The weather is sunny, the food and drink are flowing, the music is rocking and everyone is ready to have a good time. Summer is pontoon boating season, and there’s nothing like taking your boat out on the water and having a good time with family and friends.
Before you cast off, it’s always a good idea to plan ahead and make sure that you and your guests will be safe on the water and that you have everything you need if you’re faced with the unexpected.
1. Don’t Forget Flotation Devices
Before you make your guest list, make sure you have enough safety-vests for everyone on board. Make sure everyone is seated and wearing a vest when you cast off and have a life preserver on deck just in case.
2. Have a Designated Captain
It’s illegal to operate a boat under the influence, so if you’re planning to serve alcohol at your pontoon boat party, have a designated captain to keep you on course.
3. Watch the Weather
Check the weather reports, do your research before you sail and keep your eye on the horizon. If you use your boat frequently, you may want to invest in a boat weather station. If you expect rough weather, make sure you know how to manage your vessel.
4. Don’t Rush
Pontoon boats aren’t built for speed, but they can move faster than many suspect. Be careful when you accelerate, excessive speed, especially when navigating turns is one of the key causes of boating accidents.
5. Watch Your Weight
Know your boat’s weight capacity and make sure you don’t overload it. This applies to people as well as equipment and recreational gear like water skis.
6. Drop Anchor
No matter how calm the water may seem, remember to drop your anchor if you’re planning to stay in one spot for an extended period of time. Otherwise you may find yourself pushed by the current into unfamiliar waters.
7. Stay In the Shade
According to the CDC, the sun’s UV-radiation can damage your skin in as little as 15 minutes. With the average pontoon boat trip lasting over five hours, and when you add in the reflective properties of water and fiberglass, the chances of getting sunburned increases while you’re on the water. Keep yourself covered and use sunblock whenever you’re on the water. Even on overcast days.
8. Buy a Bimini Top
One of the easiest ways to stay in the shade is to install a bimini top when you’re on the water. A bimini top combines a lightweight, collapsible frame with a UV-resistant top and many can be installed to cover a pontoon boat.
9. Try a T-Top
One issue for pontoon boats is that a Bimini often doesn’t always cover the center console. Adding a T-top frame can provide extra shade so the captain can keep his hands and attention on the wheel.
10. Don’t Burn the Boat
Not satisfied with sandwiches? One of the great things about a pontoon boat is that the extra width allows space for a grill. Before you fire up the burner, make sure that you play it safe. Only use the grill when the boat is tied up or anchored, keep the grill downwind of bimini tops and other boat fabrics.
Consider purchasing a grill designed for boating. Many are designed to attach to the rail and hang out over the surface. That way, you run less of a risk of hot embers or ashes falling onto to your boat and causing a fire.
11. Have the Must-Haves
Whether you grill or not, a fire extinguisher is required by law. You should also have a first-aid kit on board and some kind of distress signals like flares or flags.
12. Keep Your Pontoon Boat Covered
When not in use, it’s always a good idea to keep your pontoon boat covered. This prevents UV-radiation, weather or other environmental pollutants from damaging your finish or causing undue wear on your boat. Want to keep your guests comfortable? Boat seat covers can keep seats clean and prevent fading when not in use.
Summer is around the corner and with it, BBQ season.
Whether your grill runs on gas, electricity or charcoal a few months of neglect can make your grill a less appetizing place to cook for the family. Performing a seasonal maintenance check is also a good way to prevent accidents or long-term damage to your grill.
Keeping your grill covered will help, but if you want to keep your grill-master status, getting your grill ready for summer by giving it a pre-season cleaning is a good idea.
Ready to Get Your Grill Ready for Summer?
Take the following steps:
Power Down for Safety
Take It Apart
Clean the Elements
Clean the Interior
Power Down for Safety
The first step in cleaning your grill is to make sure that it’s safe. Propane and sparks don’t mix, neither does electricity nor water. Take the following steps before you start cleaning your grill.
If you’re using a gas grill, turn all knobs to off, then disconnect the gas lines, both where they connect to the burners, and where they connect to the tank. This is also a good opportunity to check gas lines and the exterior of the tank for dents, erosion or damage.
If you are unsure about the condition of your gas tank or gas lines, don’t take chances, talk to a professional gas supplier.
Remove and safely discard old charcoal bricks and residue. Take extra care to unclog all air vents.
Unplug your grill and check the power cord for wear and tear.
Take it Apart
Taking your grill apart will allow you to access and clean every part of your grill. Every grill is different, so you should consult your grill manual on how to do this, or contact the manufacturer. Another easy trick is to take pictures of each step with your smartphone so you can reference them later. Have a drop cloth ready so you know where all your parts are.
For All Grills
Remove the grill plates and set them aside.
