Whether your boat is sitting on a trailer on dry land or in a slip on the water, it’s going to need a consistent amount of boat maintenance. Maintaining your boat is an essential part of boating so you better get used to it.

Here are eight essential boat maintenance chores you can use to keep your boat functioning smooth and looking clean all year round.

Rinse it with fresh water

Especially if your boat is in the ocean, it’s crucial that you rinse it off with fresh water after every outing. This will ensure that no salt builds up on the boat surface or any of the metal components that can possibly rust. It’s still a salty environment, of course, but rinsing the boat off each time will definitely keep the boat in better condition.

For freshwater boats, it’s still a good idea to rinse it off and remove any algae build up or other sea growth.

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Clean the bottom

Along with rinsing the boat off, when you have it out of the water, take a look for any barnacles or sea worms that need to be scraped off. These can usually be handled with a heavy strength all-purpose cleaning pad. If it’s any more substantial you will need to use a paint stripper most likely.

For boats in a slip, you will need to dive under your boat with a mask and preferably supplemental oxygen. If you’re not up to the task, you can typically pay a local service to clean your bottom. But even so, it’s a good idea to dive the boat now and then to inspect things.

Check the prop

Even sailboats have a motor, and any boat with a motor has a prop. This is the spinning the device that propels the boat forward. Unless it’s a jet boat, which uses a powerful spray of water as propulsion, your boat has a prop.

It’s a smart idea to inspect the prop each time the boat is hauled out of the water, or on a monthly basis when the bottom is cleaned. Check for kelp or fishing line wrapped up around the prop shaft that could be impeding on its motion. A fouled prop can put unneeded strain on the engine, shortening its lifespan and possibly lead to overheating.

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Check/change the oil

Checking the oil is a routine part of owning an engine with any age to it. Older engines tend to burn oil more often, so operators should get them more frequently. If it’s running low, top it off.

When the oil looks extremely black it’s probably a good time to change it. For this, since you can’t so easily just drain the oil, you will need to acquire a handheld oil pump, which sucks the oil out of the pan. You might not quite get it all, but it’s as good as it’s gonna get.

Fuel filter/water separator

After you’ve checked and possibly replaced the oil and oil filter. It’s a good time to also replace the two fuel filters. In most boats you’ll have a standard fuel filter similar to that you would see in a car.

Boat’s also have an additional in-line filter known as a water separator and this too has a filter. Both of these filters can be replaced with not much difficulty. Always keep extra filters on board also.

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Wash the decks

Like any good sailor, maintaining a boat starts with a good old fashioned deck wash. Use a biodegradable soap commonly found at West Marine or another boating store to ensure that you are following all appropriate rules by your marina.

Polish the rails

The stainless steel railings on boats are another sensitive spot that requires constant maintenance. A great product I have found that works wonders on oxydized stainless is called Barkeepers Friend. Just rub on a dollop and the railing shine like new.

Wood rails

Lastly, if your boat has wood rails, these also have to be constantly maintained. Before the varnish wears down continue to apply new layers of varnish at regular intervals. If you let it go too long, you will need to sand it down before varnishing again. Trust me, it’s easier to patiently layer on that varnish. You’ll learn the hard way.

Photo credit: Airmen cleaning the decks of the USS Harry Truman aircraft carrier. via Maxpixel