Get Ready for Boating Season With This Comprehensive Spring Breakout Checklist

Winter is almost over, and you know what that means– boating season is just around the corner! While we know you’re eager to get out on the water as soon as possible this spring, it’s important to take the time to break out your boat properly to avoid any unforeseen complications. That’s why we’ve put together this comprehensive spring breakout checklist. So follow along, and we’ll have you back out on the water in no time!

Walkaround Inspection

To kick off your spring breakout and prep for the new boating season, we recommend doing a quick walk-around inspection to check your boat’s hull for any issues that may affect the boat’s operability. These issues include:

  • Blisters
  • Distortions
  • Cracks

While these issues are often only cosmetic, they can also be signs of more serious structural damage. The last thing you want is to kick off the boating season by finding yourself out on the open water with a leaking hull.

Outboard Marine Battery Inspection

Hopefully, you removed your boat battery and stored it properly at the end of last year’s boating season. But even if you didn’t, don’t worry; the following steps still apply.

  • Charge Your Marine Battery – Odds are, if your battery has been sitting idle all winter, it will need to be recharged before operation.
  • Clean Your Marine Battery Terminals Corrosion or buildup on your battery terminals can interfere with connectivity. Use a Battery Terminal Cleaner to clean your outboard battery terminals before hooking them up to your boat.
  • Test Your Outboard Engine Battery – Once your marine battery is cleaned and all charged up, use a battery tester to ensure that it’s functioning properly.
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Outboard Engine Cowling

  • Remove Your Outboard Engine Cowling – Once your outboard engine cowling has been removed, take the opportunity to visually inspect your marine outboard engine. Often, if an outboard motor is left in storage, pests will make themselves at home between the cowling and the motor’s internal parts. Make sure you clean out any debris brought in by these invaders so that it doesn’t lead to complications when running your boat’s engine this boating season.
  • Paint Your Outboard Engine Cowling – If your cowling shows signs of wear or looks like it could simply use some freshening up, apply a coat of factory-matched outboard spray paint, like this Yamaha marine outboard engine cowling spray paint or Mercury spray paint.

Outboard Lubrication and Corrosion Management

  • Inspect Your Anodes – Before diving into your outboard motor’s internals, inspect your anodes for signs of corrosion. We strongly recommend changing an anode every 12 months, or once it has corroded to half of its original size.
  • Change Outboard Lower Unit Oil – If your lower unit is due for its 100-hour service, go ahead and drain and replace your outboard lower unit oil.  PartsVu’s Lower Unit 100-Hour Service guides offer help with this essential outboard maintenance task, check out one of. If you need oils and lubricants for this, PartsVu carries OEM fluids for Yamaha, Mercury, MerCruiser, and Suzuki engines. We also carry a variety of other lubricants that are appropriate for other brands.

Outboard Engine Propellers

  • Inspect Your Propeller – Visually inspect your propeller for damage, including dings, bends, pitting, chips, and distortion. If the propeller is damaged, it may need to be replaced.
  • Check the Cutlass Bearing – Firmly grip your propeller and try moving it up and down and side to side. If the propeller seems loose, the cutlass bearing may need to be replaced.
  • Inspect the Rudderstock – Use the wheel to turn the rudder. If there is any play in the rudder, or if it appears bent, you may need to perform further maintenance before taking your boat out on the water.

Outboard Engine and Fuel System

  • Inspect Fuel Lines – Inspect your fuel lines for signs of swelling, cracking, leaking, or stiffness. Ensure that connections fit securely. Failing to replace old or damaged fuel lines can increase the chance of rupture or failure during operation, potentially leaving you stranded.
  • Inspect Outer Jackets and Control Cables – Check these essential components for signs of cracking, swelling, and stiffness.
  • Inspect Clamps – The metal clamps that keep your fuel lines and exhaust hoses are prone to becoming loose and corroding. Make sure all fuel lines and exhaust hoses are double-clamped and securely attached.
  • Inspect Fuel Tanks and Fuel Pumps for any signs of leaks.
  • Inspect/Change the Fuel Filter – To make sure your fuel filter keeps working effectively, we recommend changing it annually, or after every 100 hours of service. Regardless, it’s always a good idea to check your fuel filter for signs of wear or damage before heading out.
  • Check Fluids – Check the levels of your steering and power trim fluid. Maintaining the right level of these fluids is essential for the continued operation of your outboard engine. If the fluid is low, check for leaks and top it off with fresh fluid.
  • Apply Grease – Attach a grease gun to your outboard engine’s grease points and apply fresh grease.
  • Check for Leaks – Attach a garden hose to your outboard engine and turn on the water to check for leaks around ports and hatches.
  • Renew Caulk/Replace Gaskets – If you notice any unwanted leaks around the ports or hatches, you may need to reapply caulk or replace old or worn-out gaskets.
  • Flush Your Outboard Engine – If your outboard engine hasn’t been operated for a while, we recommend flushing it with fresh water to remove any buildup or lingering residue.
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  • Test Your Bilge Pump and Float Switch – Bilge pumps perform the important task of keeping excess water from accumulating in your bilge. The float switch activates the pump when water reaches a critical level. Test both these components to make sure they’re functioning properly,
  • so water doesn’t build up in your bilge while you’re out on the water.
  • Inspect the Bilge Pump Hose for signs of swelling, cracking, or loosening around fittings.
  • Clean Your Bilge – Water left standing in the bilge will cultivate bacterial growth and mineral buildup that produce create an unsanitary environment and produce unpleasant odors. Use a bilge cleaner from a trusted manufacturer like Star brite and a stiff brush to clean your bilge. This helpful guide on our blog breaks the bilge cleaning process down into 4 easy-to-follow steps.


