How To Winterize Your Boat
As the warm, pleasant days of summer fade into the shorter, cooler days of autumn, it is time to say farewell to the summer boating season. Your boat is a costly investment, and you want to ensure it winters well. That’s why our team of experts is eager to share our professional tips on how to winterize your boat! Regardless of whether your boat is a stern drive, outboard, or gas inboard engine, the following winterizing steps will assure a quick, easy startup when the water and weather turn warm again!
You might think well, I live in a sunshine state with a more moderate climate! But, unfortunately, whether you live in sunny Florida, hot Texas, muggy Louisiana, humid Alabama, or warm California, you will need to winterize your boat. The highest number of freeze-related insurance claims come from these sunshine states, according to the marine insurers at BoatUS. Usually, boaters in warmer states decide to live dangerously and roll the dice. They hope to skate through the occasional cold snap—which can cost a pretty penny when they lose. Let’s not roll the dice and instead prevent your boat from a slow death during its cold weather slumber!
1. Change The Engine Oil
Changing the engine oil prevents moisture and corrosion from sneaking into your engine and breaking down pit bearings and other engine parts in storage. We recommend you change the oil both at the start of winter and before you put your boat back in the water in the spring.
Follow these steps to change your oil:
- Warm up your engine while in the water. This enables more of the dirty oil to drain out and impurities to flush out more easily.
- Use high-quality oil and the filters recommended by your engine’s manufacturer.
- Drain the dirty oil and replace the filters.
Consequence if you don’t: If you decide to roll the dice and not change your oil, moisture will accumulate in your engine. The excess moisture can cause excessive wear, leading to loss of power, poor fuel economy, and possible engine failure. The cost will vary depending on the damage to your boat’s engine. It can range anywhere from $500 for extra fuel to $20,000 for a new engine.
2. Stabilize Your Fuel
Fuel has an expiration date and will start to deteriorate within 60 days. Fuel deterioration causes varnish and gum to build up inside your boat’s engine resulting in poor performance, reduced engine life, and difficulty starting. Adding a high-quality marine fuel stabilizer will prevent fuel deterioration in the winter months.
First, fill the tank with fresh fuel to prevent corrosion-causing water condensation. Then add your engine fuel stabilizer to the tank. Next, run the engine for 10-minutes to work the treated gas throughout the system. Remember that draining the gas from your boat’s engine will not prevent varnish formation because some fuel will always remain. In addition, gaskets can dry out, causing leaks in the spring.
Consequence if you don’t: Varnish deposits easily clog fuel carburetors and fuel injectors that ruin fuel systems. Cost if you don’t: $250 to $1,200.
3. Inboards and Stern-Drives: Flush and Drain Your Boat’s Cooling Water
You don’t want damage to your engine! Trapped water will expand when it freezes, resulting in a cracked engine. To prevent this from happening, drain all the water from your engine.
First, flush the engine with clean water. Use water muffs or another similar device to connect a garden hose to your cooling system. Please note it is important never to run a water engine without water. Continue to flush until your engine reaches normal operating temperature. Then, find and open the petcocks (certain engines have bronze plugs similar to bilge plugs). You can find the petcocks under the manifolds and on the sides of the engine block. Then, remove the water-pump hose from the bottom of the water pump. This allows the engine to drain completely. Then, flush the engine with clean water. Use water muffs or another similar device to connect a garden hose to your cooling system. Please note it is important never to run a water engine without water.
Consequence if you don’t: If you don’t drain the engine, water in the cooling chambers can freeze. It is no secret that water freezes when it expands, resulting in a cracked engine block and manifolds. Cost if you don’t: $5,000 to $20,000.
4. Fog the Engine Cylinders
It is vital to protect internal engine components. It is common for engine oil to drain away while in storage. This results in internal engine components facing harsh winter elements leading to corrosion and metal-to-metal contact, AKA cylinder scuffing, come spring.
Aerosol fogging solutions are specially formulated to coat the inside of the engine, penetrating deep into the engine and coating parts with a protective layer of anti-corrosive compound. First, hook “ear muffs” and a garden hose to the engine. Next, start the engine and spray the fogging solution directly into the air intake. Continue to spray until the can is empty.
Consequence if you don’t: If you don’t fog the engine cylinders, corrosion can form inside the engine, covering the cylinders, pistons, and rings with a patina (green/brown oxidative film) of abrasive crud. Cost if you do: $5 to $15. Cost if you don’t: $2,500 to $15,000 (or more).
5. Drain the Gear-Case Lubricant and Grease and Lubricate
Check to see how your case lubricant looks. You want to see an amber-colored and clear liquid. This indicates that your gear-case seals are in good shape. If your oil looks lumpy and milky, it is time to replace your seals.
You will also want to grease your engine’s fittings. First, locate your engine’s grease fittings. Most grease fittings are in the steering mechanism area. Next, use a quality marine lubricant to protect against rust, corrosion, and oxidation. It is helpful to consult your boat owner’s manual to ensure you don’t miss greasing any important areas before winter storage.
Consequence if you don’t: It is very beneficial to drain the lube because it can show the presence of water in the gearcase. Milky or cloudly lube means water is likely entering the case, which can destroy the gears and bearings in short order. Greasing your engine’s fittings keeps your engine functioning smoothly. Cost if you don’t: $2,000 to $6,000.
A Few Additional Tips
- Reduce Humidity: Place moisture-absorbing crystals in your boat’s cabin area. Moisture-absorbing crystals will help reduce cabin humidity and prevent mold and mildew from growing.
- Remove Valuables: You don’t want to lose your expensive boating sunglasses or waterproof case. Take out any valuable items and store them in a safe place.
- A Good Clean: Give your boat a good clean and wax to remove any grim or mud. This prevents anything from eating away at it over the winter and means you are ready to go in the spring!
- Cover It: Ideally, you can keep your boat in the safety of a coerced and enclosed space. However, we know every boater does not have the luxury of access to an enclosed boat storage space. At the minimum, cover the boat with a durable cover.
Winter, Here We Come!
Hopefully, these tips on how to winterize your boat for the upcoming cold season were helpful! At Rocket Marine in Southwest Florida, we love educating our customers on safe boating practices. We want to help you reach your boating destination safely, save money, and enjoy the water. That is why we specialize in building top-quality boat trailers and trailer repairs. We love boating almost as much as we love our customers! See what our past boat-loving customers have to say about us. As always, boat safe!