If applicable, remove the grease trap and smoker box
Disassemble the burner tubes, valves and venturi tubes. When you remove the ignition wires, wrap them in aluminum foil to keep them safe.
Clean the Elements
Once your grill has been disassembled, you can start cleaning off the individual elements.
These are the true workhorse of your grill, and the section that touches your food, so you want to get the grill grates as clean as possible.
You can clean the grill grates including spray-on grill cleaner, or soak in warm soapy water. Then simply scrub clean with a grill brush or scrubbing sponge.
Be sure that you clean both sides of the grill grate. When your grill grates are clean, make sure to rinse thoroughly and dry.
Once clean, rub the grates with vegetable oil. This will help prevent rust and keep food from sticking to your grill in the future.
Use a wire or brush to clean out the tubes and rinse with water. If the small holes in the burners are blocked and obstructed, use a small paperclip or pin to poke through the debris and clear the holes. Clean the ports by brushing side-to-side instead of up-and-down, as the vertical motion may push debris in deeper. If the holes are cracked or deteriorating, replace them with new burners.
Once complete, rinse the tubes with plain water and let dry.
Finally, remove any residue that is stuck to the outer surface of the tubes with your grill brush.
Grill Control Valves
Check your valves to make sure they’re working. A clogged or malfunctioning valve can affect your ability to control the grill temperature. Clean them with water or a degreasing solvent to remove any dust or grease.
The venturi tubes are the pipes that connect the burner tubes to the grill control valves. These tubes allow the air and gas to mix together, altering the intensity of the flame. Unfortunately, these can get clogged with dirt as well as insects that nest there during the off-season. Rinse these out as well and let them dry before re-assembling.
Clean the Interior
After your remove the grill grates, burners and tubes, clean out the interior of your grill with a grill cleaner or warm soapy water. If you see spots on your stainless steel or fragments that look like peeling paint, these are signs of built-up grease. Use a cleaner with a de-greasing agent to remove.
Remove as much residue as possible, the cleaner your grill, the better your food will taste. Wipe the interior dry, you don’t want any moisture to pool inside your grill while it’s waiting to be used.
Clean the Exterior
Once the interior is clean and dry, clean the exterior. Don’t use a grill cleaner, it will damage the paint and stainless steel. Instead, a simple solution of soap and water will do the trick.
Once everything is clean and dry, reassemble your grill. For a gas grill be careful to check wires and make sure burner tubes are connected properly.
Please note: Failure to re-assemble your grill burners correctly could result in a fire hazard. If your burners are not easily removable (or you’re not confident that you could properly replace your grill burners), do not disassemble, simply use a sponge lightly moistened with water to wipe down the burners.
If you want to keep your grill cleaner between uses.
When you’re done grilling, turn the heat up for 10-15 minutes, and then turn off the grill. Food and residue will be easier to brush or scrape away while your grates are still warm.
Keep your grill covered. This will keep dust, bird droppings and other environmental pollutants from staining your grill’s exterior. It can also keep insects out of your venture tubes.
When you get your grill ready for summer, you’ll enjoy better tasting food, have greater control over your grill, and you can extend its useful life for years to come.
Please Note: All grills are different. Consult the manufacturer’s recommendations before disassembling, cleaning or reassembling your grill.
Looking for a car cover? You’ve probably measured your car, figured out a budget, determined where you plan to keep it and are ready to place your order. But have you taken where you live into account? Day to day factors in your region like climate, UV-exposure, the kinds of trees and flowers and population density in your area can impact your decision.
Not sure where to start? Here’s a helpful guide to knowing what to look for in a cover based on the region where you live.
Region # 1 – Southeast U.S.
STATES: FL, LA, GA, TEN, NC, SC, AR
The American South offers warm weather year round, a slower pace, theme parks and history. It also offers hot, humid weather, mud and dirt, seasonal hurricanes and plenty of flowers and trees.
In places with high humidity, you need a cover that is fully waterproof and also has excellent UV protection. You’ll also want a cover that allows for air to flow. This keeps condensation from accumulating which helps prevent the growth of mold, mildew and rust. Look for covers with breathable material or with air-vents built-in.
The American southwest offers spectacular vistas and summertime weather all year long. It also offers high temperatures, intense UV-radiation from long periods of sunshine (and lack of shade). It also brings dust storms and the occasional flash flood.
In hot and dry areas, you want a cover that is designed to be UV-resistant and durable to protect against dust, grit and debris. Look for covers that are breathable and lighter in color. This will help keep your car cool when the temperature rises. However, don’t assume that you don’t need a cover that is waterproof or water-resistant, a sudden rainstorm can dump a lot of rain on your car with no warning. If your cover isn’t waterproof, the rain can seep through and stay in place until you remove the cover.
The Pacific Northwest offers lush forests, mountain ranges, hiking trails and ocean vistas. It also offers over 100” of rain every year.
