Winter, although not what our northern neighbor’s experience does keep many southern folks off the water and near the heat. Be careful while you are relaxing by the fire, try to look busy or your significant other might spot you lounging around, keeping warm and doing nothing. Then for reasons known only to them they instantaneously realize… this cannot be right, deduce something definitely is afoul with the picture, and instantly appear from nowhere with a sheet of paper that seems to trial behind into the next room. You guessed it “The List”. That dreaded list of honey-do or marriage maintenance items that when added to our own list seems impossible to accomplish in a lifetime let alone before spring. However, as members of the APHC…”Anglers for Peace at Home Club” we know we can do it… we have done it before… so, just buckle down and get to it. Consequently, winters a good time to get a few things done around the house and your fishing, hunting and other sports equipment tuned up because, Springs just around the corner and soon everyone heads to their favorite fishing hole.
Most boat owners find it easy to identify with the woes of others not prepared for the season. There they are sitting alongside the highway with flat tires, burnt out wheel bearings, broken springs or axles. Alternatively, those other hearty souls, who already launched, have the family in the boat, then find out it will not start. These things can really but a damper on an outing or fishing trip. However, with minimal effort you can avoid these problems.
“Pro-Active & Preventative Maintenance” are the systematic scheduling of repairs and maintenance. More simply if it needs fixing… fix it now. Your boating life will get much easier.
Our own fishing, hunting, or boating list needs the same disciplined attention to ensure a good start to the spring season. Two categories of outdoor persons exist today, the ones that have it done hopefully, using a reputable repair center, marine dealer or mechanic and the others known as the “do-it yourselfers”.
Whichever group, you fall into never wait until the last minute to get something done. We all appreciate that some things happen at the last minute but many others we know about well in advance, just did nothing about them. Proactive repairs and preventative maintenance go along way to prevent future repair cost or reciprocal damage to other parts.
Winter days, too cold for anything else, gives us time to get a jumpstart on the fishing and boating season. Take time to examine the things making your outdoor adventures enjoyable instead of catastrophes.
The most neglected but essential piece of equipment used in getting a boat to the water is the BOAT TRAILER. If for no other reason than application, trailers require constant attention. Constantly exposed to road hazards and the elements like saltwater for example, they need periodic checks and timely repairs.
For trouble free trips to and from the ramp, here are some easily preformed inspections and tips you can do at home. Consider doing your inspections after you launch or before load, it is easier. The boats not in the way and you can see everything. Make notes for later repairs.
Cleaning after each use particularly when used in saltwater rinse every part the suspension, frame, wheels, crossbar tubes, spare, hitch and do not forget behind the wheels. Flush the brake assemblies thoroughly. Remember, corrosion/repairs and boat trailers are synonymous so keeping it clean and repaired prolongs the inevitable.
Bearings: These little parts keep things rolling smoothly. They require checking every two weeks unless you see an accumulation of grease on the inner wheel, which usually means a bad seal and immediate repair. Using a hand grease gun (never a power gun) apply grease until bearings are full. Do not over fill. Milky color grease means water is present and bearings need repacking. Preventative maintenance means cleaning and repacking wheel bearings every six months to one year depending on amount of use.
Brakes: Check the brake system for leaks, worn disk or pads and proper operation. Brake pads on boat trailers seem to wear quickly so keep and eye on them.
Tire Pressures & Treads: Trailer tires are different so make sure you maintain the correct pressure, usually between 50 to 65 PSI. Check the tread wear and pattern occasionally you may need to rotate the tires. Lug nuts are especially important if you have a flat. Lug nuts will rust and you will not be able to remove them. Always use an anti-seize compound “Never Seize” on all lugs and nuts.
Lights & Wiring: Have someone push brake pedal and operate the turn signal while you make sure everything works. Check all wiring for cuts or abrasions and repair.
Hardware: Nuts and bolts hold it together s make sure everything is tight and properly adjusted.
Safety is first Tie down straps help secure your boat to the trailer. Tie down the transom and the bow and never use your winch as a stand-alone tie down. Use an adjustable bow strap or safety chain along with the winch.
Weight: Knowing the gross vehicle weight of your trailer means you will never overload it with gear. Never exceed the maximum GVW of your trailer.
Highway Emergency Kit: Put together an emergency kit. It should include a spare tire and wheel, lug wrench w/ extension handle, wheel chocks, flashlight w/extra batteries, extra hub assembly w/ bearings, seals and lug nuts, marine wheel-bearing grease, spare winch strap, spare tie down straps, replacement light bulbs, replacement fuses, hydraulic jack, and safety markers and flares.
The next major concern should be your BOAT. Rough water, sun, and salt spray for a few are things that quickly deteriorate a boat. If you get behind in repairs and maintenance, it quickly turns into the preverbal hole in the water where you throw money.
