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It can be intimidating to launch a boat the first few times, as the stress of potentially seeing your vehicle disappear into the lake, river or ocean along with your trailer can make even the most enthusiastic captain pause. Fortunately, getting your boat off the trailer and into the water doesn’t have to be dramatic as long you follow some basic guidelines. Check out these five easy steps to help you launch your boat safely and easily.

1. Prep Your Boat and Trailer

Before you launch a boat, you need to prepare it so that nothing is forgotten before it slips into the water. Make sure your vessel is maintenance-ready with a tank full of fuel and a fully charged battery. Next, unplug your trailer’s wiring — you won’t need electric-brake assistance or trailer lights while backing down the launch ramp . Remove the engine support and tie-downs, while also installing the boat’s drain plug. We recommend having an extra drain plug or two around just in case. It’s recommended you load all of your gear into the boat before it gets wet, especially heavy or awkward items. Now is also a good time to put any electronics aboard.

2. Check Ramp Conditions

Is the ramp wet and slippery? Is there seaweed, algae or anything else stuck to it (maybe just below the water line) that could impede traction? Do you know how far it extends into the water? Taking stock of all these things will inform how you drive down the ramp and then back up again.

3. Find a Partner

The easiest way to back down a ramp and launch a boat is with a partner who can guide you while you drive in reverse. Slowly, work as a team to submerge your boat’s hull without backing so far into the water that your trailer leaves the ramp itself. If you don’t have a spotter, use your side mirrors and some patience to keep your trailer lined up with the ramp. If you have a rearview camera use it, but make sure to check your mirrors as well for a full view of your surrounds.

4. Start the Boat Up

Before you release the boat from the trailer make sure it starts and runs properly so that you don’t have to ask for a tow or a rescue as it floats away. Run your boat’s blower to clear any potential fuel vapors, hit the starter switch and get the motor to idle. Remember, if your boat has a separate throttle and drivetrain, you only want the motor spinning, not the propeller, while it’s still connected to the trailer.

5. Disconnect the Boat

Once your boat is floating on its own, the final step is to disconnect it from your trailer. Make sure there’s someone in the boat to keep it from becoming a hazard as you drive your trailer back up the ramp. Back the boat slowly off the trailer to free it from the last of its tethers.

Launching a boat doesn’t have to be stressful. Follow these guidelines and get your day started out on the water.

Check out all the marine & boat products available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how to launch a boat, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

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