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How to Winterize Your Boat in 10 Steps

How to Winterize Your Boat in 10 Steps
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As the weather starts to change as we move from summer to fall, you’re probably thinking about all the fun activities you’re going to enjoy. Or maybe you’re sad that boating season is over. Either way, you need to make sure your boat is properly prepared and maintained until spring comes back around. To help you with this task, we’re sharing some step-by-step instructions on how to winterize your boat so it stays in excellent condition.

Maintain the engine

Taking care of your engine is one of the top priorities of preparing your boat for the winter. If there is any moisture left in the engine and it freezes, the engine block could crack and you would have to replace it.

  1. Use a fuel stabilizer.

    The first thing you should do to prepare your engine for storage is adding a fuel stabilizer to the tank. This product is designed to keep fuel in a functional condition when being stored for a long time without use. You want to run the engine after putting it in to ensure the fuel stabilizer penetrates all components; you can do this in or out of the water. You could also change the fuel filter at this time as well.

  2. Change the oil.

    Next, you’ll want to change the oil and filter because the contaminants in dirty oil can corrode engine parts during winter storage. Before changing your oil, you should attach flushing muffs to a garden hose and place them over the water intake on your motor. After turning on the water, start the motor, and allow it to run for a few minutes. Turn off the motor and remove the flushing muffs. Now you’ll change the oil. While it is draining, remove the oil filter and replace it with a new one. Then you add new oil back into the motor.

  3. Flush the motor with antifreeze and fog the cylinders.

    Instead of only draining the cooling water out of the motor, you should flush it with antifreeze. When you do this step before placing your boat in storage for winter, any water in the motor won’t freeze up, protecting the internal components and preventing damage. You’ll also want to consider using fogging oil to prevent the cylinders from rusting. As you run the motor after putting antifreeze in, spray the fogging oil into the carburetors to prevent rusting.

  4. Service the propellers.

    An important step in winterizing your boat is servicing the propellers. By properly caring for them, you’ll prevent contaminants from getting inside, since it can cause damage. First, you’ll want to remove the propellers. Then, you’ll drain the gear lube. As it drips out of the lower hole, watch out for a milky or lumpy consistency or plain water. If you do see this, your boat is being contaminated by water and needs further maintenance.

    If the gear lube consistency is fine, you will replace it once it has finished draining. Attach the gear lube pump to the bottom hole, and fill from the bottom until it comes out of the top hole. When you’ve drained gear lube or oil, be sure to take it to the proper facility for disposal.

    If you are storing your boat inside, put the propellers back on. If you are storing your boat outside, cover the props shaft in grease and then plastic to prevent dirt from getting inside.

  5. Take care of the batteries.

    To lengthen the life of your batteries, you’ll want to properly care for them before putting your boat in storage. You have a few options on how to do this. First, you can use a built-in trickle charger in the boat. All you’ll have to do is plug in the extension cord, and it will run a low level charge all winter long. This method leaves the batteries in the boat, which is ideal for indoor storage.

    The second option is to bring a charger into the boat while leaving the battery installed. This is ideal if you don’t have a trickle charger. Once the batteries are charged, you can disconnect them but leave them in the boat if you are storing it indoors.

    If you plan on storing your boat outdoors for winter, you’ll want to completely remove the batteries and set them in your garage connected to a charger.

    Remove the charger from the batteries once they are fully charged. Leaving batteries connected too long can cause overheating and explosions.

    Make sure everything is clean and dry

    Once you’ve serviced the motor, it’s time to remove all excess water from your excursions on the lake. When you winterize your boat, you want to make sure everything is clean and dry, because components could mold or become damaged from water freezing.

  6. Dry all components.

    One of the most important steps in winterizing your boat is ensuring every aspect is dry. If there is any moisture, it can freeze or mold. After your last day out on the water, remove gear, towels, and anything else that is wet.

    Open chairs and cushions to let the interior dry. If you have any removable cushions, set them somewhere sideways to let moisture evaporate for the winter season, like in your garage.

    Remove snap out carpet if you have any because there could be moisture underneath it. Hang the carpet up to fully dry.

    Completely empty the ballast tanks and bags, and remove them so you can hang them up to fully dry. You’ll also want to set the outdrive in the down position that way any water inside drains out.

  7. Clean and wax your boat.

    Before winter storage, you’ll want to make sure your boat is completely clean. The outside, inside, trim, and hardware should be cleaned, and you should also check for blisters, cracks, and other damage so you can take care of it now.

    Although it’s not essential, opting to wax your boat before winter storage protects it from the elements.

  8. Take out drain plugs.

    When you’re thinking about how to winterize your boat, you may forget something simple like removing the drain plugs. This is important so any excess water can drain off. Be sure to keep the drain plug out all winter, especially if you’re storing it outdoors. This allows any moisture that gets in to drain off instead of freezing. If you don’t let all of the components completely dry before putting your boat away for storage, you could open it in the spring and have mold growing.

    Final Winterizing Steps

    You’ve already serviced the engine, drained the boat of water, and cleaned all surfaces. Now you’re ready for the last steps for winterizing your boat.

  9. Cover your boat.

    No matter how you plan on storing your boat in the winter, you should cover it. For outdoor storage, you should consider shrink wrapping it. While this can be an expensive option, it will protect your boat from the elements. You can also use a reusable winter storage cover, or opt for both. By covering your boat, you’re keeping leaves, rain, snow, and other moisture out of it. It extends the life of your boat by preventing rot and mold.

    Even if you plan on storing your boat inside for the off season, you should get a cover. This protects the interior from dust, dirt, rodents, and bugs. Also consider getting a motor hood to shield the motor from damage.

  10. Check your trailer.

    Of course, winterizing your boat is top priority. But if you plan on storing your boat on a trailer, you also want to prep it. Make sure all of the lights are working properly. It can be dangerous to drive a trailer without working lights, and you’ll have time to replace them now instead of waiting to do it when you want to be out on the lake next season.

    You’ll also want to check the tire pressure and fill them with air if necessary. Don’t forget to check the bearings and replace any if needed.

With all of these steps, you don’t have to wonder how to winterize your boat. You’ll be able to prepare for the off season and ensure your equipment is ready to go when warmer weather comes around again. If you need even more details on boat maintenance, check out our annual boat maintenance guide!

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