Top Boat Maintenance Tips for Ontario Boaters

Ontario Boat Maintenance Tips

Ontario is well-known as a haven for anyone who loves boating on the lake. Ontario boasts an astonishing number of lakes, more than 250,000 individual lakes that contain one-fifth of the fresh water in the world. Is it any wonder that many Ontarians dream of owning their own boat?

While the right boat may qualify as the ultimate recreational toy for Ontario boat owners, they require diligent monthly, quarterly and yearly maintenance to avoid costly repairs and keep the vessel in safe, operable conditions. Here are a few Ontario proper boat maintenance tips from the brokers at Morison Insurance on what you need to do to keep your boat clean and in excellent condition throughout the boating season, regardless of your boat type.

Monthly Boat Maintenance Tips

Some tasks need to be done once per month if you've been using your boat regularly, and others need to be completed each month even if (or primarily if) the boat has yet to be used that month. Here are some Ontario boat maintenance tips that boat owners should look into once per month.

Clean Boat Exterior

Whether you've used it recently or not, cleaning the exterior of your boat once per month can go a long way toward keeping it in great shape. It should be scrubbed with a non-abrasive soft bristle brush, fresh water and a gentle but high-quality boat soap that won't damage your gelcoat. If you use a pressure washer or power washer to clean a dirty hull, it must be on the softest pressure to avoid taking chunks out of your gel coat. Pressure washers can be damaging in the hands of an amateur, so consider having this professionally done if you've never used one before.

Clean Boat Interior

While you're busy cleaning the exterior, another great boat maintenance tip is to clean the interior as well to remove dirt, dust, salt and other substances that can eat away at interior finishes if left alone for too long. Wipe down surfaces, vacuum if necessary, and swab the deck with soapy water.

Your boat is a complex machine that contains many different types of materials, and not all of them should be cleaned and maintained exactly the same way. You likely have furniture components such as cushioned seating in your boat, and the most common upholstery material by far is vinyl, which is water-resistant, easy to clean and long-lasting. That being said, any fabric constantly in damp conditions will be susceptible to mould and mildew growth, so it's essential to include it in your boat maintenance checklist. This is a simple task—use a damp sponge or rag and a mild detergent to wipe down the dirty vinyl upholstery, get into all the crevices, and dry it with a soft rag. If you notice serious cracks or holes in the vinyl that expose the foam underneath, the vinyl should be replaced to avoid organic growth in the foam.

Your boat may also feature woodwork, a beautiful material that gives the interior a touch of luxury and natural charm. It's no secret that wood is susceptible to rotting when exposed to high moisture levels, but you can avoid that problem with extra attention. The wood used on boats is typically teak, a very durable tropical hardwood. Polish it with a mild cleaner specifically designed for teak wood, and watch for any spots where the sealant has worn off and left the wood underneath exposed. Some boats have uncoated teak. You can choose to leave it uncoated if you prefer and let it develop a grey patina over time.

Turn On Engine

Most people agree that boat engine maintenance is the most critical boat maintenance tips you can do to maintain your boat over the years. If you have yet to have the opportunity to turn on the boat engine over the last month, switch it on while you're working on your other boat maintenance tasks and let it run for 30 minutes while listening for any noises that indicate it's struggling. Make sure to also check for any visual engine damage as well. This would also be a great time to check that all gauges and monitors work. If anything is not acting normally, you may need to inspect the electrical lines and other electrical components for issues.

Pump Waste Tank

If your waste tank has been used since the last pump out, it must be pumped out monthly. Some boat owners choose to handle this boat maintenance task themselves, but you can also hire someone to take care of it if you're not willing or able to deal with it monthly.

Inspect Propeller

This is likely one of the most neglected Ontario boat maintenance tips, but it's also easy and fast if you have an outboard motor. Raise it and give it a careful propeller inspection, looking for dents, dings, nicks and other problems, such as fishing lines or plant matter tangled around the prop shaft. Many boat owners need to realize that even seemingly insignificant spots of damage on the propeller can reduce the boat's performance levels and cause it to use fuel inefficiently, ultimately costing you more money in fuel charges.

