Maintaining your boat

How to keep your vessel and equipment in a safe and reliable condition.

A well-maintained vessel will help to ensure the safety of you and your passengers when out on the water.  

It is the skipper’s responsibility to make sure the vessel and safety equipment is in working order.

Check your vessel, safety equipment and trailer before every trip.

We also recommend that you have your vessel serviced every year.

What to check


  • Use a genuine marine battery.
  • Check and charge your batter regularly. If the battery does not hold its charge, it should be replaced.
  • Batteries should be secured with brackets within a ventilated container.
  • Battery terminals and cables must be kept clean, and terminals greased.
  • Terminals and connections must be tight and secure.
  • Top up battery cells with distilled water and check each cell with a hydrometer.
  • Test any equipment that uses the battery.


  • Spray terminals and electrical connectors with a corrosion-retarding agent.
  • Ensure all electrical fittings are clean, dry and corrosion free.
  • Check your spark plugs and carry a spare set of new plugs and a spark plug spanner.
  • Check gear box oil. If the oil looks milky, the motor needs to be serviced.
  • Turn off the power to the charger before disconnecting the charger leads. This may prevent an explosion.


  • Check fuel and gas tanks, valves, pumps and lines for corrosion, cracks and leaks.
  • Clean out portable fuel tanks yearly.
  • Check and change fuel filters to ensure clean fuel is entering your engine. Carry spare filters.
  • Always replace old fuel after a long period of inactivity.
  • If your motor uses pre-mix lubrication you should not use a petrol-oil mix older than three months. For direct oil injection motors, ensure the oil reservoirs are kept full.
  • Do the sniff test each time you board your vessel. If you smell fuel, find and address the issue before heading out on the water.
  • Aim to carry 50% more fuel than you expect to use for your planned length and distance of trip.

Water pump

  • Make sure water is being discharged from the exhaust system or tell-tale when started.
  • Regularly check for water leaks.
  • Outboard water pump impellers are normally changed at the annual service. If you have been operating in the shallows and stirring sand, consider changing more often.


  • Check the navigation lights are working even if you expect to be out only during daylight hours.

Vessel structure

  • Check for any corrosion or cracks.
  • Check all bungs are in good condition.
  • Ensure bilges are clean and in working order.
  • Check your propeller is clean and in working order. Carry a spare propeller.
  • Test the steering.
  • Check your vessel registration is up to date.

Safety equipment

  • Check that all your safety equipment is in working order.
  • Check that you have the required safety equipment for your activity.
  • Check all safety equipment with expiry dates are in date, such as lifejackets, flares and distress beacons.


  • Check your lights work.
  • Check wheel pressure and bearings.
  • Check tow hitch and safety chains.
  • Check tie downs.

BEST boat maintenance checklist

The Department of Transport developed the BEST boat check to help skippers maintain their vessels and reduce the number of boating breakdowns.

You should complete the BEST before every trip to ensure your Boat, Equipment, Safety equipment and Trailer are all in good order for a day on the water.

Along with the BEST boat check, you should also complete the annual 45 point check to identify issues before they become a problem.

Download the BEST and annual 45 point checklist below.

Page last updated: Mon Aug 14 2023 1:39:49 PM