10 Steps to Prepare for a Safe Boating Season - Boat Insurance Home Page
Just imagine, in a matter of a few weeks – or days – you could be basking in the sunshine from the deck of your boat. But there’s a lot of work involved in getting your boat – and your paperwork, including insurance – in good shape before heading out for the first adventure of the season, according to an area independent insurance agent.
Insurance Plus Agencies, LLC, who represents over 10 insurance companies including Progressive, offers a 10-point checklist for all boat owners who are ready to hit the water:
1. Make sure your insurance is watertight. The best first step in getting ready for the boating season is to review your insurance coverage. Did you purchase a new boat or equipment at a winter boat show?
It’s important to review your coverage on an annual basis to make sure your needs are adequately reflected in your insurance policy. Spring is a great time to contact an independent agent for help in finding the combination of coverage, price and service that is best for you.
Another important insurance "maintenance" task is determining the level of service your current or prospective insurer will provide if you ever have to file a claim. Progressive Insurance Companies, one of the largest boat insurers in the country, offers 24/7 claims services and specialized claims representatives. Other insurers might require you to leave a message on an answering machine if you’re in an accident, and may use the same representatives for auto and boat claims. An independent agent can help you identify an insurer that will provide the support you expect.
2. Change the engine oil and spark plugs. Many engine manufacturers recommend changing the oil and filter twice a year -- prior to storage and in the spring. The preseason oil change eliminates condensation within the engine to prevent lubrication breakdown. It’s also wise to replace the spark plugs on an annual basis; be sure to use the type of plug (copper- or platinum-tipped, for example) recommended by the manufacturer and set the specified plug gap using a gap setting tool. Also, avoid over-tightening the plugs; if you strip the threads in the plug ports, you’ll face an expensive repair.
3. Prepare the outdrive. Check or change the oil in the gear housing, inspect the seals for signs of leaks or deterioration, check the power steering oil level and grease the entire drive. (Use the manufacturer’s recommended lube.)
4. Check the battery. Hopefully, you removed, stored and charged the battery during the off-season. If so, you may only need to clean, inspect and grease the terminals and battery cables prior to reinstalling the battery. If your battery has refillable cells, you may need to add distilled water; check your owner’s manual for filling specifications.
5. Flush the cooling system. As part of your end-of-season maintenance, you should have filled the cooling system with a mixture of antifreeze and water to prevent freezing. Now you’ll need to flush and replace it with a proper coolant. Follow your engine manufacturer’s flush/refill recommendations, and be certain to use the type of coolant specified for your engine. Also inspect all hoses; replace any that are cracked, collapsed or brittle before refilling the cooling system.
6. Check the fuel system. Replace the fuel filter, examine the fuel lines for cracks and make sure they are connected and supported with approved clips and straps. You also should inspect for any leaks in fuel tanks and fuel pumps.
7. Belts, bilge and other maintenance. Check the belts for signs of cracking and other deterioration. Also determine the engine manufacturer’s recommended belt tension and reset if necessary. (Tighter is not always better, as excessive belt load can burn out the bearings in the alternator and other accessory drives.) Inspect the bilge pump for clogging or other malfunction, adjust the steering cables and check all navigation equipment.
8. Take a "bottom-side" view. Inspect the hull for cracking and/or peeling gel-coat or paint. Seal any gel-coat cracks with a marine sealant approved for your type of boat. Be sure this sealant has fully cured before repainting. After painting, apply a high-quality wax to the hull above the waterline and deck, avoiding areas where passengers may walk.
9. Prepare the trailer. It’s common to see a boat trailer broken down along the side of a highway during the vacation season. In many cases, the cause is a burned-up bearing that either didn’t have enough grease or cracked due to thermal wear and tear.
Remember that wheel bearings support the weight of the boat and trailer. Inadequate bearing lubrication – or contamination of the lube by water or dirt – can cause overheating. Confirm that all trailer lamps are operational; if not, don’t take the trailer on the road until the electrical system (wiring and lamps) is repaired.
10. Prepare your safety equipment and paperwork. Never use a boat that does not have fully functional safety equipment. Take the time to inspect personal flotation devices, check the expiration dates on fire extinguishers, replace old flares, test the radio and sound all warning horns. Store flotation devices and other emergency equipment in an easily accessible location (not under a pile of more frequently used gear) and make sure everyone knows where it is.
And once you have the boat ready to go, make sure you have all required registration decals and insurance information with you. Marine safety officers are sure to be checking boats and owners at the beginning of the season; not having the proper decals and records could lead to a fine.
Insurance Plus Agencies, LLC has been in business since 1996. Our Independent agents provide expert advice and personal service. To learn more about Insurance Plus, call us toll free at 1-866-466-1699, visit one of our 7 Houston area locations or go to YourInsuranceCompany.com. We can check with several companies including Progressive to find the best combination of coverage and price.