Quarterly Boat Maintenance Tips

Next, here are some Ontario boat maintenance tips that should be completed quarterly or once every three months. It's optional to do these things every month, but they should be done at least three to four times yearly to ensure good boat health and prevent deterioration or avoidable mishaps.

Check Fuel Line

Fuel lines don't last forever and can eventually develop cracks or holes that let fuel leak into the bottom of the vessel. That's obviously a waste of fuel, but the far more concerning aspect is that it could cause a fire that destroys the boat and leads to injuries or even fatalities. Especially if you have an older fuel line, take the time to check it thoroughly several times per year for any signs of damage, and have it replaced if you notice issues that could turn into more significant problems.

Check Battery

Dead batteries pose a massive problem for boat owners, and it's one of the most common reasons for needing rescue and a tow back to shore. The best way to avoid this stressful, expensive, and time-consuming problem is to check regularly to ensure your battery is charged, that it is still capable of holding its charge, and that it is fully topped up with distilled water. Also, look at the battery terminal connections to ensure they don't have corrosion and aren't coming loose. While you're thinking about batteries, test the batteries in smoke alarms and other smaller components to ensure they're working well and don't need to be replaced.

Examine The Hull for Damage

Once per quarter, examine your boat's hull for new signs of damage, such as dings or scratches, and check inside for any indications of a leak. While at it, ensure your bilge pump is operating correctly and that the bung plugs are securely in place.

Check Oil And Coolant Levels

It's essential to check your oil and other fluid levels three to four times per year, but you also need to take a look at the colour of your engine oil—just like a car, it needs to be replaced when it darkens. Conversely, if you notice it has a cloudy appearance or the oil level seems to be rising on its own, you need the help of a mechanic before the problem worsens. While you're doing your quarterly boat maintenance, also take the time to check coolant levels and make sure they're not too depleted.

Inspect Boat Trailer

After you've launched your boat, it doesn't hurt to take a few extra minutes to give your boat trailer a once-over. It's just as susceptible to damage as any other vehicle component, and it needs to be in great shape to safely transport your boat from point A to point B.

Yearly Boat Maintenance Tips

If you keep up with monthly and quarterly boat maintenance, there are only a few tasks left that need to be handled once per year. Here are a few yearly Ontario boat maintenance tips to keep in mind.

Polish Gelcoat

Regular cleaning is essential, but once per year, applying a coat of wax over your gel coat pays off to help keep it in pristine condition and give it the protection it needs from the effects of sunlight exposure, salt, grime and harmful bacteria. Proper maintenance is important because the gel coat can be costly to repair or replace properly.

Clean And Maintain Canvases

Wash your boat's canvas covers annually to remove any signs of mildew growth and grime build-up, and reapply waterproofing sprays or protective sealants while at it. Canvases should ideally be stored in a dry, clean location away from direct sunlight exposure.

Clean Potable Water Tank

This particular boat maintenance tip is sometimes forgotten, but it's an important step that could save you and your boat passengers from unpleasant health issues. Ensure your potable water tank is completely drained and cleaned correctly to kill off any organic growth, such as mildew or mould, that could be brewing in there and refill it with fresh, clean water so you're ready for your next outing.

Change Oils And Filters

This specific boat maintenance tip may require more frequent maintenance than once yearly, depending on how often you use your boat. Various filters, such as the oil, air, and fuel filters, must be changed annually or after the engine has been in operation for 100 hours, whichever comes first.

Maintain Waste Treatment System

In the monthly boat maintenance tips section, we mentioned above that your waste tank should be pumped monthly. Once per year, whether you have a storage tank system or a different type of waste disposal unit, such as an onboard sanitation system, it needs to be fully maintained and cleaned. Unless you've got a lot of experience with this type of work, it's usually best left to a professional who knows how to work safely and avoid contamination.

