Cooler weather is on the way and you’re just about done with your winter preparation. You’ve raked the leaves, chopped the wood and put away your power equipment. But you have one more task left to do: winterize your boat. Get it done right and you’ll avoid problems next spring — including freeze damage, which can lead to costly engine replacement. Follow these steps to help prepare your boat for winter.
1. Pull Out the Owner’s Manual
Every boat manufacturer provides maintenance guidelines specific to the models they build. That information is found in your owner’s manual which you can consult for instructions, including anything mentioned that supersedes our guidelines.
Assuming that your boat is already out of the water and sitting on land, the first step in the process is to clean it. You’ll want to use a multipurpose marine boat soap product to clean the hull and deck. Your car wash cleaner isn’t sufficient here — you need an agent that can handle grime, salt and, yes, fish blood. A large poly sponge for washing and chamois clothes for drying are necessary tools as well. Glass cleaner, metal shine and marine wax will bring back sparkle and help protect your boat all winter long.
3. Tend to the Engine
The engine and related components are critical to the operation of your boat. A checklist of required maintenance should include:
- Changing the oil and filter
- Changing the gear lube, filling the fuel tanks and adding stabilizer to the gasoline
- Swapping out the fuel filter and cleaning the fuel screens
- Topping off the antifreeze, if necessary
- Removing the spark plugs
After adding stabilizer, run the engine for at least 10 minutes to distribute the stabilizer throughout the system. Lift the engine cover and ensure that all connections and clamps are secure. Frayed or loose wires as well as cracked or squishy hoses should be replaced. Lastly, coat the entire engine with a silicone spray to hinder rust and corrosion.
4. Remove the Propeller
Detach the propeller and observe for signs of embedded fish lines or seaweed to remove. If the seals are damaged, replace them. A propeller that is bent, cracked or broken needs to be repaired, replaced or rebuilt. Lastly, spray the entire shaft with silicone spray and re-install. Keep the silicone spray handy, then lubricate all hinges, latches, switches, mounts and rollers from stem to stern.
5. “Look Out Below!”
Below deck, you’ll need to remove everything that can be taken out, including food, drinks, cushions, fire extinguishers, life jackets, dock lines and gear. Clean out the lockers and fish holds or other storage areas, removing all dirt and grime and vacuum or wash the carpeting. Store and remove the marine batteries and clean the cable battery ends before applying a coating of lithium grease on the cables and battery terminals. To prevent theft, remove and safely store all electronics. Secure all ports and hatches and then turn off all circuit breakers.
6. Protect Your Boat
Once you winterize your boat, you need to protect it for the season. Ideally, you will keep it in climate-controlled storage until the spring. For everyone else, a polyester boat cover should be sufficient, with the boat sitting on a trailer and parked in a garage or underneath a protected canopy.
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Photo courtesy of MorgueFile
Matt Keegan has maintained his love for cars ever since his father taught him kicking tires can be one way to uncover a problem with a vehicle’s suspension system. He since moved on to learn a few things about coefficient of drag, G-forces, toe-heel shifting, and how to work the crazy infotainment system in some random weekly driver. Matt is a member of the Washington Automotive Press Association and is a contributor to various print and online media sources.