Boat sales exploded in 2020, and if you’re the proud owner of a boat — whether for the first time or the tenth time — you undoubtedly want to keep it in top shape. A smoothly running boat provides hours of enjoyment. A malfunctioning one can lead to dangerous situations and major repair expenses. Even small issues with boat gauges or engine components can have a way of compounding one another and leading to problems at the worst times. Stay proactive about boat maintenance, and you will enjoy more time on the water and worry less about costly repairs. Follow these eight tips to keep your boat running smoothly.

1. Keep Your Battery Charged

If you leave your boat unused for longer than a month or so, make sure to consistently charge its battery. Batteries self-discharge when they sit too long, which happens faster the older the battery. Having a correct voltmeter can let you know the state of your battery, and using an ammeter lets you monitor if your battery is charging correctly or discharging too quickly. Take the time to charge it to full capacity every so often, especially if you go all winter without hitting the water. In addition, avoid letting your boat sit for long periods without running the motor.

2. Establish a Performance Baseline

It’s important to know what is considered normal performance for your particular vessel, especially as a new boat owner. Make a note of operating levels for idling, typical cruising speed and at wide open throttle. Start with your instrument panel and note the oil pressure, coolant temperature, battery voltage, and rate of fuel consumption. Many boaters find analog gauges best for monitoring, since the needle can be spotted at a glance. If your instrument panel includes a pyrometer or an exhaust temperature gauge, these also provide valuable information about your boat’s performance. 

You should also familiarize yourself with the normal operating temperature of engine oil, alternators, hydraulic systems, transmissions, shaft seals, battery chargers, and pumps. You can monitor temperatures with an infrared (IR) temperature gun.

3. Always Flush Your Boat Engine After Using It

Flushing your boat’s engine after each use is a must. Salt water or brackish water can corrode engine components, shortening the life of your engine. After a day of boating, run water through it for 10 minutes to clear any salt residue and scale. Check your owner’s manual for whether to do this with the engine running or not. Allowing it to accumulate will eventually impede the flow of cooling water through the engine, making your engine work harder than it should. It can also lead to the engine block freezing and cracking if you store your boat for the winter. Finally, take the time to wipe down the entire boat inside and out.

4. Clean Your Sea Strainers Frequently

Sea strainers filter plants and debris out of the water that cools your engine while under way. Keep it clean to maintain ample water flow and keep the engine running cool. Newer sea strainers are built with easy access to the filter, so you can simply remove and rinse it. On older boats you may have to disassemble the sea strainer, which is fairly simple. You can also coat your sea strainer with a foul release coating, which will inhibit debris from sticking to it as much, making for easier cleaning. You should clean your sea strainers regularly, and ideally after every outing during warm weather or if you boat in a lake or other waterway with dense plant growth.

5. Use the Correct Fuel

Different boats require different types of fuel, so it’s important to choose the correct one. Using the wrong one could damage your engine and fuel tank. Your boat may take diesel, ethanol-free or E10, which contains 10% ethanol, so check your owner’s manual if you are unsure. Boat mechanics warn against using E15, which contains 15% ethanol and can cause severe engine damage.

6. Check the Oil and Transmission Fluid Regularly

Running low on key fluids can cause serious engine damage, so check your oil and transmission fluid levels regularly. Some mechanics recommend checking your oil every time you take your boat out. Your owner’s manual should indicate frequency for changing your oil and oil filter, but generally you should do so every 50 hours of run time. Aim for changing your transmission fluid every 250 hours of run time or at least once per season.

7. Monitor Your Engine Room or Engine Compartment

Take care of your engine room and it will take care of your engine. Conduct routine checks, following a checklist of gauges and indicators to monitor each time you take the boat out. If you don’t have an engine room, you can use an IR temperature gun to take temperatures on important features. It is also important to make sure your engine room is properly ventilated to enable ample airflow to the engine. To know if your engine room is getting enough airflow, compare the temperature there to the outdoor temperature. The engine room air should get no more than 30 degrees warmer than outdoors.

8. Practice Preventive Maintenance and Diagnose Issues Promptly

Your best bet for overall preventive maintenance is to thoroughly familiarize yourself with the owner’s manual. Know the scheduled maintenance requirements and frequency for your boat. Avoid excessive hours of run time, long periods of storage, or running in shallow waters without carefully following the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Look for KUS Marine Gauges and Instrumentation

KUS marine components are manufactured to the highest standards, offering outstanding performance and precision along with exceptional value. If you find that a gauge, fuel level sender,  or other instrument is causing problems, talk to us to help diagnose and replace it. We offer a wide range of NMEA certified products. Browse our marine components here or talk to your mechanic about outfitting your boat with KUS products.

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