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For many boat owners in seasonal climates, hauling the boat in the fall for winter storage is an annual routine. While it’s often tempting to get the boat hauled and put away, out of sight and out of mind; a little maintenance in the fall can go a long way towards avoiding headaches and delays when it’s time to launch in the spring. Even in temperate climates where the boat stays in the water year-round, an annual haul-out for maintenance is always a good idea. The product experts at Imtra have put together a guide to fall maintenance to help you keep all the systems on your boat functioning properly and efficiently.

 

Electrical System Maintenance

  1. Load test your batteries. Doing a high-amperage load test on your battery system is a good habit to get into annually. We all know batteries wear out over time and begin to lose power, but we often don’t know about it until something on board fails to run properly. That’s because a battery that is beginning to wear out can still power low-amperage demands like navigational electronics and LED lights, but will fail the first time you attempt to run a system that requires a lot of power like a bow thruster or anchor windlass. A high-amperage load test when the boat is hauled will give you an indication of what kind of loads your batteries can handle and help you determine if replacing one or more of them is necessary.
  2. Check fuses and circuit breakers. Fuses and breakers can also wear out from time to time, so it’s always a good idea to check that none of them have blown and that they can handle the proper electrical load that they are rated for. This is a particularly important step for electrical systems that you don’t use frequently, as fuse or breaker failures on regularly used electrical systems would have likely presented themselves during use.
  3. Check for corrosion. If your boat lives in salt water, nothing is completely safe from corrosion. Be sure to check all the electrical connections on board, both at the battery and at each electrical device. Replace the connections that have any signs of corrosion, and spray the clean ones with anti-corrosive spray to prevent any damage in the future.

BatteryBank

Anchoring System Maintenance

  1. Clean your anchor rode. If you use an all-rope or rope & chain anchor rode, it’s quite likely that a summer of anchoring has caused the rope to stiffen from getting wet and dry repeatedly, particularly if you anchor in salt water. A stiffened rode, especially where the rope meets the chain, makes it much harder for a windlass to grip the rode when retrieving the anchor. The best way to prevent the rope from stiffening is to soak it in a bucket with fresh water and fabric softener, as explained in the video below:

  1. Lubricate the windlass. If your windlass sits on deck, or in a locker that gets wet, it is also susceptible to corrosion, even if it is made of stainless steel. It’s always a good idea to disassemble the clutch cone assembly and grease all moving parts to keep it running smoothly.
  2. Remove topworks from deck and clean the deck underneath. One of the most common causes of windlasses seizing up is due to salt water getting between the deck and the windlass and getting trapped, causing severe corrosion. For that reason, it’s good to remove the windlass from the deck at the end of the season and clean the salt out from underneath.

 

Thruster Maintenance

  1. Replace the anodes. All thrusters have some sort of anode to prevent erosion, and those anodes should be replaced at least annually.
  2. Grease the propeller shaft. While you’re changing the anodes, it’s also a good idea to remove the propeller(s) and grease the shaft so that they can spin freely.
  3. Blow the carbon dust out of the motor. If your thruster motor is like most, it is a DC motor with carbon brushes that wear over time. This can leave a fine black dust around the area where the motor is mounted, as well as internally to the motor itself. Too much carbon dust buildup in the motor can cause it to fail. Remove the motor from the boat and use compressed air to blow the carbon dust out. Be sure to wear a mask during this process, as inhaling carbon dust can be very harmful.

Wiper Maintenance

  1. Clean and lubricate windshield wiper arms. Like the windlass, the metal wiper arms on the windshield of your boat are also exposed to the elements and can seize up with salt and corrosion. Check the pivot points for salt build-up and make sure they’re cleaned out and moving freely.
  2. Check the rubber blade for cracks. The rubber part of a wiper blade can crack from exposure to sun, which causes them to streak or not wipe properly, obscuring your view. If you find any damaged wiper blades be sure to replace that blade.

 

Plan & Schedule Winter Projects

If you have any long-term or labor-intensive projects planned for the winter, it’s a good idea to start contacting installers for quotes and scheduling that work as soon as the boat is out of the water. Boat yards and mobile installers in seasonal climates get extremely busy in the spring with last-minute projects, and many jobs never end up happening because an owner didn’t plan for the work far enough in advance. So take the time in the fall to sit down, research the equipment you plan to have installed, and get the work scheduled. For a good resource on projects to consider, check out the rest of Imtra’s Learning Center.

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