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Safe Boating Tips

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Get Your Boat Ready

The most important resource you have is your owners manual. If you don’t have a manual here are some helpful tips to prepare you for an upcoming boating trip.

Change the engine oil and spark plugs

Many boat manufacturers recommend that, in addition to regular scheduled oil changes, you change the engine oil and filter twice a year: prior to storage and in the spring. During storage, the oil can separate, causing a condensation buildup that may harm your engine. While you’re changing the oil, replace the spark plugs. Use a gap setting tool to set the gaps according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Prepare the outdrive

The outdrive has many parts that need your attention. Check or change the oil in the gear housing, inspect the seals for signs of deterioration, check the power steering oil level and grease the entire drive.

Check the battery

Clean the cables and terminals with a wire brush and reconnect. Depending on your battery, you may have to fill the cells with distilled water.

Flush the cooling system

If you drained the cooling system and filled it with a mixture of antifreeze and water to prevent freezing during storage, you need to flush and replace with a proper coolant. Be sure to check for cracks in all hoses and replace if necessary.

Check the fuel system

Replace the fuel filter and examine the fuel lines for cracks. Make sure the lines are connected and supported with approved clips and straps. Also inspect fuel tanks and pumps for leaks.

Perform other basic maintenance

Be sure to check the belts for signs of wear and tear. Inspect the bilge pump, adjust the steering cables and check all navigational equipment.

Prepare the trailer

If you plan to tow your boat, don’t forget to inspect the trailer. Check the tires and spare for cracks, worn treads and correct tire pressure. Check and grease the hubs. The backup and taillights should be tested. If needed, replace the bulbs and cracked wires. You also may want to operate the winch to be sure it is working properly.

Prepare the safety equipment

Even after all the mechanical components have been checked, you should never board a boat that does not have properly working safety equipment. Take the time to inspect personal floatation devices, check the expiration dates on fire extinguishers, replace old flares, test the radio and sound all warning horns.

Be sure you’re covered

After making all the routine checks listed above, be sure to check your insurance policy and review your coverages to make sure they meet your current needs. If you have added any equipment, you’ll want to make sure it is covered. It is also important to know how to report a claim to your insurance company.