How Often Should You Change the Oil in Your Boat’s Engine?

Have you ever wondered how boats are maintained? Why is boat maintenance a must? Do I need to change my boat’s engine oil every year?

As a boat owner, you’re bound to ask these questions sooner or later. It’s essential to make sure that your boat performs well and lasts for a long time.

And a part of taking care of your boat is taking care of your boat’s engine. How do we do that? Well, to be frank, there are many ways to maintain your boat’s engine, but in this article, we’re going to talk more about how often you should change the oil in your boat’s engine.

We’re going to cover the importance of maintenance, changing engine oil regularly, how often you should change oil, changing the oil yourself vs. taking it to the shop, boat maintenance checklist, and the frequently asked questions about changing the boat’s oil.

Boat Maintenance: Its Importance and Why You Should Do It

How Often Should You Change the Oil in Your Boat's Engine

Just like our cars, motorcycles, and bicycles, we need to do some maintenance on our components to make sure that we extend our vehicle’s life span and create a lot of good memories with it.

Boat maintenance is more than checking if your boat’s exterior is clean, checking for scratches, checking for bumps. It’s ultimately more than that. You need to look into its engine, its fuel consumption, and overall boat performance.

In this boat maintenance guide, we’re going to cover the basics of boat maintenance, why it’s important, the potential damages you’re risking if you don’t do the necessary maintenance routine, and the different ways you can perform boat maintenance.

If you’re struggling to picture out what we’re saying, here’s a video from The Boating Guy on What Are Basic Boat Maintenance Tips.

Generally speaking, we want our boat to be adequately lubricated, clean, and, most importantly, stay in good condition. Since we’re talking about boat maintenance, here are some of the ways you can maintain your boat:

Cleaning The Exterior

Besides showing your boat off for its beauty, cleaning the exterior is vital to ensure nothing dangerous infiltrates your ship without your knowledge. We never know what plant or sea creature can hitch a hike on your precious boat.

Cleaning The Exterior

Cleaning the exterior regularly will also let you know if holes/scratches on the boat’s surface. Keeping your boat clean will help the vessel be intact by keeping the finish intact.

Lastly, if you can do it, it’s better to clean the boat on land to prevent water pollution and access the ship’s parts where you can’t access when the ship is underwater.

Not sure where to start in the cleaning process? Here are some additional cleaning tips on where you should start cleaning the exterior:


This is a great place to start cleaning your boat. First of all, it’s one of the exterior parts of the ship that’s easy to clean and easily accessible. The fiberglass on ships protects people from the salt, sun, and other weather elements you may encounter while sailing.

To keep your fiberglass in good condition, make sure you wax it with a special wax that keeps the gel coating on the fiberglass in good condition. Expect to wipe the fiberglass twice a season, preferably in spring, before you store it for winter.

Other than waxing, it’s expected that you wash away dirt and saltwater with a soft rag or sponge with a solution of soap and water.


The canvas is what you usually see as boat covers or other similar fabrics used in the cockpit and other parts of the boat.

You can easily clean the canvas on the boat with a mild soap solution using a light brush to remove all the molds and make sure the waterproofing ability of the canvas is still intact.


There’s a high chance that you might own a boat with vinyl-covered seating. Since vinyl is easy to clean, you can wipe the seats regularly to prevent dirt build-up, molds, and mildew with a wet sponge with a mild soap and water solution.

Wiping them regularly will help you maintain their cleanliness throughout all the outings you will have. That will increase the comfort of riding your boat over time, knowing that you’re riding a clean boat, not a dirty and moldy one.

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Prioritizing Boat Engine Maintenance

You don’t have to be a mechanic or an engine wizard to ensure your boat engine is in top condition. Most of the maintenance tips we’ll be sharing with you today can be done by yourself.

Prioritizing Boat Engine Maintenance

Before checking or doing some boat maintenance on your own, it’s best if you read the manual and listen to the manufacturer’s recommendation, do some research online on how it’s done, and finally, make sure you know what you’re doing.

Keeping that in mind, here are a few tips on doing some maintenance on your outboard motor:

  • Check if you have fuel regularly
  • Check the engine oil level every once in a while
  • Ensure the water intake is free of debris
  • Clear the propeller from fishing lines and other obstacles

Here are boat maintenance tips you should also apply:

  • Ensure there are no cracks and wear in the fuel lines
  • Replace spark plugs when needed
  • Replace damaged fuel hoses

Properly Storing the Boat

Other than cleaning the exterior, prioritizing the boat engine, it’s essential that you also store your boat correctly. Sometimes leaving them outdoors will expose your boat to weather-related damage, especially in the winter season.