Proper boat lighting not only allows you to see at night but also allows other boaters to see you. Ensuring that the lighting on your boat is in working order will keep you and your passengers safe while making nighttime navigation much easier. Before boating season kicks in, check the following lights and replace any blown bulbs and missing or damaged lenses:

  • Navigation Lights
  • Anchor Lights
  • Docking Lights
  • Cabin Lights
  • Spreader, Floodlights, & Search Lights
  • Courtesy Lights
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Boat Trailer Maintenance

  • Check Tire Air Pressure
  • Inspect Tires for cracks in the sidewalls and low tread. Boat trailer tires are responsible for bearing a lot of weight and enduring a wide range of adverse environments. If they show signs of excessive wear or aging, don’t take any risks! Go ahead and change them.
  • Check Lug Nuts – If your trailer tire lug nuts are loose, make sure you tighten them with a torque wrench. Replace any missing lug nuts.
  • Make Sure You Have a Spare Trailer Tire
  • Check Your Wheel Bearing – Experts recommend that boat trailer wheel bearings should be changed every 12,000 miles.
  • Inspect the Frame and Axles – If you notice any rust on the undersides of your boat trailer frame or axles, remove it with heavy-grit sandpaper and repaint the area to prevent further corrosion.
  • Check Safety Chains – Replace these chains if they’re rusty or damaged.
  • Inspect Brakes to ensure that they are functioning properly. Replace brake fluid if needed.
  • Inspect the Winch for signs of corrosion or issues with the hitch chain.
  • Lubricate the Tongue Jack
  • Inspect the Wiring Harness for signs of fraying, abrasions, or shorts. Replace if necessary.
  • Test Brake Lights and Turn Signals – Replace any blown or broken light bulbs or damaged lenses. If your boat trailer lights still aren’t working, there could be a connectivity issue which may require replacing the wiring harness or the wiring outlets.
  • Check the Trailer Registration and update the registration if necessary to make sure your boat trailer is road legal.
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  • Check Your Boat Registration and renew the registration if needed.
  • Make Sure Your Boat Horn is Working
  • Test Your Engine Cutoff Switch to ensure that it is functioning correctly and that your lanyard is in good condition.
  • Check the Expiration Date of Your Flares
  • Inspect Your Fire Extinguisher – Check the expiration date on your boat’s fire extinguisher and replace it if necessary. If you can’t find the expiration date, replace the extinguisher if it has been more than 12 years since the manufacture date.
  • Test Alarms – Including carbon monoxide, smoke, fume, and bilge alarms.
  • Life Jackets – Make sure you have enough wearable life jackets on board to outfit you and your entire party. For auto-inflating jackets, test all cylinders and bobbins.
  • Restock Your First Aid Kit – Check for expiration dates and replace any used items.
  • Stock Spare Running Light Bulbs 
  • Check Your Chartplotter Software for Updates
  • Test VHF Radios or any other communication devices onboard your boat.
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Docking and Anchoring

  • Inspect Dock Lines and Fenders for chafing, broken fibers, and in the case of fenders, cracking and overall wear. These items last quite a while but do occasionally need to be replaced.
  • Inspect Anchor Lines for chafing and broken fibers. If these issues are light, they shouldn’t be a cause for alarm. However, you should make a note of these areas to keep an eye on them. Replace your anchor line if you notice more significant abrasions
  • Inspect Shore Power Cables for signs of wear or abrasions. Test the cables to make sure they’re still functional. Replace the cables if needed.
  • Test and Inspect Shore Power Receptacles – If you notice burns around the shore power receptacles on either your boat or dock, replace the receptacles before using them.
  • Test Your Boat’s Ground-Fault Protection
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Wash, Wax, and Polish

Once you’ve completed your breakout inspection, all that’s left to prepare for boating season is to give your boat a good wash, wax, and polish. While this keeps your boat looking great, it also protects the exterior and interior from the harsh effects of the sun and the marine environment. For more detailed instructions on how to clean and care for your boat, check out this helpful guide from our blog: 12 Boat Cleaning Tips to Keep Your Vessel Shipshape.

  • Wash Your Boat – Use a boat soap to clean the surface of your boat. Stay away from bleach-based solutions, as these can ruin the gel coat. Dish soap is also a bad idea as the grease-cutting properties will cut through any wax coating protecting your boat from harmful UV rays. Boat cleaner manufacturers like Star brite specifically formulate their products to eliminate the unique kinds of dirt and grime found on boats without damaging the finish or any protective compounds.
  • Wax Your Boat – Applying a layer of wax, like Star brite’s restorer wax, protects your boat’s surface from the damaging effects of salt and other mineral buildups that occur during the boating season. It also acts like sunscreen, protecting your boat’s finish from exposure to UV rays, which can otherwise lead to fading and cracking.
  • Polish Your Boat – Use a buffer and a polishing compound to polish the surface of your boat. This both improves your boat’s appearance and provides a frictionless surface that reduces buildup.
  • Clean and Protect Vinyl – If left unprotected, vinyl seating can accumulate mildew and become damaged by UV exposure. Clean your vinyl seating thoroughly before applying a layer of protectant, like 303 Clear Vinyl Protective Cleaner.
  • Address any Mold or Mildew – When boats have been stored for prolonged periods of time, they become prone to mold and mildew. This is especially true for boats stored in poorly insulated areas. Star brite has a solid line of products designed to rid boats of mold, mildew, and the stains and odors they leave behind.
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