Photo credit: Colleen Fettig
It’s time to start getting ready for the upcoming boating season! We’ve put a list of items together to help you prep for hitting the water. This checklist is meant to be a guideline only, but should be a great place to start!
Spring Start-Up Checklist
- Boat registration
- Boat insurance
- Fishing licenses
- Trailer tags
Life Jackets: Check with your local, state, and federal regulations for exact requirements.
- Do you have enough life jackets on board? Correct sizes for everyone? What about pets?
- Check life jackets for ripped or missing parts and replace as needed.
- Check expiration dates on the Co2 cartridges for self-inflating life jackets.
Fire Extinguisher: Check state and federal regulations for requirements.
- Fully Charged? Check expiration date listed on gauge of the extinguisher for charge status. Replace if needed.
- Properly mounted in place with easy access?
- Correct size/type for your boat?
Flare Kits: Check local, state, and federal regulations for exact requirements.
- Check expiration dates. Replace as needed.
- Check state of charge level and charge as needed.
- Examine exterior for cracks, dirt, and corrosion on the terminals.
- Clean battery terminals with fine grit sandpaper or wire brush to remove corrosion.
- Spray WD-40 on the connection after cleaning to inhibit seasonal corrosion.
- Clean cables and connection ends. Check for fraying.
- Secure all batteries in the boat per manufacturer standards and tighten battery connections.
Ropes, Anchor Lines, and Fenders:
- Check ropes and anchor lines for damage and/or deterioration. Replace as needed.
- Check that all fenders are still holding air after the winter.
Electrical Connections: Check all electrical components after battery is charged and installed.
- Running lights
- Depth finders
- Trolling motor
- Run bilge pumps and aerators.
- Examine boat hull for any cracks, distortions, and/or blisters.
- Make sure all drain plugs fit tightly. Check rubber seals/gaskets for cracks.
- Check water intake aerator, live well inlets, and bilge pump water outlets. Free any blockages/obstructions.
- Examine all deck drain scuppers and underwater thru-hull fittings for damage from docks or debris.
- Check propeller for cracks, pitting distortion, and dings.
- Check the propeller lock nut and cotter pin making sure the grip of the propeller is secure.
- Inspect the fuel line for dry rot, brittleness, cracking, and any loose clamp connections.
- Check fuel tank for any leaks.
- Replace either if you find leakage or smell gas.
- Inline and engine-mounted fuel filters should be replaced.
Check Fluid Levels:
- Motor oil
- Power steering
- Power trim and tilt reservoirs
Cable Hoses, Clamps, Equipment:
- Remove the cover and inspect all cables, hoses, and clamps, and make sure there are no cracks, swells, or loose clumps.
- Check pump operations, checking for cavitation, cracking, etc.
- Check that the float switch for your bilge pump is operational with the battery switches in the off position.
Spark Plugs: Replace as needed.
Before Heading Out: Test your motor at home before heading out to the launch. Use an outboard motor flusher or cups that mount on the water intake portion of the lower housing. The motor flusher has a connection for a garden hose, allowing you to run the motor off of the water.
Without your trailer, you wouldn’t be able to get your boat to the water. Spring is a good time to check over your trailer so you don’t have any problems while towing your boat.
Tires: Inspect for tread wear and separation before each use.
- Tires properly inflated? What about the spare?
- Check the torque on the lug nuts.
- Check for brake shoe wear on trailers that have trailer brakes.
- Make sure everything inside the drum remains free. Trailers are submerged in water repeatedly and may rust or lock up inside the drum.
- Replace any worn or needed parts.
Bearings: Pack wheel bearings as needed.
Rollers & Bunks: Check rollers & bunks for breaks or cracks. Replace as needed.
Lights: Check all running and brake lights.
- Replace brown bulbs immediately.
- Always unplug trailer lights before launching or loading to avoid brown bulbs.
- Upon inspection, if no lights work, check wiring and ground on trailer with a test light to find the problem and repair it.
Winch: Check winch strap and cable. Replace worn or frayed straps.
- Inspect frame for cracked joints or rusted pits in the metal. Repair as needed.
- Inspect axles and springs. Repair as needed.
Now you’re ready to go enjoy the coming warmth and sunshine on your well-prepped boat! Always know the weather before you go, and be safe on the water!