Sometimes life throws us a curve and we have to put some tasks on the ‘back burner’ but if you have not winterized your boat, motor, and trailer, you are really behind schedule.
Boats are frequently described as a ‘hole in the water where you put time and money’. Moreover, they have a nasty habit of developing a problem just when you need them most. It does not have to be that way. Many problems with boating and trailering are easily thwarted with a few timely preventive measures.
Here are some tips that should make this year’s boating more trouble free.
Fuel begins breaking down in two or three weeks causing gum deposits in the carburetor and clogged filters and fuel containing ethanol can absorb water. Adding a fuel conditioner like Sta-Bil for Ethanol every time you put fuel in the boat will help alleviate the problem.
For long-term storage, follow the manufacturer’s recommendation. Sta-Bil and similar products are available at most boat dealerships, auto parts stores, and the automotive section in many discount stores.
Boat and trailer lights can fail to illuminate as they age. Spraying WD-40 or Corrosion-X on the bulb contacts and harness connectors will clean and protect these parts for six to 12 months. If the trailer is old it might be time to invest in new LED fixtures and wiring, these bulbs are extremely reliable.
Another way to keep trailer light connectors from corroding is to insert ‘dummy’ plugs into their connectors. Purchase an extra trailer connection harness and cut the wires off each connector. Now you have a set of ‘dummy’ plugs, install one on the trailer and the other on the tow vehicle and the connectors will not corrode again.
Surge brakes usually have two actuator grease fittings located on the tongue just behind the hitch. Lube these with a grease gun filled with quality waterproof grease.
Trailer wheel bearings also need TLC. At least every 5,000 miles greased bearings need repacking, oil hub bearings can go much longer but the level should be checked every time before towing.
While towing, anglers should pull over in a safe area every three or four hours to feel the hubs, check the hitch, safety chains, and lights.
Batteries should be kept charged with an onboard charger. Most bass boats have built-in chargers but pleasure craft do not. Maintaining the batteries at full charge keeps them from freezing in the winter and helps prevent sulfide from building up on the plates.
An easy way to keep them charged in a pleasure craft is to install an on-board automatic charger. Look for a low power unit that turns on and off automatically. Both Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s sell these units, and for less than half the price of a damaged battery, you can keep it charged at all times.
Lead-acid batteries should be checked at least once a month to make sure they have the appropriate water level. If water is needed, always use distilled water, never tap or lake water. Impurities will destroy a battery in a short time.
Some boat batteries are almost impossible to refill because of their location. A flashlight, mechanic’s mirror, and a homemade filler tube can make the job much easier. Purchase a few feet of clear plastic tubing and a fuel-line squeeze bulb and splice the bulb into the tubing. Then put the siphon end into a gallon jug of distilled water, the other end into each battery cell and pump.
Launching and loading frequently is a strain to every boater’s rig. One of the first things to wear out is the carpet on trailer’s bunks. Sometimes the wooden bunks rot and need replacement. For the longest life, replace them with CVA treated lumber and bunk carpet made specifically for trailers. The bunks will not rot and the carpeting will last much longer, lessening the chance of damage to your boat’s hull.
Keeping these tools and parts in your boat could prevent you from being stranded on the lake – a prop wrench and spare locking washer, spark plug wrench, spark plugs, and jumper cables.
Other items to keep on the boat are; spare bulbs for running and dash lights, spare fuses and fuse puller, flashlight, adjustable pliers, crescent wrench, and two sizes of flat and Phillips head screwdrivers.
Here is an important safety item. To meet U.S. Coast Guard safety requirements, boats must have a fire extinguisher installed where it is easily accessible to the driver or passenger. Check it before each outing and follow the instructions to verify it is charged and in good condition.
This year marks 40 years of boating for me, these tips are a result of unfortunate experiences and some problems that were, I am happy to say, prevented.