- … with some regular checks and ongoing TLC, not only will you ensure a pleasurable time out on the water, you’ll keep your kit in tip-top condition.
- The biggest cause of problems inside any boat is the cold, damp environment that we operate in.
- Invest in a decent cover that keeps rain and moisture out but still allows air to flow through it.
A few hours of
basic care and maintenance every so often can help keep your boat operating
safely and without issues. RYA powerboat trainer Graham Stones shares a few of
his key maintenance tips to keep things ticking over …
You don’t need to be a professional to carry out most
simple tasks that will help make your days afloat more pleasurable. These tasks
can play a big part in making your boat a nice place to be and even help
maintain resale values.
A badly maintained trailer could put paid to an enjoyable
day afloat before you even get to the slipway. Consider getting your trailer
serviced regularly by a professional as you would with your outboard engine or
Check the condition of brakes and bearings regularly.
Flush them through thoroughly with fresh water after each dunking. Fitting a
flushing kit makes this a lot easier. If there is a grease nipple on the wheel
hub, pump some fresh grease in there regularly.
Check that all the rollers roll freely and aren’t damaged,
which can lead to damage to the hull or difficulty launching and recovering.
Replace any rollers that don’t roll and swinging arms that don’t swing.
Give the tow hitch a bit of attention occasionally. A bit
of grease inside the hitch reduces noise and vibration when towing. A liberal
spray with WD-40 will keep the hitch lock mechanisms operating easily.
Similar care can help keep your winch operating
efficiently. Lubricate the moving parts and keep an eye on the condition of the
winch strap and hook. Replace at the first sign of any wear and tear or UV
damage, as there’s nothing more embarrassing than a boat that’s rolled off its
trailer halfway down a slipway due to a failed £15 winch strap. Don’t forget
the secondary means of attachment for the boat to the trailer and trailer to
the car. Again, cheap to replace, expensive if it fails.
Keep your bottom clean and shiny. We all like better
performance and less fuel consumption, but a good clean and polish allows you
to become intimate with your hull and spot any small signs of damage before
they become bigger problems.
Try to repair any knocks or damage to gelcoat above or
below the waterline as soon as possible to prevent water ingress into the fibreglass
laminate and core, beneath which can lead to more serious structural problems.
Gelcoat repair products that come in tubes with a hardener are good for this as
they are easy to mix and go off quickly. Small enough to fit in any tool kit or
locker on board, it doesn’t matter if it’s not pretty or a good colour match
for a temporary repair, but it could prevent a much bigger fix being necessary
if water gets in where it shouldn’t. It could just be a quick repair, so you
can carry on enjoying the day’s boating and then fix properly the following
week or at the end of the season.
The tubes on your RIB are an expensive part of the boat.
They can be kept in good condition with a simple bit of care every so often.
There are many good cleaning and aftercare products available now that will get
even the dirtiest and saddest-looking tubes looking like new. The cleaning
products are simple to use – spray the product on, leave for a short time,
clean with a kitchen scourer to remove surface dirt and nastiness around joints
and handles and other fittings, and hose off with clean water to finish. This
can remove all sorts of mould, oxidation, stains and growth that get in the
nooks and crannies, leaving your RIB looking 10 years newer than it is. You’ll
be amazed what a couple of hours can do to improve the appearance of your pride
Like a modern car, there is not much in terms of major
servicing or repairs that can be done on a modern 4-stroke outboard or diesel
inboard without a laptop to plug in running some expensive software. You’re
best advised to leave the major servicing and repairs to the experts rather
than risk further problems later down the line. However, there are some basic
tasks that we can undertake as amateurs that will get us more familiar with our
equipment and perhaps allow us to spot potential issues before they develop
further. Next time your engine is being serviced, ask the mechanic if you can
watch and ask questions.
Get yourself familiar with and use the grease nipples for
the steering and tilt mechanisms regularly, using marine-grade grease.
Check and top up the fluid in hydraulic steering systems
if it is getting low or the steering feels ‘clicky’ when turning or soft when
at full lock. It should be smooth through the turn and the wheel should stop
turning at full lock. Air in the system isn’t good and may need bleeding –
again a simple job with a filling kit, which is cheap to buy or easy to
If you have cable steering, keep the helm end of the
cable well lubricated inside the console, and the same with the steering arm at
the other end. Check that it has not been bent by mooring lines or towlines
caught round it. The cable can be withdrawn from the engine steering tube using
a big adjustable spanner, and any dried grease can be removed easily with WD-40
and a rag, and then new grease applied to keep things operating smoothly.
Check the condition of your prop. Remove any sharp bits
of damage with a file. Significant damage can be repaired by a prop specialist
at relatively modest rates. If you operate in waters with lots of fishermen,
check your prop shaft for signs of fishing line. This can get wound in behind
the prop into the gearbox shaft seal, allowing seawater into the gearbox oil,
which emulsifies and loses all its lubricating properties. Five minutes spent removing
the prop for a quick check can save a fortune having your gearbox internals
rebuilt. Replace the thrust washers etc. in the order you remove them from the
shaft, and don’t forget a bit of grease on the prop shaft and a new split pin
when putting it all back together.
If you leave your boat for long periods, give
consideration to your fuel system to reduce problems next time you are out. Try
to leave tanks full to reduce air in them and any likelihood of moisture from
condensation. Use a fuel treatment to help prevent diesel bug or stabilise
petrol, which suffers from evaporation of its different chemical components
over time when sat in a tank and can affect performance as the ethanol and
octane levels change. Vented tanks suffer more problems than sealed tanks as
they allow more evaporation.
Check that the kill cord switch functions correctly each
time you go afloat and replace any worn, overstretched or UV-damaged kill cord
lanyards with an original manufacturer’s kill cord from a local engine parts
dealer – or they are also now available from the RYA online shop.
The biggest cause of problems inside any boat is the cold,
damp environment that we operate in. This can lead to everything from bad
smells and mould to corrosion of vital electrical equipment. Try to get fresh
air through the inside of cabins and lockers as often as possible. Invest in a
decent cover that keeps rain and moisture out but still allows air to flow
through it. Where possible, leave hatches, lockers, seat pods etc. open to
allow things to dry out inside. Lift seat cushions and jockey seat bases to
allow air to circulate round them and water to drain out, which doesn’t happen
if they are left flat. Give everything a liberal flushing with fresh water every
so often to remove any salt, which attracts moisture and stops things drying out
completely. Clean and lubricate any zips on covers and upholstery etc. to get
rid of any salt and keep them moving freely.
If you have a cabin and power available nearby, leave a
small dehumidifier and tube heater running with any other cabin and locker
doors open to keep the inside living space dry and smelling fresh next time you
step on board. Drain the dehumidifier into a sink or other outlet for continued
use. The small amount of power consumed will make the cabin a much nicer place
to be and help retain resale value later down the line.
Over the winter, try to transfer as many things as
possible from lockers etc. to somewhere dry at home – in the garage or attic, perhaps
– to give you the chance to wash them and dry them properly ready for next
Don’t scrimp on cheap electrical fittings, which may be
fine at home or in an automotive environment, but will let you down in a damp,
salty boat. Use sealed marine connectors and decent tinned cable rather than
cheap crimped connectors and basic copper wire.
So, with some regular checks and ongoing TLC, not only will you ensure a pleasurable time out on the water, you’ll keep your kit in tip-top condition.
Want to know more about engine maintenance? The RYA’s
Diesel Engine course is a one-day beginner’s course aimed at helping you
prevent and solve diesel engine failure. You can find out more at www.rya.org.uk/go/courses.