Winter boat storage
As the doom of gloom of winter makes it presence known thoughts turn to next season. To make "next year" a more pleasant experience, boaties should use the quiet period to conduct regular boat and trailer maintenance. Of course this should be a constant thing with boats, but winter is a time to take a closer look and fix thos little things that you might have put off.
The following is by no means a comprehensive list however it is suggested that these checks are conducted. Most of the following will only require a quick check while others can be time consuming and costly if left unattended. I have focused mainly on the trailer for this article which is often the part of your equipment which will can cause serious grief.
The trailer is an often forgotten but major part of your rig and regular inspection and maintenance can either prevent, or at the very least inhibit problems. How many broken boat trailers have you seen on the side of the road? Too many, and if you have to leave your boat there is a fair chance you will have to leave gear with it that might not be there when you return.
??Tyres - Ensure that tyre wear is even, replace worn or tyres with side wall defects. Ensure that the pressures are correct for the weight being carried. A simple check can be made with soapy water to verify the valve is sound. Simply place a small amount a mixture of dishwashing liquid and water onto the vale and if a bubble forms and breaks then the valve is leaky and requires replacement. Some boat trailers carry very heavy loads and light car tyres may not suit. Once the boat is full of fuel and gear it can change the weight substantially. Why not run your rig over a weighbridge. It will cost you around $10 or less and you will have a true indication of the total weight.
Wheels - Inspect for cracks/corrosion (for trailers where the wheel is the bearing carrier/hub). Inspect for missing wheel weights and rebalance when necessary. Smearing good quality grease into the wheel nut holes will stop salt build up and allow the wheel to be easily removed for maintenance. Another good product for wheel nuts and threads is Lanox or similar products using lanoline as a base. It doesn't wash off easily and protects well. Some people use products such as CRC or RP7. These are usually designed more a water repellent and evaporate leaving metal susceptible to corrosion.
Hubs - Bearings and seals should be checked regularly this can be done by lifting the tyre free of the ground on a quarterly basis and spinning the wheel. If any growling or harshness is felt then the bearings will require urgent attention. It is not a big job. Most people can manage it easily if you are not in a hurry. Otherwise any mechanic can easily do the job for you.
NOTE: When you jack up the boat trailer make sure you put supports under it. Don't rely on the jack to support it.
a) Remove the grease cap using a suitable screw driver. Remove the split pin, nut and washer and then slide the hub assembly from the stub axle, Clean the grease from the axle and inspect all surfaces for wear or damage. If the stub axle seal face is damaged, installation of a "speedy sleeve" over liquid steel will usually be sufficient to keep the seal faces in good condition. If the wear is minor then installation of a 2 piece labyrinth seal will alleviate leakage as the seal faces spin within themselves without the need for a sealing surface on the axle. Any automotive spare parts place will help with parts.
b) Remove the small outer bearing and inspect for wear which will be apparent as small scuffs of the roller faces. A good indication that the bearing requires replacement is if you can feel any of the scratches with your fingernail or you can see patches of discolouration from heat or rust. Then remove the large bearing the seal will have to be removed with a small punch and as such will require replacement. Repeat the process for the large bearing.
c) The inner races (cup) of the bearing should also be inspected and if the outer cones or inner replacement as a set is both the cheapest option. The inner races can be punched out with a small punch from the opposite side of the hub via the small slots provided in the hub.
d) When reassembling carefully tap the cones in until they are bottom out and fill the hub with lithium based marine grease. The best way to pre lubricate bearing cones is with the use of a bearing packer available at any cheap auto outlet. The use of this item is far easier and quicker than hand packing the bearings.
e) Place the larger inner bearing into the cup in the hub and carefully tap in a new seal or labyrinth ring in using a punch or flat piece of wood or similar. Then turn the assembly over and slide it back onto the stub axle. Whilst holding the hub on slide in the small cone, washer and screw on the castellated nut.
f) Spin the hub top ensure the seal face is seated correctly then tighten the nut about a full turn past the point of initial contact. This will seat all the items correctly. Then simply undo the nut to the point of initial contact and tighten gradually (about ¼ turn) until the bearings have some resistance which can be felt when turning the hub by hand.
g) Fill the grease cap with grease and tap it back on with a hammer and punch or piece of water pipe etc contacting only the outer edges of the cap. Where "Bearing Buddies" are installed, pump up the buddies until the spring becomes loaded. Then turn the hub to ensure that grease is purged into the bearing cavities to dispel any air.
