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three friends jump off boat into water

You spent the winter months dreaming of being out on the water and it’s finally here: beautiful weather you can enjoy on your boat. Before you set sail, make sure your boat and your boating equipment are prepped and ready for the season by following these tips:

  • Give your boat an inspection. Even if you store your boat in a protective shelter, it’s still possible it sustained damage over the winter. Before heading to your marina or favorite ramp, inspect your boat. Hoses and other rubber parts may have fallen victim to dry rot since your last time out. You should also check metal surfaces and electrical areas to be sure they haven’t been corroded by any moisture. 

    Last but certainly not least, give your hull and propellers a good look-over. This includes any kind of dings, cracks and distortion.

    Related: What is boat insurance and why do you need it?
  • Check your water pump’s rubber impeller. The rubber impeller helps your water pump deliver water to the engine to keep it cool. Check yours at least every two years (or 200 hours) to see if it needs to be replaced. When you inspect your water pump, make sure to look at the rubber impeller. A functioning unit will prevent your engine from overheating.

  • Belts and hoses should be checked. Much like your car, these items can break down or dry out. These are common items that could leave you stranded.

  • Make sure your fluids are full. Like your car, your boat needs several fluids to run. Make sure your oil, power steering, power trim, coolant and gear oil are all at satisfactory levels before you head out. You should change your oil before storage and not after. The fuel used in your boat should be ethanol free. (Be sure to change them if this wasn’t done before winterizing your boat.)

  • Test the battery. If your battery is more than four years old, it’s probably time for a replacement. Even if it’s not nearly that old, load test it before you head out. The last thing you want is to need a tow in the middle of open water.

  • Bring it to the experts for a tune-up. It’s worth having a professional take a look at your boat each year. Boat equipment, such as your engine, will probably require a tune-up after going months without use. The tune-up will also include a compression test and seal and water pump inspection. Your mechanic will also check the lubricant in the lower unit, inspect warning alarms and test the spark plugs.

  • Pack your safety gear. Packing for a day on the water should include more than just water skis and sunglasses. Make sure your boat has the appropriate boating equipment on board. This includes life jackets, fire extinguishers, visual distress signals, a bailer, an anchor, a first aid kit, a flashlight and a bell or whistle. You should also make sure to bring a fully charged cell phone with you whenever you head out. If you’ll have a pet with you, make sure they have a life jacket as well.
  • Inspect your hull and prop. Looks for cracks in the hull and damage to the prop. Also, be sure your drain plug is secure or the vessel could take on water. 

Read more: Boat Safety Best Practices

Once your boat is in ship-shape, there’s just one more thing you need to go over – your boat insurance policy. A quick chat with your Miller's agent can ensure you have one extra safety net in place ― and some peace of mind.

This story was originally published in 2014. It was updated with new information in 2019.

This article was brought to you by our friends at Erie Insurance. Miller's would like to extend its gratitude to Erie Insurance for both being a wonderful business ally and for letting us use the articles found on their blog, Eriesense.

Posted 11:00 AM

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