Easy Steps to Winterize Your Boat
When winter’s chill is in the air and the days start getting shorter, it’s time to think about preparing your boat for winter. Winterizing your boat is like summarizing your boat, it is an absolutely necessary step in protecting your investment for the cold winter months. It’s also an excellent way to make sure that your boat returns next spring in the best shape possible. In that way, you’ll be able to enjoy all the fun and excitement that comes with boating when spring rolls around next year.
Preparing your boat for winter storage will take a bit of effort and know-how. Here are the steps our experts suggest you take to make sure your boat will start right up without a hitch next spring.
Beginning the process
Take everything out of the boat including the life vests, seats, electronics and fishing equipment. Store fish finders, trolling motors, and any other electronics safely inside. By emptying the boat, nothing will be ruined from getting wet and the chances of any animals building nests inside the boat are much better. If you like, throw some mothballs under the cover and into compartments to deter any pesky rodents that come to visit.
Wash the boat, engine, and trailer thoroughly to remove all the dirt from the previous season. Do this especially thoroughly if your boat has been in salt instead of freshwater. This will leave your boat sparkling clean when you remove the cover in the springtime.
Remove the drain plug and raise the bow a little higher than the stern so that if there’s any water still in the boat, it will trickle out. If excess water isn’t removed, it can freeze later on and expand causing cracks in the hull of your boat.
Once you’ve emptied the boat of equipment, all boat owners should do an inventory. This can be done now or later during the winter so you can identify any items that need to be fixed or replaced. Check for holes in the fabric, worn or broken parts, and anything else that you want to be freshened up or replaced before you go out again in the spring.
Remove the batteries from the boat and clean the terminals with a wire brush to remove any rust or dirt. Then, using a baking soda and water mixture, swab the area to neutralize any spots where acid may have accumulated. When dry, apply some lithium grease or petroleum jelly to the terminals. Then check the water levels to make sure they are completely covering the battery plates.
Re-fill each battery with fresh distilled water and check to make sure they are fully charged. If both batteries hold a strong charge, you should be in good shape. Check each one occasionally during the winter to make sure they’re ready for use in the spring.
Test the electrics
Test all of the switches, knobs, and electrical equipment. Flip each switch on the helm and cabin to make sure it’s working properly. Don’t miss any switches, or the one you miss will probably be the one that fails you first. Switch off the battery to see if the automatic bilge pump float switch is working correctly.
Test all the lights in the cabin and on deck and replace any that are not working or show damage.
Make sure that all of your safety gear is prepared and in order. None of the equipment should show any visible damage. If an expiration date is listed, it should not expire by the time the boat hits the water in the following spring.
Check the number of flotation devices onboard. Check fire extinguishers for pressure and expiration dates. Verify that any signaling equipment is in order, such as flares, horns, or whistles.
Check your owner’s manual for any recommended winterization measures. These may vary from the type of boat, motor, and manufacturer. Change the fuel filter and water separator, and check the fuel line, all hoses, bulbs, and connectors. Replace anything if there are leaks or if any deterioration has taken place. Add some fuel stabilizer to the fuel tank to preserve the gas during the winter, and then fill up all gas tanks to eliminate moisture build-up.
Attach a motor flusher to your garden hose and then slide it over the water intake vents on the lower section of the motor or motors if you are using multiple outboard motors. With the water running, start the engine and allow it to idle for about 15 minutes. This makes sure that an adequate amount of the fuel stabilizer will get through the entire system.
Drain the engine oil from the lower engine block. Make sure it doesn’t have a cloudy or milky appearance. If it does, the chances are that there’s a problem with the internal seals. Check with a qualified marine mechanic about this problem. If the oil seems okay, pump fresh oil into the screw hole in the lower unit until it begins to seep out of the upper screw hole. Replace the top screw, and then the lower one in that order.
With the engine running, spray fogging oil through the fuel system carburetors. Continue doing this until you see smoke coming out from the exhaust and the engine begins to run rough. This oil will cover all the moving parts inside the motor and decrease the chances of any moisture build-up during the off-season.
With four-stroke engines, you should turn the engine off and remove the spark plugs after the engine has cooled. Then, apply the fogging oil to the cylinder walls, spark plug sockets, and pistons. Also, with a four-stroke, be sure to change the oil and the oil filter according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
To finish preparing each engine, coat the body with a silicone anti-corrosion spray. This will keep moisture from adhering to any of the engine parts and causing rust or corrosion during the winter.
Remove the propeller from each engine and make sure no fishing line or weeds have become entangled along the propeller shaft. If you see any damage to the seals, be sure they are replaced. With the prop off, take a good look to make sure there are no cracks, bends, or breaks. If there is excessive wear, replace the unit or have it rebuilt. Coat the shaft with a moisture displacing lubricant and replace the propeller.
Bilges and livewells
The bilges and livewells of your boat should be thoroughly washed out and dried completely. If there’s any water remaining, it can freeze and lead to damage. Adding a small amount of propylene glycol antifreeze to both of these areas can protect them during the winter. But be sure to thoroughly wash the antifreeze out of the livewells before they’re used again.
Inspecting the hull
Take a close look at the entire hull of your boat. Inspect the bottom and sides and look out for any cracks, damaged or missing rivets, and weak joints. Some minor damage might be a do-it-yourself project for an upcoming weekend. But if you see any major damage, you should have it taken care of by a professional who has the tools and expertise to do the job properly.
Your boat trailer
Winterizing your boat’s trailer for the cold months is also quite important. Check to make sure water isn’t getting into the light sockets. Pull the bulbs out and give each socket a small spray of moisture repellent. If any water has leaked in, dry each one out completely, then, use a proper sealant or replace the seal or light cover to make sure it’s sealed properly and you won’t need to do it when spring rolls around.
Inspect the wiring harness, winch, and trailer bunks. Add some petroleum jelly on all connectors and then cap them for the winter.
Put a jack under each wheel and give the wheels a spin. If you hear any grating noise or if the wheel doesn’t run freely, there’s a good chance your bearing needs replacing. Pull the wheel assembly apart, clean and re-pack using fresh grease. Put the wheels back on and top off the grease by removing the bearing protectors and adding it to the bearings.
Jack the trailer up so that the axles are raised keeping the springs in the load position. If possible, store the wheels inside where they will be protected from the freezing weather. This will keep them from developing “flat spots” that can often occur when the trailer stays in one spot for a long time.
Cover the boat
You should cover your boat securely once you have completed all of the above steps. We recommend you shrink wrap your boat Begin with the actual boat cover, and then add some poly sheets over the top. Tie each of these down tightly with rope or bungee cords so there’s a tight and secure fit. If the cover isn’t completely secure, the elements will get under it and cause damage to the surface of your boat.
Winterizing your boat isn’t a tough job, just it does take some time and effort to do it right. You’ll be rewarded however in the springtime when boating season begins again, and you and your boat are 100% ready for your next great adventure out over the open waters.
Westshore Marine & Leisure
Westshore Marine & Leisure is one of the largest power sports dealers in Manitoba and the Prairies. We are one of Canada’s few Tri-Line outboard motor dealers, specializing in Evinrude, Mercury, and Yamaha outboard motors.
Package this with Lund fishing boats, Bennington pontoon boats, and Thunderjet fishing boats, no matter what your brand or power preference is, we have you covered.
Get in touch with us and get the motor package you want at Westshore Marine & Leisure, centrally located just north of Winnipeg, Manitoba between the big lakes. We look forward to serving you soon!