By Justin Hoffman
Waking up your boat after a long hibernation is an anticipated chore
we all eagerly await. There's no better feeling come spring than
hearing the engine smoothly purr for the first time - ready to
breathe life into another full season on the water.
Getting into the habit of
de-winterizing your boat, engine, and trailer before hitting the
lake ensures that everything will be in tip-top shape, leading to a
stress-free maiden voyage, and far less headaches when riding the
wet stuff. Follow this simple guide to find out the necessary steps
The first step to take after removing the cover, tarp, or
shrink-wrap is to give the boat a thorough cleaning. This includes
wiping down the interior of the boat, vacuuming the carpet, and
power washing the exterior. If you wax your hull, now would be the
best time to do it.
While working on the outside of
the boat, do a visual check for any gouges or cracks in the hull.
Also look for missing or loose rivets. If any damage is found,
outside help may be required to fix it.
Check the bilge area for any dirt
or debris that may have collected over the winter. While there,
install the drain plug. I'll repeat once again - install the drain
plug. A very important step before making that first launch!
Any items that were removed for
winter storage should now be placed back in the boat. This includes
such things as seats, life vests, first-aid kits, fire
extinguishers, and flares. This is a good time to inspect all of
your safety equipment, and replace or repair if necessary. (Remember
to check expiry dates on flares, inspect ropes on anchors, and
certify extinguishers if needed.)
Check battery fluid levels and top
up if necessary (remember to use distilled water.) Also check
terminals for corrosion, and clean and lubricate with grease.
Although your battery should have been regularly charged over the
winter, ensure that it is at full strength before placing it back in
Connect all electronics (fish
finders, GPS, bilge, live wells, radio, VHF, lights, etc.) and
ensure that they are all working properly. If applicable, make sure
the horn is sounding loud and clear.
Also check hatch hinges for
smoothness, and utilize oil if needed.
If you own a trolling motor, now is the time to reinstall, or if it
is already on the boat, check to make sure it is working properly.
Test the entire range of the foot pedal (if applicable), as well as
speed and directional controls. Also make sure that the prop is in
good shape, and is snuggly fit on the base of motor.
Install fresh spark plugs in the engine, ensuring that the
"gap" is at the correct spacing (see your owner's manual for
information.) Also place a spare set in an emergency kit and keep on
If your lower gear case oil was
not changed during the winterization step, now is the time to do it.
Check other fluid levels, if applicable, and top up or change if
necessary. Lubricate all moving connections, including the steering,
throttle, and shifting. Also grease splines on the propeller shaft
with the recommended marine grease. While doing this, look for
damage on the propeller itself. If cracks, breaks, or dents are
found, a new unit may need purchasing, or getting it rebuilt might
be an option. When replacing the propeller, torque the nut to the
manufacturer's recommendation. (This can be found in your owner's
manual.) Now is also a good time to buy a spare prop if you don't
already keep one on board.
Reconnect fuel lines, paying
careful attention to tighten hose clamps or replace if needed. If
lines are showing wear and tear, or feel brittle to the touch, then
they should be replaced. Also check the starter cord for any frays,
knots, or pronounced wear.
If possible, test your engine out
at home by using a garden hose and engine muffs. This will allow you
to establish that everything is working up to snuff, and any
adjustments and repairs can be easily made while standing on dry
It is recommended that the water
impeller be changed every two years, or whenever the discharge
stream is not being displaced strongly or in a straight line. Keep
this in mind when you start the boat.
Your engine may smoke considerably
when running for the first time, but don't be alarmed. This is
common, and is a result of the fogging agent and fuel stabilizer
being run through the system. While the engine is idling, it is a
good idea to check for any water leaks from the cooling system, as
well as making sure that all of your instrument gauges are working
When you launch the boat for its
maiden voyage there are a few areas to keep an eye on. One being
that no leaks are evident, paying careful attention to the bilge
area. You will also want to check that the water intake mechanism is
working for any live wells on board. Lastly, make sure that the
engine shifts smoothly and effortlessly from forward, neutral, and
Although often overlooked during the spring maintenance
ritual, giving the boat chariot a once over is a necessary
requirement. Let's face it - we've all seen too many broken down
trailers at the side of the road to not take this step serious.
The first step is to give the
entire trailer a visual check. Look for bends or cracked welds on
the frame itself. Also eye up springs and suspensions for wear and
tear, or faults. These could turn into a serious problem, so make
sure repairs are done if anything negative is found.
Go over the rollers or bunks,
replacing any parts that are deemed to be not working. (Obviously,
you will need to have the boat in the water to make these repairs.)
Check that all lights and turn
signals work adequately. (Remember the brake signal and four-way
blinker.) Replace any burnt bulbs and fix any weak connections if
found. Also check the wiring and connectors on the tow vehicle.
Wheel bearings should be repacked in the spring with fresh grease,
paying careful attention to torque lug nuts to appropriate levels
when putting the wheels back on. Check the overall condition of your
tires, which includes cracking (usually on the sidewalls), tread
depth, and air pressure.
The winch strap should be in good
shape, and showing no signs of fraying or unevenness. Replace if
necessary. Tie-down straps should also be inspected for damage, or
wear and tear.
The winch operation itself should
be smooth and free flowing. If not, a squirt of oil should remedy
Check that the trailer coupler and
latch assembly is working smoothly. Any looseness can be a sign of a
problem beginning. The trailer hitch on your tow vehicle should also
be given the once over. Getting the boat ready come spring is
paramount to smart boating and hassle-free times. Not only will your
boat perform better, but also the likelyhood of a problem occurring
is greatly diminished. Enjoy waking up your boat this year, and
here's to a safe and prolonged season on the water.