We’re getting close to winter, and in many areas of the country, that means dealing with cold, harsh weather. You won’t be able to take your boat on the water or enjoy all the benefits that boating has to offer—at least for the next 5 or 6 months.
This is disappointing, of course, but if you want to make sure you can start the next boating season as smoothly and reliably as possible, it’s important to spend some time preparing your boat for winter. This process sometimes referred to as “winterizing” your boat, will ensure your boat doesn’t accumulate damage or deterioration while it’s stored during winter months. It also doesn’t take long or cost much money, so there’s no excuse not to do it.
Take Care of Your Engine
First, spend some time maintaining your engine. While the engine is still warm and running, apply some lubricating oil to its moving parts—this includes the engine cylinders and pistons. You can also spray this oil on carburetors, air intake components, and/or through the fuel line. This is a process known commonly as “fogging,” and it will keep your engine protected. While you’re at it, change the oil of your boat—this isn’t exclusively a winterization strategy, but this is a good opportunity to do it.
If you want to protect your engine even further, use antifreeze in the cooling system. This will help you flush out any water that might be lingering, and guard your engine against the threat of winter.
Inspect and Replace
Take some time to inspect not just your engine, but every important part of your boat. This is especially important for aluminum components, which are vulnerable to corrosion. If you notice any spots of corrosion, you should proactively replace the affected part to prevent it from spreading and getting worse.
Take Out the Drain Plugs
Find the engine drain plugs and remove them. You can get rid of any condensation that’s accumulated by using a pipe cleaner. Make sure you store these somewhere you’re going to remember—too many boaters forget where they’ve stored them.
Maintain Your Gear Cases and Sterndrives
Your gear cases and sterndrives can get scuffed due to natural wear and tear. If this is the case, you can use some fine sandpaper to even them out. After a good buffering with sandpaper, use a cloth with white vinegar to wipe away the dust. From there, you can use a zinc primer to coat these components and protect them for years to come; you can also color a topcoat to match the trim of the boat if you want a more aesthetic finish.
Degrease and Shield Your Engine Block
Spend some time degreasing your engine as well. You can get rid of obvious globs of grease with paper towels. From there, you can wipe everything down with a soapy rage or a sponge. From there, you can use a silicone lubricant (or any lubricant that ends up as a waxy film). Spray this all over the engine block, linkages, and wiring to protect them over the winter.
Full or Empty Gas Tank?
There’s a bit of debate about whether it’s better to store your boat for the winter with a full gas tank or an empty one. If you store your boat with an empty gas tank, you won’t have to worry about the fuel going bad. However, this can also lead to condensation, which may make it hard to start your boat in spring—or could even lead to engine failure. Most experts recommend storing your boat with a full gas tank to prevent this. The same recommendation exists for cars.
Remove and Run the Battery
Disconnect the battery to prevent it from running dry during the winter. You can also use this as a chance to top the battery off with distilled water, and run it occasionally during winter to ensure it’s ready to go come spring.
Wash and Wax Your Boat
This is a good opportunity to thoroughly clean your boat. Wash the exterior and clean out the interior, and make sure you get rid of any obvious spots of dust, dirt, and debris. When you’re finished, give your boat a good coat or two of wax. This practice will make it much less likely for corrosion to set in, and will protect your boat against the elements. However, this also ensures that when you remove your boat from storage, you can enjoy it while it’s looking its best.
After you’ve taken these steps, you’ll be ready to store your boat throughout the winter months. Make sure you cover the boat tightly and choose a good storage location with temperature and humidity controls.