How to Winterize Your Boat for Storage
Seriously, if you don’t winterize your boat properly, you won’t have a functioning boat for long. In fact, in the face of poor maintenance, your boat might decide to dump you, and then you’ll be stuck in the middle of the lake. Awkward. If you don’t take care of your equipment, eventually the equipment degrades. I know that there are many different types of boats, so the tips will be more general. There’s always more information out there. Feel free and use this article as the starting point for your research on how to properly winterize and store your boat.
1: Clean Your Boat
Power wash or hose off the hull. Mix a safe hull-cleaning chemical with some water in a bucket and scrub the hull with a soft sponge. When scrubbed to satisfaction, rinse the hull with fresh water. Make sure to clean your boat in an area where none of the water can contaminate larger bodies of water. Clean the inside of the boat with household cleaning supplies. Again, be careful not to contaminate water.
2: Repair Your boat
Wax your boat to prevent oxidation. Check the hulls for scratches or dents. Check the engine and fuel lines for broken seals. Test the battery. Check the upholstery and interior for rips and tears. Check any engine belts for breaks. Inspect electrical system for exposed wires or corrosion. Check propellers for dents or cracks.
3: Flush the Engine
You will need an engine flushing kit and 2 to 5 gallons of antifreeze. Cover the raw water intake with the “ear muffs” and pump the antifreeze through the ear muffs. You want to make sure to get rid of any moisture and pump it thoroughly. Any leftover water can freeze, expand and possibly crack parts of your motor. You want to make sure you do this step very well before finding boat storage near you.
4: Change the Oil in the Lower Unit
Put an oil collector under the motor. Unscrew the oil drain plug screw at the bottom of the gear case (do not let the bolt fall into the oil pan and get covered with oil). Unscrew the upper vent plug screw. This will let the oil rapidly flow out of the drain hole. Wait sufficient time (an hour). If your oil is milky white or grey, consult your mechanic, as there are underlying problems with your motor. While the oil is draining, clean up the drain plug and vent screw, and install new sealing O-rings on the screws. Screw an oil pump adapter into the lower drain hole, and connect the other end of the pump to your oil reservoir. Pump the oil to fill the lower unit of the motor until oil runs out of the vent hole. Screw in the vent plug. Unscrew the oil pump adapter, and quickly screw in the drain plug. Wipe down and clean up any oil spills.
5: Put On A Boat Cover
Use a shrink wrap cover, or a sturdy tarp or boat cover, to protect the inside of the boat from the outside elements. This is especially important if you are storing your boat outside in a snowy area. Shrink wrapping can be dangerous (and fun as it involves fire, but don’t try this at home), and prices can range from $10 (do it yourself) to $60 (top of the line). A normal tarp is relatively affordable.
6: Fuel Up
Fill your fuel tank to about 90% (the safe limit) to avoid condensation within the tank. Condensation is the collection of water molecules. You don’t want a lot of water molecules collecting in your tank during winter because they will freeze and the water will expand. If there is too much condensation, your tank can crack.
7: Fog the Engine
Locate the carburetors in the engine. While the engine is running, spray the fogging oil into the carburetors. You will start to see smoke. This is normal. Spray until your engine stalls. This is how you know that you are spraying enough. The oil coats the inside of the engine with a thin layer of wax based oil that helps prevent corrosion. You can also spray the fogging oil into the cylinders. If unsure how to proceed, contact your local marina mechanic.
8: Use Fuel Stabilizer
Simply add a fuel stabilizer agent (such as Ethanol Shield) and run your engine (with water flowing through it of course) for 10 minutes. If you don’t do this, varnish deposits build up in the fuel system and can ruin your carburetors and fuel injectors. Then you boat will stay in storage forever. Be sure to always read the instructions on your fuel stabilizer before use it. This tip helps your boat’s fuel to be ready the moment the ice thaws and the water calls your name.
9: Disconnect the Battery
Charge your battery fully and then disconnect it. Leaving a battery connected will eventually drain the battery, causing you to buy a new one or have to jump start it (which lowers the battery life). An alternative is a trickle-charging unit which slowly charges the battery over a long period of time. The cheaper alternative is to simply unplug the battery and store it in a space with a moderate temperature.
10: Find Boat Storage Near You
Find the best storage conditions for your boat. You can store indoor with climate control (the luxury option) or in someone else’s garage (via Neighbor). You’ll want to make sure that your boat is ready for storage by completing all of the previous steps. Also, make sure to spend lots of time planning the adventures you’ll have when spring comes and you are ready to get out on the lake again.
With these 10 Tips on how to winterize and store your boat, you will not end up like Gilligan and his friends (who tragically got off the island, but found their way back again….) Instead, you’ll enjoy your water navigation vehicle (boat) for many years to come. More important than that, you’ll make memories of adventures with people you love. With that perspective, winterizing and storing your boat correctly is a small price to pay.