Properly Storing the Boat

Properly storing your boat will also determine the boat’s performance in the long run. This also determines the boat’s condition after weeks of inactivity.

There are three ways/places to store your boat, indoors, outdoors, and on the water. Here’sboat parts an in-depth explanation of which places you should keep your boat:

  • On the water

On the water

Multiple harbors offer boat storage in the water. Storing your boat outdoors is a practical way of storing your boat if it’s enormous and you have access to deep water to ensure the ship stays afloat and away from damage compared to shallow water.

  • Outdoors


Storing boats outdoors is one of the most common and popular ways to keep the boats. If you live near the shore, all you need to do is wait for high tide, park your boat near the coast and wait for low tide. That way, it’s easier to drag your boat to the seaside.

Since it’s also being stored outdoors, it requires an adequate cover. The best way to keep your boat outdoors is to hire a professional shrink wrapper to ensure it’s completely covered.

  • Indoors


Amongst the three optimal places to store your boat, storing them indoors provides the best storage for your boat. However, amongst the three, it’s also the hardest one to attain. It’s only available to people with the luxury to have a garage for their boats.

However, if you don’t have indoor storage for your boat, we recommend you to rent one just for the winter season as it can do weather-related damages to the ship if it isn’t stored correctly.

Why You Should Be Changing the Boat’s Engine Oil Regularly

An essential part of every vehicle is the engine since it’s responsible for making the vehicle move. This is why it’s crucial to maintain the engine’s condition and extend its lifespan, and it’s the heart of every vehicle.

According to Boating Life 365, proactively changing a boat engine’s oil and the filter will help the engine perform at its best and also prevent expensive repairs in the long run. The average cost of having an oil change is $75 (if you do it yourself) and $300 (if taken to a shop).

Repair fees will increase if you can’t avoid damages. If your engine breaks down, it may cost you $1,000 or even more. Don’t be cheap with maintenance.

Changing the Boat’s Engine Oil Regularly

Here are some excellent reasons why you should be changing the boat’s engine oil regularly:

Cooler Engine

High engine temperatures are commonly solved by regularly changing the oil. The engine needs to work harder. Hence, more power is required and more friction between parts if it’s not appropriately lubricated.

Since you’re changing your engine oil regularly, your outboard motor will have better lubrication and lesser friction between the engine and the components around it.

Better Fuel Consumption

Old oil may tend to burn up for quite some time because of prolonged exposure to high operating temperatures. This is the same for boats and cars. The engine works at high temperatures, and the engine oil becomes thin and loses its chemical composition.

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Failure to change the engine oil for too long will mean the engine will burn more fuel than usual because there’s no more oil between the components to filter them out.

Protects the Engine and Extends Its Lifespan

Proper engine lubrication can reduce the wear and tear between engine parts and components (because they have lesser friction). That’s why it protects the engine and extends the lifespan.

Maintains a Clean Engine

Do you know what your boat loves even more about changing the oil regularly? It having a cleaner engine. Since dust and debris can be gathered by the oil, changing it will effectively mean that it takes all the dirt with it, replacing a new bottle of oil for the engine.

How Often Should You Change the Oil in Your Boat’s Engine?

How Often Should You Change the Oil in Your Boat’s Engine

Now we know the importance of boat maintenance and why you should change your engine oil regularly. Now begs the question, how often should you change the oil in your boat’s engine?

The first step to knowing how often you need to change the engine oil of your outboard motor is by checking and reading the user’s manual of the engine. It’s to make sure you know what the manufacturers recommend.

However, according to BoatUS, engine manufacturers typically recommend an oil change every 100 hours and at least once a year.

Unlike cars, the frequency of changing the oil in boats is recommended by changing them after 100 hours of usage or at least once a year.

However, we also highly recommend you to change your oil twice every season, it’s going to cost you an average of $300 if you decide to take it to the shop for service, or you can always try the Do It Yourself (DIY) method of changing oil which only costs about $75 on average.

It’s also recommended to change your engine oil in the spring season before winter comes to make sure that your engine oil is changed and lubed up, making the engine cleaner.

Still, confused? Here’s How Often to Change your Boat’s Engine Oil by BelRay.

Should I Change Oil Myself? Or Should I take it To the Shop?

Changing the engine oil may sound challenging, but it’s not. It only takes around 30-40 minutes, give or take, and it’s reasonably easy to do with the right tools and the proper knowledge of how to do it.

