As winter gives way to spring and temperatures begin to rise, feelings of anticipation and excitement take hold of boaters and make them all but forget the long months of cold they’ve just endured. Finally, it’s time to get the boat out and ready for the season.
If you live in an area with any sort of sustained winter weather, chances are your boat is just sitting for at least a few months each year. Which means you’ve got a little work to do in the form of spring commissioning before you can drop your boat in the water and hit the throttle. If you took the time to service, clean up and winterize your boat properly in the fall, spring commissioning should be pretty fast and simple. But in any case, this is the time to take a good look at all aspects of your rig and address any issues that might have been missed at the end of the previous season.
In the short video down below, we’ll demonstrate how to go over your boat and trailer with a critical eye, take inventory of your gear and ensure that when you finally do hit the water the only thing you’ll have to worry about is what kind of bait to bring or where to beach your boat first.
The process will vary with different sizes and types of vessels, but in general spring commissioning should include the following:
- Check the air in your tires with a pressure gauge; the recommended pressure will be printed on the sidewall of each tire. Also look for signs of cracking and excessive tread wear. Don’t forget about the spare (and if you don’t have one, go get one).
- Ensure that your wheel bearings are in good condition and have plenty of grease.
- Assuming you took your batteries out of the boat and kept them charged in a protected storage area over winter, you’ll need to reinstall the batteries. It’s good practice to label your cables before removing the batteries to ensure everything gets put back on the correct post later. If you see any corrosion in the cable ends or battery terminals, treat it with a wire brush and a little dielectric grease to keep it from getting any worse. If you haven’t charged your batteries all winter, you may need to charge them before use.
- Inspect your propeller for any major dings and remove it to check for fishing line and other debris around the prop shaft. If you’re not familiar with the process of removing and reinstalling a prop, click here to learn how. If you have a trolling motor, you should also remove that motor’s propeller to make sure it’s free of fishing line.
- Hopefully you remembered to change your gear lube as part of your winterization process. If you didn’t change it in the fall, go ahead and do it now.
- For a four-stroke outboard, the same rules apply for the engine oil: It should have been changed in the fall, but if not, do so now. Assuming you changed the engine oil and filter at the end of last season, you’ll just need to check the fill level on the dipstick. Be sure the engine is trimmed straight up and down to get an accurate reading.
- Under the cowl you should see a label that details the maintenance intervals on things like your spark plugs and fuel filter (if not, your owner’s manual will have this information). Check to see if any such items are getting close to needing changed. It’s likely a lot more convenient to take care of any pending maintenance as part of your spring commissioning than in the middle of your boating season. (If you own a sterndrive- or inboard-powered boat, consult your owner’s manual for maintenance information.)
- Again, your trim fluid and hydraulic steering fluid reservoirs should have been topped off in the fall but check them anyway to ensure they are still full. If any grease fittings were missed in your winterization, go ahead and give them a few pumps with a grease gun now.
- Fill your fuel tank all the way up and treat it with the appropriate Mercury Fuel Care System product to ensure your fuel stays fresh and your fuel system is clean and free of buildup for optimal performance and reliability. Adding Mercury Quickare® Fuel Treatment is recommended with every fill-up since it cleans your fuel system and guards against the harmful effects of ethanol-blended fuel. It’s great for your tow vehicle as well.
- Take inventory of your safety gear and ensure that everything is in good working order. This equipment will include life jackets, a fire extinguisher, flares and other required items, as well as some combination of a first-aid kit, paddle, VHF radio or satellite phone, flashlights, spare batteries, air horn, whistle, rope bag and the like. This is merely a sample list. For a complete list of required safety gear, check out your state’s department of natural resources website. Note: Flares and fire extinguishers may have expiration dates, so make sure yours aren’t past their useful lives.
- Inspect the rest of your trailer to make sure nothing is amiss. Suggested areas of interest:
- Coupler, including the latch, locking pin and the bolts that attach it to the trailer tongue
- Safety chains
- Lights, including blinkers and brake light functionality
- Jack, which will need to be greased
- Lubricate the shafts and gears of the winch and inspect the strap for any signs of wear or rot
- Tie-down strap functionality and condition
If you have any reason to believe that any part of your boat or trailer is suspect, don’t hesitate to contact your local Mercury Authorized Dealer. Not only is this the safest course of action, it will be easier to get something fixed in a timely manner before the boating season begins in earnest.