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Winterizing Your Boat

Winterizing Your Boat

When the boating season is winding down, it’s time to start thinking about protecting your valuable recreational asset. The time and effort you spend now will have a definite effect on your boat's performance, or lack of it, and certainly save you time, effort and money come spring. You should remember that your insurance policy may not cover damage done by lack of maintenance or neglect.

The best place for your boat to be during the winter is out of the water, under cover, in a climate-controlled boat storage area. This, however, can be expensive. If don't have this option perhaps you should consider shrink-wrapping your boat. This, too, is a little expensive but provides a very protective cover. Short of these two items, make sure that your boat is well covered with a tarp or some other sturdy cover.

Your first step in winterizing should be to make a checklist of all items that need to be accomplished. Check the owner's manual of both your boat and motor for manufacturer's recommendations on winterization. If you are a new boat owner, perhaps you should employ the assistance of a friend with experience in winterizing or hire a professional to do the job.

Here are some general procedures you’ll need to follow.

Inboard Engine(s)

You should run the engine to warm it up and change the oil while it is warm. This allows the oil to drain more fully. Make sure you supply cooling water to the engine via the flushing port. Remove the oil filter and properly dispose of it as well. Refill the engine, check the level and check it again for leaks.

Finally, flush the engine with non-toxic antifreeze by using an intake hose to the water pump. Place the end of the hose in a bucket or bottle of antifreeze. Start the engine and allow the antifreeze to circulate until it starts to exit the exhaust. While you're in the engine room you should also change the fluid in your transmission. Remove spark plugs and use "fogging oil" to spray into each cylinder. Wipe down the engine with a shop towel sprayed with a little fogging oil.

Stern Drive(s)

  • You should thoroughly inspect the stern drive and remove any plant life or barnacles from the lower unit.
  • Drain the gear case and check for moisture in the oil. This could indicate leaking seals that must be repaired before spring recommissioning.
  • Clean the lower unit with soap and water.
  • If your stern drive has a rubber boot(look between the transom and engine), check it for cracks or pinholes.
  • Grease all fittings and check fluid levels in hydraulic steering or lift pumps.
  • Check with your owner's manual for additional recommendations by the manufacturer.