WINTERIZING YOUR BOAT: A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE
If you’re a watercraft enthusiast or a boat owner, it’s about that time to prepare for falling temperatures. You’re probably already researching how to best winterize your craft, as well as looking for possible storage options. We’re here to help! Don’t forget that even if you’re able to use your boat year-round, there are several systems and pieces of equipment aboard that require special maintenance. Follow our checklists and tips below to keep your craft in tip-top shape.
Storage; In the water or out of it?
Depending on where your craft will be spending the winter months, you’ll want to adjust your maintenance process accordingly.
Out of Water
- Pressure wash the hull and remove barnacles from the props and shafts. Don’t forget to check the rudders, struts, and trim tabs.
- Clean all thru-hulls and strainers.
- Allow any water to drain by opening seacocks.
- Examine the hull for blisters. If you find any, address them now before they worsen.
- Give your hull extra protection and shine with a thorough waxing.
- Check that the battery is completely charged and that all switches are in the ‘off’ position.
- Close all seacocks. Inspect rudder shafts and stuffing boxes for leaks. Tighten or repack as needed.
- Check your battery to ensure it’s completely charged. Clean the terminals, add water if needed, and ensure your charging system is operational.
- Make sure your bilge pumps are operational. If the float switches correctly activate the pumps, and if debris is not obstructing their operation, you’re good.
- Keep an eye on your boat for animal infestations or surprise leaks. The phrase “when the cat is away the mice will play” isn’t metaphorical.
- If your mooring area is prone to freezing, suspend water agitators beneath it to bring warmer water to the top and keep it from becoming iced in.
Boat Winterizing Checklist
- With storage concerns out of the way, let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. Follow this process to prepare your craft for winter, top-to-bottom.
- Prepare your engine by draining and removing any water.
- Consult your manual for detailed directions.
- Protect your engine from corrosion by applying a marine corrosion inhibitor such as CRC.
- After adding a fuel-stabilizing additive to your fuel system, start the engine. This allows the stabilizer to move through your fuel system. Don’t forget to fog your carburetor intake. (See fuel system section below.)
- Replace your engine’s fuel filters as well as any fuel/water separators.
- Drain the fresh water plumbing systems on your craft, such as the heads, sinks, and tanks.
- Add some antifreeze to your plumbing systems.
- Make sure the bilge pump, raw water washdowns, livewells, and all other systems are free of water.
- Remove all drain plugs.
- Cover your boat or store it inside for the winter.
Maintain vital systems
It sounds silly, but water is the most dangerous element to your boat during the off-season. Freeze damage, mold and mildew growth, and corrosion are all made possible by post-season water. Your main goal in all your winterizing prep is to keep out as much moisture or water as you can. During the winterization process, pay special attention to the following:
No matter what sort of watercraft you have, all gasoline fuel systems require specific care. It’s crucial that you add a quality fuel stabilizer to the tank. If you don’t, varnish can form in your fuel lines and carburetor, or you can end up with water-saturated gasoline. Both issues can cause a world of hurt, so don’t skip the stabilizer. Once that’s been added to the tank, take your craft out for a spin so the treated gasoline makes its way through the whole system.
Before the engine runs out of fuel, spray fogging oil into the carburetor(s). It’s an anticorrosive that protects the internal surfaces of the carburetor and the cylinders. Just before your engine runs out of fuel, it’ll start to run rough. As that happens, give the carburetor(s) a heavier shot of fogging oil to fully coat those internal surfaces.
Next, replace your fuel filters and any fuel/water separators in the system. Reusing these parts is a major mistake. Reusing them can cause water and debris to enter the incorrect side of the filter. They get sucked into the system, causing harm to the filter’s internal components. So again, always change the canister completely.
After prepping the fuel system, it’s the plumbing system’s turn.
Sinks, tanks, and heads must be fully emptied and treated with non-toxic antifreeze in freshwater systems. You can do this by turning on all faucets and letting them run until the freshwater tank runs dry. Close the faucets, refill the tank with antifreeze, and open the faucet physically farthest away from the tank. Wait for the antifreeze to drain, then close it again. Repeat the process with the next-furthest faucet until all have antifreeze flowing through.
If your boat has a hot water heater, run both hot and cold faucets so antifreeze makes its way into the heater as well. You might be able to bypass the hot water heater and drain it independently in some situations. Don’t forget to empty holding tanks and run antifreeze through your boat’s head(s).
Just a HEADs up, if your boat has a portable MSD toilet, make sure to remove and empty it. This might be the only reminder you get, and you WILL regret it if you happen to forget. Don’t say we didn’t warn you!
Lastly, keep in mind that every part, piece of equipment, or pump that holds water must also be emptied for the winter. Making a list of all areas that need attention is a good idea. You can proceed from compartment to compartment, bow to stern or system by system. Just use whatever process will help you remember to protect all aspects of your boat.
Run your raw water washdowns and livewell pumps until they are completely dry. If you still hear gurgling, there’s water in there that can’t be drained. Apply some antifreeze to them.
Don’t overlook your boat’s bilges. If your craft is out of the water, drain plugs should be removed to prevent any kind of water retention. Look belowdecks to ensure the boat is properly positioned to fully drain. Finally, cover your boat for the season.
Outboard Engine? We didn't forget about you!
Outboard engines are intended to drain all water from their cooling systems when tilted down. While in this position, cover the motor, but make sure there’s enough airflow to prevent moisture from collecting.
While it rests, you‘ll also want to protect the engine’s internal parts from corrosion. Traditional carburetor outboards and two-strokes require fogging oil throughout the engine. Newer models might require different fogging procedures, though. Check your owner’s manual for your boat’s best process.
Long periods of inactivity (not low temperatures) are the greatest cause of problems with outboards. Additional winterization measures are typically unnecessary if you reside in an area where you can run the engine every few weeks. This allows the motor to run long enough to achieve a normal operating temperature.
When winterizing, it’s also a great time to replace your bottom unit and/or powerhead oil. Examine it to ensure there hasn’t been any water penetration.
And there you have it, our top processes and tips for getting your watercraft ready for winter. Don’t forget to check our wide selection of quality aftermarket replacement parts for your watercraft needs. Don’t see what you’re looking for? Contact us today! We would be glad to lend you a hand.
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