Top 5 Most Overlooked Prelaunch Maintenance Issues

Author: Derek Wolfe

Getting ready to head to the lake? Before you head to the water, don’t forget these five check points to get your boat ready for the season.

1. Start your preparations a couple days before. So you have made it through the winter storage months, and the warm weather couldn’t have come any sooner. Before you head to the water, prepare a few days in advance by charging your boat’s batteries, idling the motor up to temperature, checking for leaks, tightening hose clamps and changing the motor oil, oil filter, water separators, drive and transmission fluids. Making these preparations before you go to launch will prevent delays at the ramp, and will help keep our water ways clean.

2. Engine maintenance. Nothing smells as bad as melted rubber from an overheated motor. Now is a good time to change those raw-water cooling impellers in the motor, drives and generators. Manufacturers typically recommend changing the impellers once every two to three years no matter the time in use. Rubber impellers deteriorate over time, regardless of their hours of operation and can dry, break or become weak, leading to pumping the improper amount of cooling water to the engine, which can cause a major meltdown.

3. Top off the tank with a good grade of fuel. Fuel nowadays may be great for cars, but when it sits in your boat over the winter it can dissipate, gel, separate and cause damage to fuel tanks, rubber lines and fuel systems. Top off your fuel tank with a good grade of fuel and use a high-quality fuel additive offered at your local marine parts distributor. Many of these products combat problems associated with ethanol and poor-quality fuels.

4. Don’t forget about that trailer! The brake system and bearings need some attention too. Be sure you lubricate your wheel bearings to the manufacturer’s specs, and do not overfill. Overfilling the bearings or bearing buddies could blow out the rear seals, allowing all the grease to evacuate from the bearings. This can cause damage to the bearings, wheel hubs, or when in tow can even allow a wheel to break free from the trailer.

The trailer’s brake system hasn’t operated all winter long as well. It’s always a good idea to check and refill, or even change, the brake fluid. Brake shoes and pads need to be inspected. It’s best to have a qualified trailer service completed before you head out on the road. Without a trailer in roadworthy condition, your boat and cargo won’t even make it to the water. Skimping here is not a good idea.

5. Take your time launching your boat. You get to your favorite ramp proud of your clean and shiny boat, and there are 10 other tow vehicles with boats sitting behind you ready to launch. In a rush, you start to launch and realize that the boat is either not coming off the trailer or is taking on water. You most likely forgot to remove the transom safety straps or install the drain plug. Prevent this from happening by taking your time before you get to the ramp. Prepare a short checklist for what you need to do to keep your boat and crew safe before you launch. Here are a few inspections you should include: check your vessel for all safety gear, including current fire extinguishers, install your drain plug, remove your trailer safety straps, run the bilge blower and inspect for leaks before you pull off of the trailer.

Derek Wolfe is a watercraft claims adjuster at American Modern Insurance Group.


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