Taking the proper precautions is very important if you want your boat to be ready to use when spring comes. Not winterizing your boat can cause significant damage such as leaks, corrosion, or frozen pipes. All of these possibilities can lead to large repair bills that can easily be avoided if the proper precautions are taken.

Here are a few suggestions when winterizing your boat:

Find a location to store your boat

Storage options usually include your garage, your driveway, your backyard, a marina, rack storage, or a storage facility such as Elbow Room. It is always a good idea to read your owner’s manual for safety rules, towing capacity limitations, and storage tips.

Clean the boat thoroughly

It is always a good idea to clean the inside as well as the outside of the boat.  In the process you may discover needed repairs that need to be addressed before storing it for the Spring.  Cleaning the boat thoroughly will also allow you to prevent mold or unwanted odors caused by spills or messes.  After cleaning your boat, apply a chemical to your steering and control cables as well as the metal hardware to prevent rust on them.

Repair any damages you find

It is always a wise decision to address anything that is broken, worn or damaged before you store it.  During the fall boatyards/repair shops are less busy as opposed to Spring when they experience sharp rushes.  Another reason to address issues with your boat quickly is to prevent them from getting any worse during the storage process or because you forget over the winter.

Remove electronic devices

You should remove all electronic devises and store them in a safe, dry, and warm place.

Draining Fluids

Another step in winterization is to drain the fluid from your engine block, coolers, water pumps, and manifold.  Next, drain the gearcase  and fill it with lubricant.  Port-a-potties, water tanks, and your hot water heater should also be drained and filled with antifreeze (nontoxic).

Fuel and cooling system

In order to prevent condensation fill up the gas tank with fuel.  This will also prevent oxidation and gas spoilage. Once the tank is full add a stabilizer to avoid damage and preserve the gas. To make sure the stabilizer reaches fuel lines and other parts run the engine for 15 to 20 minutes.  Antifreeze should be added to the cooling system and water supply lines.

Mildew prevention

Items such as sails, flotation devices, cushions, curtains, and fire extinguishers should be stored in a safe place. Prop lockers and drawers open so that they can air out.  Also, don’t forget to empty the refrigerator if your boat has one. Mildew prevention is about minimizing moisture which can be done with a dehumidifier.  Dehumidifiers work by increasing the air temperature and circulating the air. You want to keep the moisture inside the boat in suspension and on the move.  It is also a good idea to place a few boxes of baking soda in the boat as they will absorb moisture.

Monitor oil

Run the engine to warm it up and change the oil while it is warm. Dirty engine oil can thicken after long-term storage and make it difficult to start the boat when you are done storing it. Be sure to change the oil filter, too.

Winterize the engine

Remove spark plugs, change the transmission fluid and apply fogging oil to each cylinder.  Fogging oil should be applied by spraying it on to a towel or cloth and wiping down the engine.

Paint where needed

If your boat has spots that need to be painted sand over them and apply the correct paint.

Battery Preparation

Remove the battery after disconnecting the cables.  Clean the battery with a mixture of baking soda and water, then rinse with distilled water and clean the terminal ends.  Disconnect the battery cables and remove the battery. Put a thin coat of grease on the terminal ends after cleaning.  Use a trickle charger to keep the battery power up during the course of the winter.

Stern drive inspection

Upon inspection remove any growth such as plants or barnacles from the lower unit of the stern drive. Also, check for cracks or holes if your stern drive has rubber boots.  Check your fluid levels and grease fittings.

Bilge Cleaning

Clean and dry the bilges using soap and hot water and a stiff brush.  Make sure you clean any spills from oil. After cleaning the bilges spray a moisture-displacing lubricant on them and add antifreeze.  The antifreeze will prevent water from freezing and damaging the bilges.

Cover Selection

You want to make sure your boat is tightly covered before putting it in storage.  Your boat should be covered whether it is being stored in-doors or outside.  Choose a cover that is not torn or damaged and has good ventilation.

Winterizing is very important for many reasons.  First, most insurance policies will not cover damage caused by lack of maintenance.  It is very important to refer to your owners manual for information on how to winterize.  Remember – every boat is different.  Always seek help from professionals when you are not sure of something. Ask as many questions as you need to insure winterization is done properly.  Better safe than sorry is always a good policy.  This may seem like a lot of work but it will maximize your boats lifespan and pay huge dividends in the long run.