Instead of driving to the ramp, launching the boat and hoping for the best. Take time to check it out especially if not operated for extended periods. We all know someone that did not get things in order prior to heading out. There they are broke down or making that dreaded, long, and slow tow back to the ramp. Sea Tow, Boat US, and others offer recovery services that when needed are invaluable. Most cost around $100 per year and it is money well spent even if you never need them.
Pick a sunny day, get the cover off, and get it out of the garage then wash it thoroughly inside and out. Open all the hatches, access panels and remove the engine cover. Keep your eyes alert for anything requiring repair or adjustment. Now is a good time to clean compartments, hatches, and bilges.
Battery & Electrical System: Provided you maintained the batteries during storage, the battery part is almost over. Remove and clean terminals, then reinstall using non-corrosive grease. Hook up a charger giving them a good full charge. Starting at the bow, check the wiring for loose connections or broken wires. Finally, check your bilge and live well pumps. Operate everything electrical ensuring proper operation.
Hoses: Hose can shrink or loosen during extended storage. Check all connections especially those allowing water to enter via through-hull connections. Change all hard and brittle hoses.
Steering and Throttle Cables: Check for kinks or stretching in steering and throttle cables making sure the connections are secure and properly adjusted. Steer right, left and operate the throttle checking for smooth operation. If either is stiff, lubricate them with light marine grade grease. There is a cable lubrication tool, which forces lubricant between the inner and outer cables. They are good to have since you should do this twice a year.
Grease Fittings: Several grease fittings are located on your outboard or other areas. Check your owners and operators manual under lubrication to find these fittings. Never use a power grease gun it may damage seals. Only lubricate until you feel slight resistance.
Fuel and Oil: If stored for any length hopefully, you topped off and stabilized your fuel system. Also, check your fuel filters for water, drain or replace if needed. If not equipped with a water filter it might be a good idea to have one installed. Check with your marine dealer, as some outboards require certain types.
Gear & Safety Equipment: Everyone carries more stuff than we need but there are the essentials. Make certain your Coast Guard Equipment is in good shape and ready for use. Check things like, first aid kit, fire extinguishers, flares, anchors, ropes, rain suits, etc.
Test Run: Attach a flush adapter, turn on the water for a couple of minutes then shut it off, start the engine and immediately turn the water back on. Do Not Rev the engine while in neutral. Allow the engine to reach operating temperature listening and watching for any strange noises or vibrations. If everything seems ok, shut it down and remove the flush kit.
Let’s Go: When you get to the ramp and into the water for your first trip of the season. Start the engine, cast off and make a short 5 to 10 minute run varying your speed and operating everything from lights to bilge pumps. Then head back to the ramp and check the bilge area for leaks or problems. If this final inspection checks out, you are ready get going.
For all us anglers now the big stuffs done let’s fine tune and get our tackle in order. To keep things working properly they also need periodic maintenance just like the big-ticket items.
When was the last time you thoroughly cleaned your rods and reels? We are talking about the $19.95 special all the way up to the higher-end stuff everyone seems to want. Rods range in cost from $10 to several hundred dollars and reels even higher, so it stands to reason; to keep them operating properly they require special attention, cleaning and maintenance. Spinning reels, used most often in saltwater, are not that difficult to disassemble and reassemble. (Digital Camera) We are not talking every screw, gear, bearing, etc but rather, just enough to clean out the old and add new grease and oil, simply a field strip. Corrosion, dirt and grime are not your friend especially when it comes to your tackle. Dirty and corroded reels have ruined more than one fishing trip. Preventative maintenance is the key.
Rods and reels ready not quite… what about that old line. At least once a year, strip the old line off and re-spool with new. If using braid like PowerPro also strip off the old backing, clean the spool and re-install new backing and line.
Almost to the end, many anglers tackle boxes, especially us saltwater types, look like something an old gull used for a nest. Dump everything out, clean the box, remove the rust stains, and install new lining. Ok here’s, where this tackle box cleaning really comes in handy. Get rid of all the old hooks, swivels, sinkers, lures, rusty hooks or whatever just takes up space. Do not say you cannot through it way because you might use it someday. You have not used in two years… get rid of it. If you need to, buy some new hooks, sinkers, swivels, etc. do it. Do you have some lures good shape but with rusty hooks… replace the hooks. Once you have straightened, cleaned and emptied that old 40 lb. tackle box, it probably comes in somewhere around 5 lbs. and things are much easier to find.
Here is a good tip for “Do It Yourself Types” The Digital Camera offers tremendous advantages to do it yourself types. When you get into some new territory like cleaning a new spinning reel, shotgun or anything for the first time, take plenty of good in focus photos along the way. Now when it comes to putting it back together and you are not sure where something goes just print the photos and there you are. (It also works great in identifying where all those wires go on televisions, disk players, VCR’s, and surround sound systems)
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