Springs - Check U-bolts and springs for signs of rust/corrosion. Clean with a wire brush and coat with grease or inhibitor (Fish oil, grease etc). To check the spring bushes use a pry bar the check for excessive movement against the bolts at the springs eye points. Any more than a millimetre movement will require the replacement of the bush. This can be done by jacking the axle and removing the bolt. The axle can then be let down and the bush punched out and replaced.
Coupling - Grease all lube points and movable shafts with a grease gun so that grease purges from either side of the shaft when pumped into the grease nipples. Smear grease into the ball hole to prevent rust.
??Electrics - Turn the battery off at the isolator, or remove the positive lead to the battery. Virtually all aluminium boats will have current "leakage" and this can cause electrolysis.
Check all boat and trailer lights function correctly. Repair or replace wiring/damaged globes or lights. Modern day L.E.D. trailer lights are excellent and are completely sealed. This allows them to operate normally even when mounted into a position which is immersed in water.
Trailer plugs should be inspected. If frayed or loose it is not a bad idea to cut a few inches off the wire and redo the connection - if there is enough wire. Soldering (tinning) the wire prior to fitting in the plug will prevent corrosion. Check for corrosion or missing pins on the plug and replace if necessary.
Rollers / slides - Replace worn or broken slides. Check rollers are free and regrease shafts on a regular basis with good quality Lithium based grease. When replacing rollers be aware of the different kinds. Low priced rollers are usually soft and inferior.
Chassis - Wire brush and re touch with cold galvanising paint where rust or corrosion is detected. Consider sandblasting and re galvanising your trailer every 6 - 10 years. This is costly however much cheaper than replacing it and doing this will often make the trailer last significantly longer.
Boats - Boats take the rigours of towing, use and outside storage exceptionally well. However your hull should still be inspected yearly.
In aluminium boats check all visible welds including those under the floor if accessible. In fibreglass boats (GRP) any chips in the gel coat should be repaired to prevent water damage which long term will result in delamination. Wipe down paintwork with silicon polish to prevent mould. Check for stress cracks - seek professional advice if required.
Grease steering components prior to storage and inspect and replace worn or damaged cabling.
Remove gear which is susceptible to rotting or weather damage and store in a dry environment (ropes etc).
Check water levels and recharge batteries prior to use.
Check and test all instruments and electronics prior to re use. Remove where possible during the storage period.
Remove bungs to assist in the egress of rain water. This can be facilitated by parking the boat in a manner to allow water to escape, (i.e. use a hill or prop the draw bar up).
Check all bolts, nuts and screws for proper tensioning.
Fuel tank - fill it if it is an in floor tank. This reduces the condensation and the possibilty of water in the fuel.
If it is a portable tank take it out of the boat and store somewhere warm, or at least where the temperature does not go up and down too much - such as in the workshop.
It is suggested that fuel will become stale however modern fuels are extremely stable and contain agents that prevent corrosion. If moisture however is detected in the tank it should be cleaned completely out and dried.
The engine is the most critical part of your rig and requires regular servicing. I strongly recommend the use of a reputable dealer or service agent however this is not always possible. Taking it for a service during winter will often be more beneficial than waiting until you want to use it. Then it is panic stations for you and the dealer to get everything done in time. So give yourself and them time by taking it in early.
Replace engine and gearbox oil. If the gearbox oil is white or grey seek advice to have the seals replaced.
Check the water pump and replace the impeller.
Remove the propeller and grease the shaft. Check and remove of weed or fishing line around the shaft. Replace the propeller if damaged or bent.
Grease all linkages, cable pivots, main pivot shaft and trim units, making sure all move freely.
Drain float bowls, water traps and check for signs of water or foreign bodies. Check fuel lines for cracks and mechanical damage, replace all fuel filters and damaged items.
Replace spark plugs and check leads and electrical fittings.
Clean with warm water if salt build up is detected, dry off and then give the power head a liberal coating of "Corrosion inhibitor'.
Regrease any bolts removed during regular maintenance.
Touch up of any paint chips will prevent corrosion getting under the paint.
If unsure of any maintenance issue or damaged component or you are unfamiliar with the mechanical workings or your engine, please seek advice from your local dealer or service agent.