As the temperature in Las Vegas starts to hit triple-digits it’s a great time to plan those fun boating trips to Lake Mead with family and friends. Before hitting the water, make sure you take a few safety precautions to ensure your watercraft is ready for the season.
1. Check the engine oil and other fluids
Oil is the lifeblood of any engine and it is especially important for a watercraft motor that sees sustained high rpm use. Check the oil level every time you use the boat. Also make sure to have the oil changed by a professional mechanic at least once a season, or every 100 hours of use. A good mechanic will also perform a complete inspection of the other engine and related components which can help prevent other unforeseen problems while on the water.
Don’t forget to check the hydraulic fluid level as well. Most stern drive watercraft use hydraulic fluid (often power steering fluid) to steer the outdrive and adjust trim. This fluid can become contaminated over time and should be changed periodically.
2. Inspect and polish the fiberglass hull
It’s a good idea to periodically check your fiberglass hull for any stress cracks or deterioration. Pay particular attention to the keel and other areas below the water line, where damage is more difficult to detect. Inspect the transom carefully for any signs of cracking where the outboard or sterndive is mounted.
Take a few hours to give the fiberglass a good polish and waxing. Use a fiberglass rated polish that is safe for the gelcoat, such as Meguiars boat polish or Star Brite marine wax. A regular coating of wax will help prevent oxidation of the gel coat and keep you watercraft looking new.
3. Inspect and service the outdrive and prop
Your outdrive lives a rough life and needs regular attention to seals and bearings. In addition, the prop can be damaged by sand, rocks or even the concrete and the slip (ever forget to raise your outdrive when trailering the boat?). Make it a habit every year to have the prop shaft greased and the prop inspected for damage. The gear lube inside the outdrive should also be changed yearly. A good mechanic will inspect the old lube for signs of water contamination or metal filings, both of which could indicate problems with the outdrive.
Every 2-3 years the outdrive unit should be removed and the gimbal bearing and driveshaft should be serviced and inspected. This is best left to a qualified mechanic that can properly align the outdrive with the driveshaft. The mechanic should also check the engine coupler for damage, wear and proper lubrication.
Outdrive units also have a small water pump impeller that should be replaced every year. If this impeller fails, your engine will overheat quickly and potentially leave you stranded. Replacing the impeller is a simple job on some types of outdrives and very complicated on others. An internet search can tell you if it is DIY job for your boat, or best left to a qualified mechanic.
4. Give your boat insurance a tune-up
Lastly, don’t forget to make sure you have the proper insurance for your boat, PWC or jet ski. A quality watercraft insurance policy provides coverage for liability, medical payments for watersports, coverage for damage to the hull and motor while in our out of the water, and contents coverage for skis and fishing gear. Of course we recommend you contact Safeguard Insurance for a no-obligation quote and coverage evaluation.
Following these maintenance tips should help you have a safe and trouble-free boating season!