Ultimate Rigid Inflatable Boat Maintenance Guide
With a few simple steps and maintenance measures, you can keep your boat looking and functioning like new for years. Even if you frequently use it in saltwater, with a little care and attention to detail, your RIB will remain ready to perform and impress.
Here at Sirocco Marine, we know your boat is more than just a valuable investment. It’s like a part of the family. That’s why we do our best to equip our customers with the knowledge they need to enjoy their watercraft for years.
In this guide to rigid inflatable boat maintenance, we’ll cover what to do after a day on the water, as well as long-term maintenance and storage tips. Following these guidelines will keep your rigid inflatable in excellent condition.
Clean Your Boat Regularly
Especially if you use your RIB in saltwater, thoroughly cleaning it after a day’s use will keep your boat looking nice. And while the clean-up routine may seem like a lot to remember at first, you’ll develop a strategy, and it’ll only take a few minutes after a little practice — or a little help from your younger crew members.
Here’s how to clean your RIB.
Wash the Deck of the RIB
Whenever you tie up or pull your boat out of the water, you should rinse the outer surfaces with fresh water to clean away any debris left over from the day’s adventures. A thorough rinse prevents salt crystals from forming and oils and other chemicals from seeping into the deck. Once you get all of the saltwater off, you’ll be able to spot clean and tackle the smaller areas.
Getting a cheap and easy-to-use deck brush can be a great help for removing debris — they’re especially useful for removing any dropped food on wooden decks, which prevents the oil from seeping into the wood. Be sure to get the right brush for your type of deck — a more rigid one for non-slip surfaces and a softer one for wooden or composite decks. If you use soap to clean your boat, make sure it’s approved for RIB cleaning and is environmentally friendly.
Cleaning the RIB isn’t the same as a traditional boat, mainly because of the inflatable siding material. There are specialized, RIB-safe cleaning products made without chemicals that could harm your inflatable vessel — using the wrong products can damage your boat.
While RIBs are exceptionally tough and seaworthy, they do require specific care when cleaning — it’s no more difficult, but there are some things to avoid, especially when cleaning the Hypalon or PVC fabric of the inflatable siding. Be careful to not use these potentially damaging products on your RIB:
- Abrasives like steel wool
- Ammonia cleaner
- High-alkaline cleaner
If you use soap or detergent, employ it in sparing quantities and thoroughly rinse it away after use, as excess can leave a soapy scum layer or cause mildew.
Clean and Cover Your RIB
Wipe any water spots and debris from your electronics and dashboard instruments and cover them to prevent damage. Keeping electronic screens covered not only keeps them looking factory new, but it also keeps them scratch-free and easy to read.
To reduce lasting water spots, wipe down any surfaces like handrails and windows where water spots form. With a quick wipe-down, your boat will look great next time you decide to head out. Also, by cleaning regularly, you minimize mineral deposits that take more elbow grease to remove.
Store Your RIB Properly
If you plan on storing your RIB as part of your boat maintenance routine, there are a few simple precautions you can take to prevent damage and deterioration:
- Keep Your RIB Inflated: While a benefit to rigid inflatables is that they can be deflated to save space for short-term storage and transportation, you don’t want to store them uninflated for long periods. They are much more susceptible to damage when they aren’t inflated. The siding can deform and make creases. Bends and kinks in the inflatable siding can lead to weak spots, so check that there aren’t any pinched or scrunched areas before you store the boat for an extended period.
- Keep It Covered: You don’t want to leave your RIB in the sun for a long time if it isn’t covered. If left unprotected for too long, UV rays can start to degrade the rubber slowly. Luckily, all you need is an affordable cover to keep the sunlight off — ideally one that’s both UV protective and breathable to reduce the chance for mildew — but even a hardware store tarpaulin can serve for short-term protection.
- Put It Away Dry: Never leave wet areas in your RIB or any boat that you plan to store for a long time. Mold and mildew can form and are more work to remove than simply ensuring everything is dry. If possible, choose an area that’s dry and well ventilated to store your boat, especially if you live in a place where freezing temperatures are common during the colder months, as ice can harm your boat’s interior.
- Don’t Store It With Fuel: Do not store your boat with fuel in the system for too long, as separation of oil and gas in two-stroke engines or condensation in the fuel tank can lead to more serious issues down the line. Drain your fuel by using a freshwater source for the cooling system and then disconnect the fuel line while the engine runs.
- Flush Your Engine: Before storage, it’s a good idea to give your engine a thorough freshwater flush to ensure that there’s no saltwater left in the system to cause corrosion.
- Disconnect the Battery: Always disconnect the battery when storing your boat — not only is it safer, it also extends the life of your battery. Even if none of your electronic systems are turned on, instruments can sometimes cause parasitic draws, which drain your battery if you leave it attached.
- Check Your Hull: It’s best to check your hull for damage and imperfections when you take your RIB out of the water. By doing a quick check when you can easily see the bottom of your boat, you can touch up the gel coat or make minor repairs, if necessary. That way, your boat is ready to go when you want to use it again.
- Avoid Heated Areas: If you stow your boat as a tender on a larger yacht, avoid keeping it in areas that get too hot. The heat can interact with the inflatable siding and cause deformations and damage. Also, avoid storing your boat on deck with a dark cover where it will heat up quickly in the sun.
