There’s no better time to take care of boat maintenance than during the cooler winter weather. Even if you live in a temperate part of the country, you’re less likely to be out on the water, which means more time to take care of the chores that keep your boat in great shape. You’ll want to prepare your boat for the longer period of inactivity that winter inevitably brings, so here are a few tips to keep things shipshape until the spring arrives once more.
Clean, Clean, Clean
Keeping things clean is a frequently overlooked aspect of boat maintenance. The winter is the perfect time to wash off the accumulated grime from a full summer out on the water, allowing you to thoroughly clean and dry fiberglass, canvas, wood and other surfaces.
The cleaning process doesn’t just help you fight corrosion — it also allows for a complete inspection of your boat, as you get close enough to all components to find and repair the small problems that might not have been immediately obvious. You’ll also want to drain any bilges, pumps or fish holds to make sure they don’t hold water when the boat isn’t being used.
Drain the Engine, Fill With Stabilizer
If you don’t plan on running your boat’s engine or motor during the winter months you’ll want to pull the drain plug and get all of the water out as a first step. Next, you should pour fuel stabilizer into the fuel tank, running the engine for a few seconds afterward to make sure the chemical mixes in with the entire system. Fuel stabilizer will prevent corrosion inside the engine and gas line, and it will also keep gasoline from breaking down if it sits for a long time.
While you’re focused on the engine, this is a perfect time for an oil change. This preps the boat for the upcoming season and removes any contaminants that might be lurking in the oil after a summer of enjoyment. Bonus tip: Check your battery charge while you are at it.
Lubricate Everything Else
You boat’s engine isn’t the only component that needs lubricant to keep running properly. After cleaning, your boat maintenance should include lubricating any winches, chain drives or mechanical linkages like the tiller to ensure that they move freely and operate smoothly. You might even want to consider using a moisture-displacing lubricant such as WD-40 on hatch hinges and latches for the same reasons.
Cover It Up!
All the boat maintenance in the world won’t keep your vessel prepped for spring if you leave it exposed to the elements for the entire winter. Get a good waterproof cover that fits snugly over the top of your boat. If you can pull your boat out of the water and get it under the cover of a garage or carport, so much the better. Avoiding sun, leaves, rain and wind will help preserve your boat and prolong its lifespan.
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Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time. I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.