Just like our cars, our boats need regular maintenance to run smoothly and safely. With proper boat care and upkeep, you can expect your vessel to last a long time and provide many memories, whether you go boating on lakes, rivers or seas.

Essential boat maintenance goes beyond a visual inspection of your boat every time you head out. You’ll also want to care for your boat after every outing, as well as follow a regular maintenance schedule. Fortunately, many upkeep-related tasks are manageable for most boat owners and do not require a mechanic. However, if you do find you need assistance or a major repair, we recommend turning to the pros so you can enjoy your boat safely. In the meantime, let us help you make the most of your boat.

In this boat care guide, we’ll cover the basics. We’ll show you how to maintain a boat, share boat cleaning tips, answer common questions, and more. When you take good care of your boat, you can enjoy a day of water and sky whenever the mood strikes.


Generally speaking, boat maintenance involves keeping your boat clean and lubricated. Just as you wouldn’t drive your car without engine oil, you wouldn’t want to take your boat out for a ride without proper fluid levels. Likewise, you probably know weather and debris can damage your car’s exterior over time. The same principle applies to boats. For example, a fiberglass boat with a dirty exterior will turn chalky if you don’t wash and wax it regularly.


It’s critical to keeping your boat’s exterior clean for several reasons, besides showcasing its beauty. For one, keeping your boat clean helps prevent the spread of invasive species. You never know what plant or animal hitched a ride on your boat, so it’s essential to clean your boat every time to protect our waterways.

Secondly, keeping your boat clean protects the structure of the boat by keeping the finish intact. Over time, the salt from the sea will begin to erode, causing abrasions and scratches that could be costly to remove.

Lastly, a clean boat simply performs better. A dirty hull can increase fuel costs by as much as 30%. Aim to clean your boat on land to prevent polluting the water if possible. If you need to clean your boat in the water, use safe products, and avoid toxic substances. No matter where you clean your boat, you will need to rinse it with fresh, clean water to remove the salt.

Not sure where to start in the cleaning process Here are some additional cleaning tips for different types of boat materials.

Fiberglass: Most fiberglass boats have a glossy gel coat finish that protects the fiberglass from salt, sun and other weather elements. You can tell that a gel coat finish needs attention when it takes on a chalky appearance. To keep your fiberglass boat in good condition, make sure to wax or polish it with waxes designed to protect the gel coat. Aim to apply a coat of wax twice a season, preferably in the spring and before you store your boat for the winter. Other than waxing your boat occasionally, make sure to wash away dirt and salt after every outing. Use soap designed for boats and a gentle brush or sponge.

Canvas: Canvas is the general term used to describe the fabrics used in cockpits, boat covers and other parts of the boat. Proper care will keep canvas looking great, and will help the material last longer by keeping its waterproofing properties intact. You can clean canvas using a light brush, mild soap, and freshwater. If your canvas has polyvinyl chloride (PVC) windows, never clean the PVC with ammonia-based products. Ammonia will damage the material over time, so it’s best to clean clear PVC with a specialty cleaner.

Upholstery: You likely have vinyl-covered seating in your boat, since vinyl is durable and easy to clean. Regularly wipe down and clean the seats in your boat to prevent dirt buildup, mold, and mildew. Wet a sponge with mild, soapy water, wipe down the seats, wipe away soap residue with a clean, damp cloth, then dry the seats with a clean, soft cloth. If possible, keep the vinyl seats covered or stored away between outings.

Woodwork: Though wood is typically less common in modern boats, older boats may have some woodwork in handrails, steps, decks or other parts of the boat. Usually, these wooden components are teak, which is a durable tropical hardwood. Clean the teak occasionally with the mildest cleaner designed for teak. Using a soft bristle brush, lightly scrub the teak going across the grain to help keep it in top condition.


Proper storage is critical to protecting your boat from weather-related damage, especially during the winter. The point is to keep ice, snow, and rain out of your boat, while at the same time allowing airflow, so mildew doesn’t build up. You’ll also want to prepare your boat for weeks of inactivity, so it functions properly when it’s time to set sail again. Here are some storage options to consider.

Outdoor: Outdoor storage is a popular method and allows boat owners to store sailboats with the masts up. Outdoor storage requires a proper cover to protect your boat from the elements. The best way to keep your boat outdoors is to hire a professional to shrink-wrap your boat. Proper shrink-wrapping ensures your boat remains covered and ventilated at the same time. You can cover your boat yourself by fitting a tarp over a wooden frame and placing this over the boat.

