Page Illustration

Boat Maintenance 101: How to Properly Care for Your Boat

Thursday, 6 June 2024

Owning a boat is a gateway to unforgettable adventures on the open water, but with this privilege comes the responsibility of proper care and upkeep. In this blog, we'll explain why consistent maintenance is crucial and how a well-structured boat maintenance schedule can prevent costly repairs and extend the life of your boat. We'll also share practical DIY tips, helping you save time and money while keeping your boat in top condition.

Why is Boat Maintenance Important?

Regular boat maintenance is essential for safety, performance, and longevity. It helps identify and address potential issues early and prevent unexpected failures. Additionally, regular upkeep preserves your boat's value, extends its life, and ensures optimal performance, allowing you to fully enjoy your time on the water - especially during the limited prime boating season in Canada.

When Should the Mechanical Condition of a Boat Be Checked?

A well-planned maintenance schedule, tailored to seasonal use and storage, is key to keeping your boat running smoothly. Here’s a detailed guide to help you stay on track throughout the year.

Spring: Pre-Season Preparation

As boating season approaches, it's crucial to conduct a thorough inspection. Begin by checking the hull for cracks or damage from winter storage and ensuring the propeller is free of dents while confirming smooth rudder movement. Key spring maintenance tasks include changing engine oil and filters, inspecting and replacing spark plugs, checking the fuel system for cracks or leaks, and verifying the condition of the battery.
When performing boat engine maintenance, you should also examine the engine’s belts and hoses for wear and tear and ensure the cooling system is functioning properly. Consider professional assistance for comprehensive engine inspections, especially after prolonged storage, and for electrical system checks to prevent potential hazards.

Summer: Peak Season Upkeep

Throughout the boating season, consistent maintenance is vital to keep your boat performing at its best. Before heading out, conduct a brief inspection of key components. Routine summer maintenance includes checking and topping off oil levels, inspecting the propeller for debris or damage, regularly cleaning the cooling system to prevent overheating, and testing the bilge pump for proper function.

Fall: End-of-Season Maintenance

As the boating season comes to a close, preparing your boat for winter storage is essential to avoid cold weather damage. Critical fall maintenance includes changing the oil and oil filters, adding fuel stabilizer to the gas tank, winterizing the engine by draining water and adding antifreeze, and removing, cleaning, and storing the battery in a cool, dry location.

Consult a professional for complex tasks like engine and plumbing system preparation to ensure thorough winterization. During the off-season, periodic checks are still important to maintain your boat's condition. Inspect the storage area for leaks or pests and ensure the boat cover is securely in place.

Winter Storage Tips

Indoor Storage:

Even when storing your boat indoors, it's important to check on its condition throughout the winter periodically. Inspect the boat cover to ensure it remains secure and free of dust and debris. Look for any signs of moisture buildup, such as mold or mildew, and address any issues promptly to prevent damage. Verify that the ventilation system functions correctly to maintain air circulation and avoid condensation.

Outdoor Storage:

Due to exposure to the elements, regular inspections are crucial for boats stored outdoors. Check the boat cover frequently to ensure it remains tightly secured and undamaged by wind, snow, or ice. Remove accumulated snow or debris from the cover to prevent strain and potential tearing. Inspect the hull and other exterior components for signs of weather-related damage, such as cracks or warping. Additionally, verify that the boat remains properly elevated off the ground to prevent standing water or ice issues.

How to Maintain a Boat: Basic DIY Boat Maintenance Tips

Maintaining your boat doesn’t always require a professional. With some basic DIY skills, you can perform routine boat maintenance and repairs to keep your vessel in top condition. Here are some key areas you can focus on:


Giving your boat a good cleaning will preserve its appearance and prevent long-term damage.
Use a specialized cleaner for the hull that is safe for your boat’s material. Apply it with a soft brush, scrub gently to remove algae and grime, and rinse with fresh water. Use a non-skid surface cleaner for the deck, scrub with a medium-bristle brush, and rinse thoroughly.
Clean vinyl or fabric upholstery with a mild soap and water solution. Use marine-grade cleaners for stubborn stains. To prevent mildew, ensure windows and canopies are completely dry after cleaning with appropriate cleaners.


Lubricating moving parts ensures smooth operation and prevents rust and wear, which can lead to costly repairs. Use a marine-grade lubricant on door hinges, hatch latches, steering cables, helm, throttle and shift cables, and grease the propeller shaft regularly to avoid corrosion and ensure efficient propulsion. Proper lubrication can significantly extend the life of these components and improve your boat’s performance.


Regular inspections are crucial to identifying potential issues before they become major problems. Focus on key areas such as safety equipment by checking life jackets for wear and tear, verifying fire extinguishers are fully charged, and ensuring flares and signaling devices are in good working order.
Inspect the hull for cracks and blisters, check through-hull fittings for leaks or corrosion, examine electrical systems for battery levels and wiring issues, and assess fuel systems by examining hoses, lines, and filters for any signs of damage or wear.

How to do a pre-season boat inspection

Before taking your boat out, it is crucial you complete a pre-season inspection to ensure everything is operating properly and in good condition. Operating a boat that is not deemed seaworthy is a criminal offence in Canada and puts you, your passengers, and other boaters at risk. While you may already complete some of these tasks throughout the year, this pre-season inspection guide will help you assess whether your boat is ready for the water.

Structural Inspection

  • Hull: Examine for cracks, blisters, or damage, especially around the keel and through-hull fittings.
  • Bilge: Look for leaks, standing water, or debris. Clean this to ensure effective bilge pump operation.

Mechanical Inspection

  • Battery: Ensure it holds a charge and check fluid levels.
  • Spark Plugs: Inspect, clean, and replace if necessary.
  • Outdrive: Check shafts for wear and alignment, inspect the propeller for damage, and ensure all nuts and pins are tight and corrosion-free.
  • Fuel System: Inspect hoses for cracks or leaks, check fuel levels, and secure the fuel tank.
  • Electrical System: Inspect wiring for fraying or corrosion, tighten loose connections, replace damaged wires, and test battery charge and fluid levels.
  • Cooling System: Check coolant levels, inspect hoses for cracks, and flush the system if necessary.
  • Throttle and Steering: Ensure smooth operation of the throttle and steering; lubricate cables if needed.
  • Engine and Gauges: Inspect for wear, leaks, or corrosion, clean the flame arrestor, and replace oil and filters. Check all gauges and the alternator to ensure they are functioning correctly.

Safety Equipment Inspection

  • Navigation Lights: Replace burnt-out bulbs and clean covers.
  • Flotation Devices: Ensure sufficient Canadian-approved devices are available for everyone on board.
  • Safety Items: Check for maps, charts, VHF (very high frequency) radios, first aid kits, basic tools, and spare parts.

Additional Checks

  • Drainage Plug: Check that this securely fits into place to avoid taking on water.
  • Registration and Licensing: Ensure these documents are valid and up to date.
  • Boat Insurance: Verify coverage and have a copy of the policy onboard.

Get a boat insurance quote today with BIG

Maintaining your boat is crucial for ensuring safety, longevity, and performance, but even the best maintenance can't prevent all issues. At BIG, we understand the joy of boating and the importance of protecting your watercraft. If you’re looking to safeguard your boating adventures, our team of experienced brokers can help you secure coverage through the best boat insurance policies available. Request a quote from Billyard Insurance Group today, and let us help you find the perfect policy so you can enjoy the water confidently.

By: Devon Gribble