- Inflation After Storage: Always inflate your RIB to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure after storage before use. Inflate each chamber in a counter-clockwise manner until each you fill each one. Remember, if you’re inflating your boat while it’s cold or in a shaded area, under-inflate a little to allow for expansion once the tubes heat up in the sunlight.
What About the Trailer?
If you’re going to store your RIB on a trailer, there are a few precautions you should take to protect the trailer, too:
- Release the Handbrake: Chock the wheels with wood or bricks to prevent moving instead of using the handbrake. Keeping the brake off keeps it from seizing in an engaged position.
- Wash Down the Brakes: Especially if you used your trailer to launch your boat in saltwater, wash the saltwater off the brakes before storage, so corrosion doesn’t cause them to seize.
If your trailer lights aren’t working after long-term storage, try using a contact cleaner on your electrical connections. Also, be sure to check there isn’t any damage to the breakaway cable — which serves as a backup brake if the trailer gets disconnected from the tow vehicle.
Take this time to do other maintenance for inflatable boats — if your boat and trailer are out of the water for the season, do any maintenance that would otherwise interrupt your regular use, such as replacing brake pads, changing the bearings on your trailer, and finishing any repairs or touch-ups on your boat so you’re ready to go when the weather turns sunny again.
Make Regular Maintenance a Priority
With a thorough maintenance routine, you can keep your rigid inflatable looking and functioning like new for as long as you like. Plus, if you ever decide to upgrade your boat or sell it for another, excellent maintenance keeps the resale value of your boat high. Buyers are more likely to make a deal if you can explain to them the specifics of how you’ve taken care of the vessel. Use these weekly, monthly and yearly maintenance tips to keep your RIB in pristine condition.
Protect the Upholstery
If you take a few simple preventative measures, you can keep your upholstery dinner-cruise-ready for years. First, always clean it after a day’s use to prevent stains and other debris from making lasting marks. Cleaners formulated for RIB tube cleaning work well for vinyl seating, too, as they’re designed to be non-reactive.
Extended exposure to the sun isn’t ideal for your upholstery — be sure to use your seat covers any time you’re not going to be on your boat for a while. They’re quick and easy to put on, and they help keep your upholstery soft and looking vibrant.
Also, if you have vinyl seating on your RIB, you can get it sprayed with a protective UV coating that protects it from sun damage — it enhances the look of vinyl and preserves it for years.
Protect Your Inflatable Siding
Try to minimize the number of oily substances that contact the inflatable siding of your RIB. If left for too long, the chemicals can interact with the tubing material and make it sticky. The same goes for fuel, so clean up any spills quickly. If your boat already has a few of these spots, don’t worry — you can use RIB-specified cleaning solution and a soft brush to remove the gunk and restore color to faded areas.
For extra protection for your inflatable, apply a water-based protectant to protect the tubing material. It’s like sunscreen for your boat — it helps protect the siding from long-term UV exposure, and it only takes a quick, monthly application.
Wax Your Hull
If you haven’t already, it’s a good idea to wash and wax your hull to prevent microorganisms and other dirt from becoming ingrained in your hull. While the hull is wet, use an environmentally friendly boat cleaner and a sponge or a soft brush that won’t scratch the bottom coat. After the hull is clean, use a non-toxic fiberglass or gel coat wax to cover the bottom of the boat. But be careful to keep the wax away from the deck of your vessel, as it can make the surface slippery or stain it.
The great thing about waxing your boat is that it makes future rinse-downs and hull cleanings easier — you won’t need to use a lot of soap or scrub much the next time you need to clean it. If you stay on top of your waxing, it protects the function and appearance of your hull.
Treat Your Windows
Even after rinsing your boat, it’s always nice to wipe down your windows to keep water spots from forming so they’ll be crystal clear. To make things easier, you can find marine water repellents to treat your windows, so they naturally dry faster and with fewer spots. Just be sure to check the product you use is safe for plexiglass or glass — depending on which you have on your boat.
Protect Metal Hardware
Chrome and stainless steel on your boat may start to show signs of weathering after a few excursions. Besides wiping down these surfaces after a freshwater rinse to prevent mineral deposits, many boat owners like to polish the metal on their boats every year to get it back to dazzling factory quality. Marine metal polishes are inexpensive and easy to use.
Keep up With Engine Maintenance
Check your manufacturer recommendations for proper engine upkeep — staying on top of things like oil changes and replacing fuel filters is essential for long-term performance. Or you can take your boat to a marine mechanic, and they’ll quickly service your engine for you.
Replace Outboard Anodes
Sacrificial metals on your outboard help protect the motor and underwater metals from harmful electric currents in the water. Without the protection from anodes, metal components would corrode much faster. Learn where the anodes are on your outboard engine and replace them when they’re starting to look corroded.
Choose Sirocco Marine for Rigid Inflatable Boats
All boats require maintenance to maximize appearance and safety, but RIBs are statistically proven to be safer vessels than traditional powerboats. Of the recreational boating accidents in 2017, the U.S. Coast Guard reports that none were the result of inflatable vessel machinery failure.
If you’re looking for a high-quality rigid inflatable with an industry-leading design, you will find it at Sirocco Marine. We have models available that suit any boater — whether you’re looking for a tender for your yacht or you want your RIB for a full day of family adventures.
We’re proud to earn our customers’ loyalty with outstanding service and top-of-the-line products. If you want to learn more about RIB maintenance or would like to request a quote on a boat, please contact us today.