cured. Uncured caulk + water = leaks.
DO wash the boat down (better yet, get the kids to do it!). Apply a coat of wax to the hull to make it shine.
DON'T hold an electric buffer in one place for too long. The friction can burn a mark into your gelcoat.
DO scrub and reapply ablative antifouling paint, if you used it last year.
DON'T scrub or scrape ablative paint into the water. The same properties that make it deadly to barnacles and zebra mussels can hurt harmless fish and snails if a lot of paint gets scraped off into a lake or ocean.
DO check that lights are working, and replace any burned-out bulbs.
DON'T forget to keep spare bulbs and fuses on board.
DO check all zinc anodes and replace them. If you're a bluewater boater, engine anodes need replacement at 50% wear, and other zincs should be swapped out if they show any erosion at all.
DON'T neglect your zincs. They're vital to protecting your and others’ boats from galvanic corrosion.
DON'T make do with mildewed cushions, carpet, or seats. If they can't be salvaged, replace them. Certain types of mold can make you sick, so don't chance it, especially if anyone in your family has asthma or allergies.
DO replace spark plugs in your gasoline engines, inboard or outboard.
DON'T put in new plugs before running the engine for a bit. You don't want to gunk up new plugs when the fogging oil burns off.
DO check your safety equipment. Make sure your life jackets are in good condition and that your fire extinguisher is adequately charged. Inspect and restock your first-aid kit, and put fresh batteries in your flashlights.
DON’T forget to put everything back on the boat. Flares and life vests do you no good on the water if you’ve left them at home.