How to Winterize Your Boat
It’s that sad time of the year, the time where you realize boating season is over and you have to go through the mundane task of preparing your boat for storage. A moment of silence for all the fun had this year.
Now think back to the beginning of this year. Did everything run smoothly, and were you out on the water in virtually no time? Or were there some hiccups and maintenance issues because you didn’t follow the proper winterization steps this time last year? Don’t worry, it happens to everyone, but let’s make sure it gets done right this year. Whether you purchased your boat this year and this is your first time winterizing or your 30th, we’ll cover what needs to be done, so you can get out on the water faster next year.
Where do I store my boat for winter?
For first time boat owners, this can be a pain in the butt to figure out. For seasoned boat owners, you likely have a spot already setup, so feel free to scroll past this section unless you plan on upgrading. If you don’t live on the water, you likely have to transport your boat via a truck and trailer to and from the landing. In the summer time, it’s probably alright to leave your boat under just a cover since it’s getting used every weekend or so. In the winter, it’s a little different.
Ideally, storing your boat in an indoor facility with climate control is the best option. Your big shiny investment is protected from the elements and most importantly, the cold. However, that isn’t always the most practical option. Indoor storage is expensive, let alone climate controlled and if you have a massive boat, it may be difficult to find a place where your boat can fit.
If you’re set on indoor storage, but on a budget, look for dry rack storing. These facilities house multiple boats in a single warehouse and move them around with a forklift. Best of all, you won’t have to do any of the heavy lifting, just call ahead and they’ll have it ready for you to haul away.
Outdoors Out of Water
The next best option is to remove your boat from the water. Pretty straightforward if you haul your boat to and from a landing. Many people simply cover their boat and park it outside of their house, even if it is an eyesore. Others may have a small pole barn built on their property. A pole barn is great option and is better long term as you’ll generally save on the costs vs. renting space. If you plan on doing any work on the boat yourself, this further adds to the reason for building a long term structure.
If you live on the water and have your own personal dock, an easy option is have a boat lift installed and store your boat under a canopy. A lift will bring you boat out of the water and onto a set of racks. From there, all you need to do is go through the winterization steps below and you won’t have to worry about UV or water damage throughout the winter.
Outdoors in Water
Another option that is available in some locations is a wet storage marina. This is essentially a parking spot for your boat where it will sit in the water or just outside of the water. The benefit here is when the weather gets warm again, your boat is ready to go at a moment’s notice. Sometimes these marinas have dry storage options for smaller boats and electrical hookups to keep your boat’s battery charged.
Steps to Winterization
These steps will vary based on your boat, so be sure to check with your manual to make sure there aren’t any additional steps or precautions that need to be taken.
Change the Oil and Filter
Just like a car, the oil and filter should be changed at regular intervals. For most people, this is at the end of the season or every 100 hours of operation.
Old oil sitting inside the engine cause parts to corrode amongst other problems. To change the oil, you’ll likely be using an extraction pump to suck the old oil out. If you’ve never used one before, they’re pretty straightforward. It works like an air pump, but instead of pushing air out, it’s pulling air (or oil) into the collection tank. Be sure to turn off the engine before using the extractor. See the video below for further explanation.
After extracting the old oil, replace the filter and using your finger, run some of the old oil around the rim of the new filter to help create a firm seal. Hand tighten the filter.
Some people may opt to purchase cheaper, store brand oil in order to flush out any sediments and old oil left in the system, before putting in the ‘good’ oil. This isn’t a bad idea for winterization, but it isn’t necessary. If you choose to do so, follow the steps below, run the engine for 5 to 10 minutes again, and then repeat the extraction process.
Fill the engine with the recommended amount of oil that your owner’s manual indicates. Run the engine for another 10 minutes and then check your dipstick to ensure the proper amount of oil is in there. Once it checks out, check your filter again to make sure there are no leaks around it.
Flush with Coolant
Follow the video below to flush your outboard motor with clean water. If your boat does not a have a direct connection, you will need to purchase some earmuffs. Additionally, you will want to make sure your antifreeze complies with your manufacturer’s recommendations. While the engine is running with cool water running through it, you may also fog the engine as described below.
There will always still be some water leftover in the engine and this can freeze and cause damage to internal parts if an additional flush is not done. The easiest way to perform this flush is to purchase a DIY kit, like the one found here. Instructions are included, but it essentially involves connecting the motor to the included tank and running antifreeze through it.
Fogging the Carburetor
Remove the hood from your engine and locate the carburetor. Turn the engine on and rev it to a bit above idle. Tap the top of the spray into each of the carburetors just enough to almost kill the engine. If you do kill the engine that is alright since you will have the most amount of fogging spray in it possible. You should see lots of white smoke coming out of the exhaust.
After you’ve gone through and sprayed each carburetor several times, turn the engine off and remove the spark plugs. Spray fogging oil directly into each of the cylinders. With the spark plugs out, briefly turn over the engine and back off. You may want to cover the engine with an old rag as fogging oil will spray out when the engine is turned on. Repeat the process once or twice more and reinsert the spark plugs.
Fill up the Tank with Gas and Stabilizer
Empty space in the gas tank is an opportunity for condensation to form, which can cause damage to the tank or worse if it freezes. Fill up the tank and add a fuel stabilizer, like this. This will help to keep the fuel fresh during storage for up to 24 months and further help to prevent condensation from forming.
Disconnect the Battery
Use a multimeter to check the voltage of your battery. For a 12V system, it should ideally be somewhere between 12V-14V depending on its age. If it is not, charge your battery according to the manufacturer’s specifications for a 100% charge. Again, depending on the age and condition of your battery, this can vary.
Secondly, depending on the type of your battery and your storage location you may want to invest in a trickle charger to keep your battery fully charged over the offseason. Trickle chargers can connect directly to a wall outlet or be solar powered.
Removing the Interior
This is an optional step, but if you plan on storing your boat anywhere outdoors, it’s a good idea. If any of your electronics are removable such as the radio head unit or fishing gear, it’s best to take that inside your home. Any sort of seat cushions, leather, or canvas materials should also be removed if possible to avoid damage. Make sure your interior is dry and any accessories like lifejackets, have been stored safely.
General Clean Up
Wipe down all areas of the boat with some warm soapy water and dry. Wash the exterior of the boat and apply a coat or two of wax. Wax will help to prevent corrosion amongst other damage to your boat’s body. Not to mention, it’ll be nice and shiny when taken out for the first time next year.
Purchase a Cover
Regardless of whether you’re storing your boat indoors or outdoors, a cover is a must. It’ll protect your interior from dust, dirt, and moisture that may want to find its way into your boat. Price will vary depending on the size of your boat but expect to spend around $100 or so on a decent cover.
Once you’ve figured out where you plan on storing your boat, then it’s just a matter of a few hours of work to get everything prepared. Taking the proper steps now will ensure you can get out on the water quickly on the first warm day next year. Below are some additional resources you will want to check out if you need to make additional purchasing decisions.