In areas where rain is more of a regular feature and the sun shows itself less frequently, you’ll want a cover that is specially treated to keep water off and has watertight seams to prevent water from pooling or leaking through.
The plains states are known for wide open spaces, and miles and miles of open roads. They are also susceptible to cold weather and powerful windstorms. Blizzards and frequent snowstorms are also common which means more plowing and road salt, which can quickly eat away at your car, if left unprotected.
In cold and windy states, look for covers that have water and ice protection and are also designed to stay in place. This may include heavier materials, rip-stop fabrics that can stand up to high winds and straps and buckles that can secure your cover against windy conditions.
Region #5 – Northeast U.S./New England/ Mid-Atlantic
STATES: ME, MA, RI, NY, PA, NJ
Generally a more temperate region, the Northeast has a mix of weather. What it also has are trees with leaves and sticky sap, flowers, high pollen counts, bird droppings and other environmental pollutants that can eat at your car’s finish. If you live near the Atlantic Ocean, salty breezes can also accelerate rust. To keep your car clean, look for a cover with a hydrophobic coating make it easy to rinse off your cover and keeps pollutants from sticking.
All of the suggestions above assume that you’re storing your car outdoors for most of the year. But what if you keep your car indoors? Even when stored indoors, your car can be affected by dust, grit and other liquids. Also, sunlight from a single window can fade your car over time.
If you keep your car indoors and occasionally need to store it inside, the Indoor Basic Cover provides great indoor protection and enough waterproofing and durability to protect your car for short periods of outdoor storage.
For those who truly treasure their car, and would never allow it to site outside, the Indoor Luxury Cover may be a better bet. With soft elastic fabric that contours to your car, it keeps dust spills and sun away without threatening your finish.
How Often Do I Need To Cover My Car?
If you leave your car covered for extended periods of time, a heavier cover will work. However, if you remove your cover on a daily or weekly basis, a lighter cover is probably the best bet. Look for covers that protect, but are made from lightweight materials that can fold up for easy storage.
What Kind Of Finish Do I Have On My Car?
If your car is a collector’s item, or you’re simply concerned about protecting your paint and finish, look for a cover with a softer fleece-like lining. This will help prevent scratching.
Is Theft Protection A Concern?
If you live in a city, chances are that you park your car in a public garage or in a high-traffic area. If yes, you’re at an increased risk for theft or vandalism. The good news? Your cover can serve as an additional theft-deterrent. Car thieves are often on the lookout for specific car makes and models, they also want to be able to get in and out quickly. Putting a cover on your car will make prospective thieves think twice before breaking into your car.
Using a cover that doesn’t tear easily, but also has built-in, re-enforced grommets. This provides an excellent anchor point that can accommodate a cable and lock.
Knowing how your region can affect your car cover buying needs will help you to select a cover that will protect and also last, regardless of where you live.
There are over four million miles of road in the U.S. and no better way to explore them than in an RV. There are amazing locations to visit, national parks to explore and time to be spend with family. But that time will be less enjoyable in a dirty RV with engine problems. So, before you hit the road, it’s a good idea to give your RV a thorough cleaning and servicing. At the start of the season, you should give your RV a thorough maintenance check. This should include both the vehicular and recreational aspects of your RV. Not sure where to start, we’ve outlined 30 RV maintenance tips to use today.
WHEELS, AND STRUCTURAL MAINTENANCE
POWER AND ELECTRICAL MAINTENANCE
HOT WATER AND PLUMBING MAINTENANCE
HEAT AND COOKING ELEMENT MAINTENANCE
Change the oil every season and spend a little more for a high-grade synthetic oil. It will last than conventional oils and provide better lubrication on long trips. In fact, some synthetics last 30,000 miles without needing to be changed.
Changing your air filter will keep dust out of your engine and improve the air quality in your RV, especially when running the A/C on hot days. Don’t forget about your fuel filters, they’re inexpensive, easy to change and will keep your fuel fresh in any condition.
Belts and Hoses
Many critical parts of your engine are made using rubber, plastics and other materials that can break down over time, especially when exposed to stress and heat.
Check your fan belt to ensure that it’s tightly in place and free of cracks and excessive wear. Remember, the top of your fan belt gets the least wear and tear, so look at the part that interacts with the pulleys. If there are cracks or pits, don’t wait. Change your fan belt. The same approach applies to heater and radiation hoses, check for cracks and leaks both on the hose and around the seals. Any leaking or cracked hose should be changed immediately.
Is your water pump working? There may be leaks that don’t become apparent when your vehicle isn’t running. Check by placing some paper beneath the pump, turning it on and letting the engine heat to temperature. If the paper gets wet, the water pump is bad and needs to be changed.
Finally, check all your fluid levels and top them off as needed. You never know when you might run low, so it never hurts to keep an extra bottle of critical fluids on-board.
