The Best Narrowboat Maintenance Hacks for Keeping your Vessel in Top Condition

Your narrowboat can go through a lot, especially if it is your permanent residence. From wear and tear, to leakages, fading paint and constant usage can almost certainly take its toll. However, don't worry, there are many simple ways that you can keep your vessel in top condition, such as creating a DIY spider stopper, refreshing the exterior with varnish or paint and consistently checking the oil for leakages. Ensure your vessel looks great, both on the inside and outside by following the below simple tips…

Tips and tricks for inside your boat:

Particularly for those who live on board their narrowboat, you will want to feel at home in a cosy, clean and calming atmosphere. Not a space that is full of mess and mayhem. Keeping on top of your indoor maintenance will make sure that your living space is the perfect place to relax and entertain.

Clean everything regularly

One simple solution to a lot of your interior issues is to make sure you set time aside to clean regularly. This will help to prevent dust build-up, cobwebs, mould, residue and an overall messy environment. Don't forget to wipe and polish surfaces, wash up pots and pans, wash bedding, brush up and everything else that will ensure you are in a clean and positive space.

Spider stopper

Unless you're an extreme spider lover, it's doubtful that you will want these creepy crawlies roaming around your boat. One way to stop this? A DIY spider stopper can be made by cutting up a pair of old tights or an old, thin, stretchy garment and then attaching the material over any vents to help stop any insects making themselves at home. Another way to prevent spiders from appearing is by placing conkers by doors and windows. Do bear in mind though that spiders help to keep the flies at bay too.


Don't keep what you don't need or never use. Not only will these items take up space, but they also make the place look cluttered. Bin what’s broken or on its last legs, give away what you no longer use, or even sell it online or to a fellow boater. Re-organising your belongings will make cleaning so much easier and you might then not feel the need to put it off as much, ensuring your boat is kept in tip-top shape.

Store some spare paint

It's a good idea to keep some spare paint onboard - for both inside and outdoor touch-ups for covering any scratches and scuffs. Paint colours can change and update very quickly, so having spares for internal updates can be very useful. For outside, it should form part of your regular maintenance to check for any minor marks as these can eventually become a worrying rust problem if left untreated.

Spare gas canisters

As well as keeping spare paint, you should also keep spare gas canisters on board to ensure you're covered if the gas was to run out. As well as housing spare gas canisters, it's worth keeping as many spares as possible of other items too. For example, lightbulbs, engine oil, dock lines, alternator belts, water pumps and anti-freeze are all very useful spares to have onboard.

Tips and tricks for outside your boat:

Turn heads at the marina with your beautiful narrowboat. All boat owners know it can be a laborious task to keep the exterior of your boat in top condition, however, by following a few simple tasks it will make each job easier and save costs in the future.

Clean exterior with fresh water

First things first, wash down the exterior of the boat with clean, fresh water and a soft sponge or brush to remove any dirt and dust. This helps to prevent any scratching, if you choose to use any soaps, make sure it isn't too harsh and suitable for your boat, so that the paintwork isn't removed. This simple tip will have your boat looking sparkling in no time.

Refresh with vanish/paint

Although there may be no way to fully remove scratching unless you have the exact paint or varnish as the original, there are still ways to refresh and hide any scuffs. If there is no bare metal on show, then simply pick up your paintbrush and with a steady hand begin painting over the exterior. If bare metal has started to show, make sure you remove any rust, add a primer and then do an undercoat and a top coat of paint.

Check oil levels

As a daily task, you should check the oil levels each day this will help to prevent messy leakages and future costs. Simply use the dipstick to check how low or high the oil is.

Engine maintenance

Checking your boat engine is crucial and should be done regularly during the year. Keeping the engine in its best condition will ensure that you can continue leisurely cruising on your adventures without any issues. The most common engine issues relate to the alternator belt, make sure this is fitted properly and keep a spare just in case. Other checks should include; fluid levels, drive belt, moving parts and the fan belt.

Solar panels

The amount of energy that can be wasted due to your solar panels not being kept clean can be quite a considerable amount. The build-up of debris that can collect over time can cover the panels to such an extent that it can reduce the effectiveness by up to 20%, so keeping them clean is a must.

Clearing away leaves from your boat

With damp leaves collecting on and around your boat, in particular, on the roof and in the water drainage gullies, this can cause corrosion if you don't keep on top of this. Keep a brush handy to help tidy away any debris to help protect against any rust and corrosion.

Topping up your fuel

It's a good idea to keep a can of spare fuel. This avoids the worry of ever running out. If this is something you can't do, make sure you invest in a fuel treatment instead. This will help you to avoid the risk of being caught out by diesel bug. This is where your fuel becomes contaminated and ends up being very gloopy and unusable. This can be quite common during the winter months on canal boats as a result of the tank containing higher moisture levels.

Always have a pair of sharp shears available

Garden shears are an essential piece of kit onboard a narrowboat, particularly during the summer months when more vegetation has appeared. It's often the case that, in order to moor up more comfortably, you'll have to cut back some of the new plant life that has appeared. It's important to stay on top of this, as, if left to their own devices, weeds can cause damp and other potential damage to your boat.

Owning a boat is a fantastic experience, but to make sure your boat is in its best condition you should learn and follow a few maintenance tactics. By looking after the interior and exterior of your boat, it will last much longer and ensure you enjoy your adventures without the hassle.


Are you a narrowboat owner and want to keep your boat as safe as possible? Discover our narrowboat security guide!

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