Annual Inspection

Throughout the above Ontario boat maintenance tips, we've covered a number of different components that need to be checked monthly, quarterly or annually. Giving the entire vessel a complete annual inspection and paying particular attention to safety check protocols is essential. This is another task that can be completed by a professional service who knows precisely what to look for if you do not have the confidence to follow all the steps of a safety check yourself or if you have physical mobility issues that prevent you from completing a thorough inspection.

Evaluating Boat Maintenance Costs

You may be wondering how much all this boat maintenance will cost you and if the expense of maintenance will add too much to the overall cost of boat ownership. Following the boat maintenance tips listed above is not all that costly. Suppose you are willing and able to take care of boat maintenance yourself monthly, quarterly and yearly. In that case, the cost will be more or less negligible—all you need is a pile of clean rags, a soft brush, wax and mild soap, and maybe a few more specialized products such as sealants and waterproofing sprays.

But as we noted above, some of these boat maintenance tips may be beyond the scope of your abilities, or you may prefer to leave all the tasks involved with boat maintenance to a professional so you can keep your attention and time focused on other matters. Even if you choose to have all the maintenance handled by a professional, you'll likely find that the cost of maintenance is around 10% of the total cost of the boat. This can vary based on the individual or company you choose to take care of regular maintenance. That may seem like a lot, but it's well worth it to protect your investment and keep it in excellent condition from bow to stern for many years to come.

Boat Storage Options

You may use your boat almost every day throughout the entire year, but most people need to have their boat in storage for anywhere from a few weeks to the majority of the year. There are multiple possibilities when it comes to storing your boat, and it's a good idea to investigate all the options carefully so you can choose the best one for your particular boat and circumstances.

You can store your boat on your own property, at a marina, or in a rented storage space. Here are three main types of storage options to think about when you're searching for the right option:

  • Outdoor Boat Storage: This option is an excellent choice for sailboats because they can be stored with the mast up, which generally isn't going to be possible with indoor storage, but any type of boat can be kept outdoors with the right precautions. The best course of action for long-term outdoor storage is to have a professional shrink-wrap the boat because if the shrink-wrap is applied correctly, it will cover the boat but give it enough room for ventilation. However, you can also share some coverage of your boat by simply constructing a wooden frame over it and covering the frame with plastic tarps.
  • Indoor Boat Storage: Indoor storage is the best option for maintaining your boat, as long as it's sized appropriately or you have a massive space available. Indoor storage could be in your own garage or in an outbuilding on your property, such as a barn or a pre-fabricated structure like a Quonset hut. If you don't have the room for that on your property, you can also consider renting an indoor boat storage space. Just make sure to choose a reputable storage company with a secure building.
  • Keep It On the Water: If you have a large boat, getting it out of the water and storing it on land may be difficult. In that case, storing your boat in the water at a marina is likely going to be the best choice to keep it safe and sound while still having it accessible when you actually do want to use it. Ontario weather can be unpredictable, but you can protect your boat against freezing temperatures with anti-ice devices that bring warmer water up from the bottom to the surface water around the boat.

Having The Right Boat Insurance

While this isn't precisely an Ontario boat maintenance tip, it's essential to know about it so you can be protected against losing your boat or suffering a significant financial setback in the event of a disaster that destroys or damages your vessel. Boat insurance is not mandatory in the same sense that the government legally requires auto insurance. Still, it's a severe mistake to go without it. Not only could your boat suffer severe damage that requires costly repairs, but boating also exposes you to significant liability risks that could result in legal action being brought against you in a court of law for causing third-party property damage or bodily injury.

Speak To Your Morison Insurance Broker About Boat Insurance

If you need insurance coverage for a new boat or you currently have coverage but suspect it is inadequate for your needs, call 1-800-463-8074 to chat with the knowledgeable, licensed brokers at Morison Insurance and find out more about the right boat insurance coverage. Then, you can rest easy knowing you have financial protection when you're out on your boating adventure.

This content is written by our Morison Insurance team. All information posted is merely for educational and informational purposes. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice. Should you decide to act upon any information in this article, you do so at your own risk. While the information on this website has been verified to the best of our abilities, we cannot guarantee that there are no mistakes or errors.

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