Indoor: Indoor storage is an excellent option because it protects your boat from the weather and the sun. If you do not have room to store your boat in your garage, consider renting a storage unit for the winter. You might also consider dry-stack storage. If you store your boat at a dry-stack storage facility, you’ll keep your boat on a rack in a covered building – just be sure to choose a secure building.

On the water: Many harbors offer boat storage in the water year-round. Bubblers or de-icers, which bring warmer water from the bottom up to the surface, can protect your boat against ice. Storing your boat on the water may be a practical option if you have a larger vessel and deep water.

Once you’ve decided where to store your boat, follow these tips to prepare your boat for storage. You’ll reduce the amount of work you’ll need to do when it’s time to sail:

  • Properly clean your boat.
  • Replace cracked hoses.
  • Lubricate spark plug holes.
  • Replace inline fuel filters.
  • Fill the tank to at least 90% and add anti-bacterial stabilizing agents to the fuel.
  • Disconnect the battery and store it in a cool, ventilated area.
  • Remove all food.
  • Clean the propeller and shaft and inspect them for damage.
  • Apply grease to the shaft.
  • Open the drain plugs to allow precipitation to drain out.
  • Leave water faucets and valves open.
  • If the boat has a refrigerator, keep the door open.
  • Flush the engine, water lines, and water tanks with fresh water to remove the salt.
  • Top off the antifreeze.

You don’t have to be a mechanic to maintain your boat’s motor. By taking preventive measures, you can keep your engine running for a long time, and you can preserve the value of your boat. Before you perform engine maintenance, it’s a good idea to check your manufacturer’s recommendations first. With that said, here are a few general tips for caring for an outboard motor before every trip:

  • Check that you have fuel and that the fuel tank vent is open.
  • Make sure the engine mount screw clamps are tight and secure.
  • Ensure the water intake is free of debris.
  • Check your propeller for caught fishing line and excessive oil buildup.

After every single trip, whether you travel in saltwater or freshwater, you’ll want to flush the motor to eliminate sand, dirt, and other debris.

To do so correctly, take these steps:

  • Buy “earmuffs” or a motor flushing attachment.
  • Slip the earmuffs onto the water intake and attach a garden hose.
  • Start the engine and allow the water pump to do the work.
  • While you’re cleaning your motor, make sure the water pump has good flow by carefully feeling the temperature of the water stream.
  • The water shouldn’t be hot, and the output should be strong.
  • If the water pump isn’t functioning properly, shut the engine down, and insert a piece of wire into the flow tube to remove debris.
  • Restart the engine and re-check the flow — if the output is still weak, it’s time to replace the water pump.
  • After flushing the engine, disconnect the fuel line.
  • Allow the engine to burn all the fuel in the carburetor.
  • Turn off the key and battery switch.
  • Wipe everything down and spray with an anti-corrosive agent.
  • Replace the cowling and wipe it down.
  • Keep a canvas or plastic cover on the motor between trips.

Here are more boat maintenance tips to apply regularly:

  • Replace spark plugs as needed.
  • Regularly check for water in the fuel.
  • Keep an eye on the engine’s oil level.
  • Check the fuel lines for cracks and wear.
  • Check the propeller and engine belts for wear, and replace them as needed.
  • Replace damaged fuel hoses.
  • Check the fuel primer bulb for cracks.
  • Inspect clamps for rust.
  • Make sure the tank vent is clear, with no blockages.
Boathouse Marine Center Specializes In Boat Storage, New & Used Boats For Sale & Boat Repairs
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Why get outboard service and indoor storage with Boathouse Marine Center?

With factory-certified mechanics, the latest tools and software, and the availability to drop off your boat by land or by water, Boathouse Marine Center is the logical choice for servicing your boat. Contact our service manager in the form below for a quick estimate or check out our fixed pricing on all Suzuki, Yamaha, and Mercury Outboards.

Interested in Storage?

Fill out a contact form or give us a call at 954.943.3200 and we will be glad to assist you in maintaining the pristine look of your boat. We are currently running a special on low profile storage. Call and mention this post to receive half of your first month’s rent at 50% off.*

*This offer is only valid until January 15th, 2021*