UPDATE: Ecology's new website will be live on Monday morning! Our official web address will be https://ecology.wa.gov

Water Quality photo identifier

Water Quality Program

Maintenance Tips

photo of a boat sinking at the dock of a marina
Before starting out each boating season when you have your boat out of the water, take precautions to inspect, tighten or replace fittings on oil, fuel and hydraulic lines, and when under way, maintain watches for oily surface sheens from bilge and exhaust. As is evidenced in the photo above, poorly maintained boats can sink and cause an oil spill.

  • Start with a basic tune up by replacing spark plugs and checking for oil and fuel leaks and the clamps for rust or corrosion. Replace any old, stiff or cracking hoses that might fail.
  • Drain used oil into a pan and using a funnel carefully pour the oil into a clean plastic bottle with a cap that screws tightly (a plastic milk jug works great). Carefully replace the engine’s old gear oil with fresh oil. Take the used oil to an oil recycling location.
  • Add new oil and replace the drain plug, filters, belts, and wires as needed.
  • If the boat’s engine uses coolant, drain the existing fluid, replace it and recycle it — taking care not to spill any in the water or on the ground in the process.
  • Be sure to lubricate all the moving parts such as the shift and throttle cables with a marine lube.
  • Check the bilge area for oily residue, and clean thoroughly. Insert a bilge pillow in the area to absorb oils from future leaks.
  • Check the bilge pump, and make sure both the automatic and manual operation work. Test the warning alarm system.
  • Check the battery for water level and for corrosion on the terminals. Recharge the battery or replace it if needed. Turn the core into the dealer or use the hazardous waste recycling center. (Do not discard batteries into a dumpster. Most batteries contain lead and/or cadmium, both of which are harmful to the environment.)
  • Inspect the cockpit drains to make sure they are clear and will drain rain water or spray from boats or waves.
  • Check fuel tanks for damage or corrosion.

Pull your boat out of the water to:

  • Check the hull for punctures or cracks — and repair.

  • Check the rudder and fittings for deterioration.
  • Wax your fiberglass boat every year — a good coat of wax will prevent surface dirt build-up and make it easier to rinse off.


Report all spills to 800-OILS-911 and 800-424-8802