WHEELS, AND STRUCTURAL MAINTENANCE
Once your engine is running smoothly it’s time to check the rest of your RV.
Check for wear and make sure they are inflated to the proper pressure. If you need to rotate or replaces your tires get it done before you hit the road. It never hurts to check your spare and make sure it’s in good condition.
Any RV will take more time to slow down than a smaller vehicle. Before you hit the road, take your RV out for a ride and check the brakes for stopping power. If they feel sluggish or if you hear squeaks and grinding don’t wait. Get them checked and replace pads or rotors as needed.
Another simple check is to make sure your windshield wipers are working. Worried about bad weather? Buy an extra set and bring them with you.
Nothing is worse that a hot RV. Check your engine mounted or roof mounted RV and make sure that the air is blowing new, clean and cold air. If not, check your filters and hoses and if necessary, get it recharged.
Roof, Door and Window Seals
Are your roof seals, windows and doors water-tight and air tight? Check for leaks or loose seals. Fixing these seals can keep the inside of your RV warm and dry and reduce wear and tear on your A/C or heating system.
Awnings and Entry Steps
It’s a small thing, but if you have awnings or retractable entry steps, check to make sure they are in good repair, are well lubed and extend fully and easily.
POWER AND ELECTRICAL
One of the best things about travelling in an RV is the ability to bring all the comforts of home with you on the road. However, those comforts aren’t much help if you don’t have working electrical power in your RV. Check the following to avoid dark nights on the road.
If the battery is 5 years or older, it needs to be replaced. If your battery is newer, run a simple alternator test to make sure the alternator is working properly. To check, simply insert an on-off switch into the positive cable line. Turn the switch off when the vehicle is running, and if it stops, the alternator is bad.
If you have a gas-powered generator, remember to refuel and change the oil and fuel filters.
Converter Charging System
Check to make sure it’s working properly. If not, get it serviced.
Have a satellite or antenna to pick up TV signals? Don’t wait until the big game or season finale airs to make sure they’re working. Dust them off, make sure they can be deployed, that they are connected properly and can receive a signal.
HOT WATER AND PLUMBING MAINTENANCE
Another great benefit of RV travel is the convenience of having hot and cold water available, and of course access to a bathroom without having to stop. To ensure that you can enjoy these comforts, check the following:
This must work flawlessly every time. If your valve isn’t opening and closing easily, or if there are leaks around the valve, get it replaced.
Black and Grey Water Tanks
Nobody wants to keep their excess waste water around, especially when it can affect the plumbing on your RV. Make sure to clean and sanitize your tanks, so they’ll be ready for the road.
Test your hot water heater to ensure that water is heating properly. Check for hot water.
Hopefully you emptied out your tank while your RV was parked. Before you go, clean the tank thoroughly and fill it with fresh water. Check around the tank for signs of leaks or corrosion.
HEAT AND COOKING
Knowing that your heat and cooking systems are in good repair will also provide peace of mind when you’re on the road.
Check and refill your tanks every 3 – 4 months.
Check to ensure that your water heater is working properly and is free of leaks and corrosion.
This little rod is made from zinc, aluminum or magnesium. When inserted into your water heater it slowly corrodes, “sacrificing” itself to prevent your tank from rusting. These should be replaced once a year, or when the rod has corroded 75% of the way.
If your RV has an oven or stove top, clean the burners and surfaces thoroughly and then test to make sure everything is working.
Hopefully you won’t need to use it, but always check your fire extinguisher to make sure that it’s pressurized and in good working order.
Taking care of your RV starts not at the start of the current season, but at the end of the previous season. Before you give your RV a rest, make sure you do the following.
Take the time to clean your RV thoroughly. Don’t just sweep the floors and call it done, dust the ceiling fans and vents, clean off cabinet shelving, clean the stove, clean and de-frost the refrigerator. Remember to remove any food, nothing is a bigger draw for unwanted pests than unattended leftovers. Bring in any removable bedding, blankets, slip covers or cushions, they’ll stay cleaner and avoid dust and mold until you’re ready for next season.
Give your RV a full-cleaning. This includes both the outer frame and the undercarriage. Getting rid of dust, mud and road salt will prevent corrosion and keep your RV running longer. Use the opportunity to check side and roof seals for leaks, damage or corrosion.
Empty the Tanks
Empty your water and waste tanks, clean them and allow them to dry. This prevents corrosion and potential damage from water freezing.
Put a Cover on It
Once your RV is clean and ready, put a cover on it. A quality cover can protect your RV against bad weather, leaves, pollen tree sap and other environmental pollutants that can damage your RV. It also serves as an effective deterrent against vermin and insects, if you need to get in and out of it during the year, many have built-in zippers that allow you easy access.
Following all these steps will leave you with a cleaner, safer RV and allow you to enjoy your time on the road and spend less time in unfamiliar repair shops.