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Owning a boat is a big investment and does take quite a bit of work to maintain in good condition, stay up to date on routine maintenance, and get on the water. Yet, if you're a regular boater sailing to RI marinas like ours, this hard work is nothing new to you, and the thrill of being out on the water in the summer is the best payoff for all of your hard work. In an effort to keep your boat in pristine condition and out on the water, changing your boat motor oil routinely is a must. Changing your inboard boat oil may seem time consuming and messy, but we have all the tips and tricks to get the job done in no time! So let's tinker with some boat oil how to's to get the job done fast.

First things first, make sure to check your boat owner's manual for boat manufacturer requirements including oil specifics. Secondly, an important question many have is how often you should change your boat oil? Much like a car, boat oil must be changed regularly in order to keep the engine running smoothly. You should typically change your boat oil every 50 to 100 hours on the water, which is about every two to four days, or at least once a year. However, if you're operating a boat that's sporting a new engine, Boat US recommends changing your boat oil every 20 hours for the first 100 hours of use. It is important to note that the more often you use your boat, the more often you will need to change your oil. Still, non-frequent use is not an excuse to avoid changing your boat's motor oil. It is just as important to change boat oil if your boat is not being used because, just as everything in life, boat oil does age and change over time.

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When Should I Change My Boat Oil?

Many avid RI boaters use their boats primarily in the spring and summer months and winterize their boats or pay for in-water winter boat storage during the winter. When preparing to lay-up, or winterize your boat for the winter, you should always get into the habit of changing your boat oil. Your boat will be sitting idly for many months in a row until the warmer months roll in, building up acids that contaminate the oil and could cause a lot of damage to your engine. That being said, always change your boat oil before the winter, when you winterize your boat, or whenever you will not be using your boat for a long period of time.

Oh and don't forget to change your oil as you get it prepped for the spring and summer months! It is highly recommended to change your oil at this time not only for safety purposes, but so you can enjoy a season free of maintenance problems. By changing your oil at the start of your boating season, you minimize the chances of your engine being damaged by bad oil. So don't forget, when summer and fall come about, out with the old oil and in with the new!

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What Type of Boat Oil Should I Use? Synthetic or Petroleum Based?

This question is a debate in of itself and the answer is solely based on individual preference. Synthetic oil is, in short, artificially made oil. It's not like regular crude oil that has been taken from the earth and refined through a process that prepares it for proper consumer use. Since synthetic oil is artificially made, there is more control over its production and what goes in it. This, in turn, translates to better control over normal engine wear and tear due to the more controlled production and substances added to synthetic oil. However, synthetic-based oil is a lot more expensive than petroleum-based oil and really doesn't have any added benefit unless you plan on running your engine to the point that it must be rebuilt.

One noticeable advantage of synthetic-based boat oil, according to Power & MotorYacht, is the extended oil life that comes with using synthetic oil in your boat. This means you can enjoy a longer wait between oil changes. However, this advantage isn't really an advantage if you don't change your boat oil according to the hours and miles of use. Many boaters prefer to change their oil every few months or once every year. If that's the category you fall into, then this advantage won't really be of benefit to you.

Whether you decide to use synthetic or petroleum-based boat oil in your boat engine is really your choice as a boater. You know your boat best and what it needs, however, rest assured, there really is no added benefit from using synthetic oil unless you plan on using your boat so often your engine has to be replaced, or you change your boat's oil the specific number of hours recommended. If you do choose to use synthetic oil, Power & MotorYacht recommends that you use only the synthetic oil that your engine manufacturer specifies.

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What Brand of Oil is Best For My Boat?

Every boat model carries a different engine, with different capacities, and different needs. That being said, each engine requires a different type of boat oil to keep it running smoothly. The easiest and most efficient way to figure out exactly the type of oil your boat needs is to look in your boat owner's manual. However, without a doubt, your manual will advise you to only use your engine manufacturer's oil. This is mainly because your manufacturer knows your engine well and has the correct oil that is made to service your engine's every need.

This wouldn't be much of a problem if the engine manufacturer oil wasn't more expensive. Many boaters don't want to pay the extra money, or just don't understand why they can't use another more affordable brand of oil. Fortunately, there is another way around this through what is known as the American Petroleum Institute rating or API rating. According to Power & MotorYacht, the API creates what is called “minimum performance standards" for all kinds of motor oils and has engine manufacturers review them and accept them. This means that you can purchase other brands of boat oil to use in your boat however, they must have the same API rating that is recommended by your engine manufacturer.

Whether you choose to spend the extra money and purchase boat oil from your engine manufacturer or another brand that has the same API rating is completely up to you. Choosing to use a boat oil with the same API rating just means that you are using an oil that possesses the “minimum performance standards" that is best for your engine. Meanwhile choosing to use engine manufacturer recommended boat oil is just a safe bet but possesses no concrete extra benefit.