Change Oil Myself

If you know how to change oil by yourself, we highly recommend you do it by yourself since you save a lot of money, know your engine better than anyone else, and get to take care of the engine by yourself.

There are pros and cons to changing the oil yourself and taking it to the shop. Here’s a detailed table of the pros and cons of changing the DIY method or taking it to your local mechanic.

Should I Change Oil Myself? Or Should I Take it To The Shop?
Changing Oil by Myself Changing Oil in the Shop
-It’s cost-efficient, you can save a lot of money. -You might break the engine if you don’t know what you’re doing.


-Choosing the wrong type of engine oil may cause more harm than good.


-Sometimes, owners don’t have the right tools for changing the boat’s engine oil.

-Most people working in shops are mechanics and know everything about engines.


-They know the proper engine oil to use.


-They have all the tools they need for changing the oil.

-It costs significantly higher compared to doing it on your own.


-If the shop has many engines to maintain, your boat engine may not be prioritized and has to follow the queue.

Knowing all the pros and cons of changing your boat’s engine oil, it’s safer to take your engine to the shop if you want to get your engine’s oil changed.

However, if you want to learn how to do it, here’s How to Change your Boat Engine Oil. Watch the video and learn the DIY method.

They know what they’re doing, and they do it at a professional level, so if you don’t know anything about engines, it’s best to spend an extra dollar and leave it to the professionals.

Boat Maintenance Checklist – Things to Keep in Mind

There are many things to keep in mind when performing your average boat maintenance routine. If you don’t have one yet, then we’re here to help. We’ll be giving you some ideas on the things that should be on your boat maintenance checklist.

Boat Maintenance Checklist

The checklist will help give you an idea of what things need to be maintained and why they should be maintained for a better engine.

Boat’s Electrical Systems

  • Constantly Check Battery Charge Level
  • Replace the Battery if Needed
  • Change Exterior/Interior Wiring if Needed

Boat Mechanics

  • Monitor the Engine and Its Operating Temperatures
  • Check the Propeller for Any Damages
  • Perform an Oil Change
  • Replace Spark Plugs if Needed
  • Check Fluid Levels
  • Monitor the Fuel Lines for Any Leaks

Hull of the Boat

  • Check for Any Signs of Leaks
  • Check for Cracks in High-Stress Areas of the Boat
  • Wax and Paint the Hull

Changing Oil for your Boat’s Engine – Frequently Asked Questions

How frequently should I change the oil?

Your basis of how frequently you should change your boat’s engine oil should mainly come from the manufacturer’s recommendations. If they recommend you to change the oil every month or so, then do as they recommend.

However, engine manufacturers usually recommend changing the oil after 100 hours of usage, change oil at least once a year, and/or twice every season. The frequency of changing oil may vary if you constantly travel by boat.

Regardless of how you use your boat, it’s still imperative that you change your engine oil once in a while. To make sure you’re getting the most out of your boat experience.

Do I need to change the oil filter while I’m changing the oil?

Yes. There are many different reasons why you need an oil change. You may have a low engine oil level, dirty engine oil, or overfilled engine oil in the oil pan. Naturally, you should also change the oil filter to ensure your engine stays clean after the oil change.

Do you have to change boat oil every year?

Yes. It’s not required, but we encourage you to AT LEAST change your boat oil once a year since it’s going to increase your boat’s lifespan by providing enough lubrication to your engine and make sure it works properly.

This can apply to people who rarely travel by boat and only use it once a month, and you can only change oil at least once a year.

Change oil myself? Or should I look for a person that does a boat oil change near me?

If you know how to change the engine oil by yourself, then, by all means, we recommend you do that. If you have worked with engines in the past, it’ll be easier for you to understand how to change engine oil in a boat or a car. They’re different engines but somewhat similar.

However, if you’re not a boat enthusiast and don’t know how to change the boat oil, then we highly recommend you taking it to the shop.

It’s better to let professionals handle the oil changing process because they have all the tools needed to make sure that they perform the oil changing process flawlessly.

What Happens if I Skip an Oil Change?

It depends on how long ago your last oil change was. For example, if you think your previous toil change was around three months ago and only 70+ hours of engine usage, then an oil change isn’t required.

However, suppose you never changed your engine oil for over a year. In that case, we recommend you change the oil immediately since you’re risking your boat engine to unfavorable engine conditions (excess friction, inadequate lubrication, and overheating engine).

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