Cleaning, Maintenance & Seasonal Preparations
Boat owners looking to protect their investments should heed the collective wisdom of Sea Ray’s product and tech support gurus, Jason Reifer and Terry Kerr along with Mike Nimmer, Mercury’s lead service product manager. Not only do they give some of their best maintenance tips, but they’ll also tell you some of the most common mistakes people make.
What are some of the most important things an owner can do to help maintain their boat?
Many people bond with their dealer’s salesperson and that’s a good thing but they should also cultivate a close relationship with the dealer’s service team as well. They’re the ones who will help you keep your boat in tip-top shape throughout the season. Sea Ray only sells parts to authorized dealers and they are your ticket to obtaining required parts quickly.
While people want to clean their boats thoroughly, many use cleaning products that are too harsh and abrasive for their boat’s gelcoat and vinyl. Generally speaking, we recommend using mild soaps and soft-bristle brushes, which are sufficient for most cleaning jobs.
Using a boat in saltwater requires special attention since it is so corrosive. Make sure to rinse off boats and trailers with a garden hose and avoid using a high-pressure washer, which can cause damage.
Give your boat a chance to dry after a thorough cleaning. Covering it with a tight tonneau and cockpit cover while the interior is wet can trap moisture inside and cause a multitude of problems.
Periodically, do a thorough inspection and take a look at things like the caulking seals between components. If you see any drying, cracking or gaps, have it taken care of immediately.
A lot of people just clean what they can see but forget places like in between cushions and underneath surfaces.
For stainless steel components, Super Stainless cleans well and leaves a protective barrier behind. Mild soap and water also work well. Most glass cleaners are also safe and effective.
When your boat is stored for the winter, unless your boat is shrink-wrapped, check periodically to make sure critters haven’t found their way inside. Spider poop is an especially difficult problem to fix once it’s been in place for long. You don’t want any bad surprises come springtime.
One of the best sources of information about cleaning and maintenance can be found at the Sea Ray Owner’s Club (https://ownersclub.searay.com). There, owners will find manufacturer recommendations for many aspects of boat cleaning and maintenance. For example, going to the Tech Resources Tab and clicking on the “Where can I find help about vinyl maintenance?” opens up the Mobern vinyl care and cleaning guide. Mobern is Sea Ray’s vinyl supplier and they have a recommendation for cleaning any type of stain. They recommend Formula 409 for general cleaning and advise against using detergents regularly. When using any cleaning product, rinse afterward with plain water.
How do I maintain my Mercury or MerCruiser engine?
The owner’s manual has a great deal of information about maintenance schedules. Get together with your dealer and arrange a schedule for taking care of needed procedures.
Before going out in your boat, perform an inspection and be sure to check the oil level. New generation Mercury outboards make this task easy with a service hatch on the top of the cowling.
Make sure you follow the manual’s recommendation for minimum gas octane; some Mercury engines require higher octane levels to deliver peak performance. Fuel with up to 10% ethanol is fine, but make sure to treat it with a stabilizer during periods of inactivity.
When cleaning your outboard or sterndrive’s lower unit, don’t use harsh cleaners and avoid using a high-pressure sprayer. Also, avoid spraying water into the engine’s air intake.
If you operate your engine in saltwater or muddy water, flush it according to the procedure outlined in the owner’s manual. For outboards remove the cowling and gently rinse off the engine with an unpressurized garden hose, avoiding the air intake. Periodically, spray Corrosion Guard on metal surfaces.
New boaters should let the dealer handle the end of year winterization procedures.
How to drive your boat
Make sure your engine is tilted down and the outdrive is submerged before starting your engine. If you accidentally start it with the prop in the air, stop the motor, tilt it down and let it cool for a few minutes before restarting.
Some new boaters shift too tentatively. If you hear a ratcheting sound, you are shifting too slowly; a clunk sound means the gears are engaged properly.
When putting a boat on plane, some new boaters advance the throttle too slowly, which makes the engine work harder and temporarily reduces the driver’s visibility. Advance the throttle lever quickly then back off once the boat’s on plane.
Periodically, run your engine at wide-open throttle. Mercury engines are not like car engines, which are optimized to operate at low to mid-range rpm. Our motors are designed to operate at all rpm, including running at high rpm for extended lengths of time. By running them at least occasionally at full rpm, it can prevent glazing of the cylinder wall, which can cause problems.
Keep your boat new…forever!
By properly maintaining your boat and motor, you can keep your boat looking like the day it rolled off the showroom floor.