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How Much Does it Cost to Change Oil on a Boat?

Owning a boat is an exciting luxury, but the cost of maintaining a boat is not as exciting. Yearly engine maintenance is just one cost; factor in changing the oil in your boat too and the expenses just continue to climb. Changing your boat motor oil is extremely important, especially throughout the summer months while you enjoy the water. Many prefer to take their boats to mechanics to get their boat oil changed, however, this cost can really add up if you use your boat frequently. Typically, the cost of boat oil and the filter for the oil is about $100. Now add in the price for the mechanic who will service you, which can vary from shop to shop. Some charge about $100/hour, while others can charge as much as $200-$250.

Those who only change their boat oil once a year and only use their boats during the summer season, this cost doesn't bother them that much. This is true for many boaters who live in areas where a colder climate lasts longer than the warmer climate. However, for those who live in areas where the warmer climate dominates and they are able to use their boats more often, this price just doesn't work for them, which is quite understandable. Much like a car, choosing to change your boat oil at a shop is completely your choice! You may opt to do it yourself to cut down on the price a little bit, and that's perfectly fine too.

How Can I Change the Oil Myself?

Changing the boat oil in your inboard engine can't be avoided due to its importance, but you can still do it yourself if you would like to save a little money when it comes to labor. Fortunately, it's a rather simple process that can be accomplished in no time. So, roll up your sleeves and prepare to change your boat oil in a few simple steps.

1. Choose a system - West Marine recommends choosing an oil changing method that works best for your engine. It's a tight space so you really can't choose a process that involves certain equipment that won't fit, or else you won't be able to change your oil. That being said, choose a method and equipment that won't pose a problem due to the amount of space available to you where the engine resides.

2. Run the engine - Before beginning any type of oil change you must first run the engine to operating temperature. By doing so, you're warming up the oil to make it easier to drain so all of the contaminants come out of the engine.

3. Prepare to drain the old oil - Before draining the oil, make sure to prepare an adequate place for the old oil to fall. If a container doesn't fit in the space allotted, West Marine advises cutting the sides of a small cardboard box down so that it will fit under the engine sump and lining the box with two plastic garbage bags. Unplug the sump plug and begin draining the old oil in the plastic bags. Once the oil is done draining, close the plastic bags containing the oil and recycle it. If you're not able to use a method such as this one, you'll have to purchase a pump and manually/ electrically extract the oil.

4. Clean up any runaway oil droplets - While draining the oil, be alert and watch for any loose drops that may escape. West Marine recommends being prepared and having oil-absorbent pads close by to catch and clean up these runaway droplets. The more careful you are, the less likely you will be blamed by the authorities for oil discharge and be demanded to pay cleanup costs.

5. Change your filter - After changing your oil always get into the habit of also changing your filter as well. This small but forgotten step is of great importance as well for maintaining engine health. When replacing the old filter with the new, West Marine suggests, “lightly coat the gasket with oil and then hand tighten giving it a three-quarter turn beyond the point where the seal makes contact with the flange."

6. Study your old engine oil - Don't ever say that your engine oil never did anything for you because it can actually tell you quite a bit about the state of health of your engine. West Marine states that if your engine oil is a milky color, that means that water has found its way into the crankcase. If you'd rather not take the chance and analyzing the oil in your engine yourself, you can always send it off to be tested in a lab for more specific information on the health of your engine.

Where Do I Bring my Boat to Get an Oil Change if I Don't Feel Comfortable Changing it Myself?

Maybe you're hesitant on changing your boat oil and want it done by a professional? If this is the case, it is best to take your boat to the marine dealer you purchased it from since they are experts on best maintenance practices for your boat. Marine dealer service departments are specifically trained to service your boat make and model, and will use the proper oil to conduct an oil change so you don't have to stress about it. Not to mention, you don't have to worry about disposing of the excess oil yourself! Boat dealers are authorized in the repair and maintenance of your boat, so simply visit the service page on their website and schedule an appointment to get an oil change. It's that easy!

It's Just Smooth Sailing From Here On!

Changing your boat oil is essential for it to run properly so you can sail the waters safely and smoothly and enjoy more of those gorgeous summer days! Nestled right in Greenwich Cove, East Greenwich Marina has everything you need to make your boat docking experience filled with nothing but fun in the sun. So, get your boat prepped for summer, including a boat oil change, and contact us to reserve your slip at the best marina in RI! we welcome boaters from all over New England and beyond including New York, Maine, New Jersey, and all other states on the east coast! If you're looking for a quality boating experience, reserve a slip at East Greenwich Marina, your number one Rhode Island marina.

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Sources: Boat US, Power and Motor Yacht, West Marine, AmericanBoating.org

May 14, 2019