Everybody’s heard of winterizing boats, but now it’s the time of year to get familiar with the other side of preparing a pontoon for the changing of seasons – summerizing, or dewinterizing your boat for launch. Preparing a pontoon for its busiest season of the year involves a few steps to ensure that it’s ready for all the fun coming in the warmer months, and spring maintenance is necessary to making all that happen and keeping you boat in good condition for many seasons to come.
1. Inspect the Boat
Regardless of how you store your boat for the winter, normal wear and tear can happen during the off months. Before you take any other steps, look the pontoon over from bow to stern with a careful eye. Boats of all kinds that are stored for weeks at a time can accrue minor damage, which can turn into major damage if gone unseen. If it helps, bring along a boat inspection checklist. Important steps will include checking the hull for stress cracks, examining important components for signs of seepage or leaks, and inspecting upholstery.
2. Check the Battery
Battery maintenance is always important. When boats sit unused for several weeks or more sometimes the battery’s strength can degrade. Test your pontoon boat’s battery charge to ensure it’s up to snuff, clean the contacts of any rust or corrosion and look for signs of wear on wires. You may need to put the battery on a trickle charger for a while before it will be able to turn over the engine.
3. Refill Boat Motor Oil & Fluids
One of the most important steps of winterizing is to drain the coolant system and set your fuel tank up to avoid freezing. Depending on what engine you are running, your manufacturer probably suggested a winterizing routine of draining the cooling system, adding stabilizer to a full fuel tank, changing the oil and filters and maybe fogging the engine with oil. If you didn’t run the engine periodically during the winter, you’ll want to do a visual inspection for any cracks or leaks in fuel lines or tanks, corrosion on electrical parts and any errant damage to the housing or lower unit. Ensure the battery has enough of a charge to start the engine. Finally, check on and, if necessary, top off your oil
4. Test the Engine
If you perform regular maintenance on your boat’s motor, especially if you did it before you put your pontoon boat away for the winter, everything should be in good working condition. This is especially true if you already checked your oil, fuel and similar systems. With those steps done, it’s time to test the engine before you put it in the water for the first time. Remember that most outboards are cooled by water and should never be started dry. A trash can filled with water is a simple solution on land, though there a number of hose attachments that can be used as well. Don’t forget to check that your engine is in neutral, the kill switch is in place and your battery is turned on. It may take a bit to get it started the first time, but let the engine run for a while to insure it is ready to go for your first outing.
5. Check Boat Safety Equipment
To be truly ready to get out there, double-check your on-board equipment against a boat safety checklist. This is going to include items such as one life jacket on board for each passenger as well as a throwable floatation device. If you have a designated boat safety kit, make sure to update it with necessary distress signals, fire extinguishers, flares and other gear. Don’t forget to check expiration dates.
6. Clean the Pontoon Boat
One of the best ways to avoid long-term damage to a boat is to clean it regularly. The best times to clean it is when it’s out of the water – the end and beginning of the summer season. If dirt and grime are allowed to build up on the exterior (and interior!) of the boat, it can cause permanent harm to all surfaces. Cleaning your pontoon boat is fairly easy but necessary step to getting your boat ready for summer!