Winterizing Your Boat
It's that time again--time to think of brightly covered leaves and frozen, snow-laden lakes. Although very pleasing to the eyes, these autumn icons and hard lakes mean one thing: putting the boat up for the winter. With special precautions, this event doesn't have to be fraught with stress and worry. Old Man Winter can be pretty harsh on a boat, but by following certain guidelines closely, you and your boat will be ready to go next spring with little effort and, best of all, no stress.
Make a plan ahead of time. This is one of the first things you should do before laying-up your boat. A plan will guide you through the simple steps needed to protect your boat and trailer for the winter. It will also limit to one the number of trips you need to make to the marine store to buy the required items for winter lay-up. This trip will also provide you with some tips from the experts at the marine store. If you live in states between California to Florida, skip all the items below except for breaking the boat out for the spring-time boating season.
Once you have a plan in-hand, the first step is to hike down to your local marine supply store and check out the latest and greatest do-it-yourself lay-up supplies. There is a multitude of chemicals available to stabilize fuel and fog the inside of the engine, along with specialty lubricants to protect vital components from the elements. The list can be long, but if you have some WD40, an engine-fogging agent, fuel stabilizer, marine grease for your grease gun, engine oil and filters, and gear case oil, you're set for a winter lay-up.
While at the marine store, pick up a set of spark plugs and a fuel/water separator for the spring break-out-of-storage event. Purchasing in bulk may give you a little discount advantage. One word of caution: When purchasing the fuel/water separator, take it out of the box and take a close look inside. I found a lot of these filters have rust inside from sitting around the parts house shelves a little too long. You don't want to start the springtime boating season with rust running around your fuel system.
Once you've purchased these products and have thoroughly picked the brains of the experts at the marine store, it's time to get started. If you have an outboard, the lay-up procedures are a little less labor-intensive, and of course, if you have more engines, plan on extending the day a little.
Although some mechanics may say this step is unnecessary, I believe that you can't change your oil enough in the engine and drive. However, change the oil before putting the boat into storage. Run the engine with the clean oil until it reaches operating temperature. This will accomplish two things: First, it will put a fresh coat of oil on all internal engine parts; and second, the dirt and acids that are in the engine will be held in suspension with new oil a lot better than with old stuff. When springtime comes around, run the engine--again, up to operating temperature. Then shut it down, and drain the oil. Refill with fresh oil. Of course, you still need to change the oil filter both times, so make sure you have two filters on hand.
Take out your can of WD40 or equivalent, and spray all exposed cable ends, carburetor linkage or fuel-injection throttle body. Shift linkage should also be lubed, and on some models of IOs, the manufacturer may recommend a certain brand of lubricant/protectant for this purpose. You may also want to fog the engine at this time, following the manufacturer's recommendations.
As for the drive, I don't see a need to change the oil in the drive before winterizing, unless you have water in it. If the water is left in the oil, it will rust all the internal parts of the drive; the first time you run the boat in the spring, the bearings and races will be destroyed. Remember to clean the magnetic plug when changing the oil in the drive.
Checking Things Out
This is a good time to check all the rubber hoses and lines, especially the fuel lines running from the fuel tank to the water separator and on to the fuel injection or carburetor, if so equipped. While you are on the fuel system, take the hose that runs from the fuel tank to the fuel filter off at the tank. Remove the anti-siphon valve and make sure the ball inside is tight against the seat and make sure it opens, also. If this valve gets stuck, although highly unlikely, you will think you are out of fuel. Another hose that is often overlooked is the vent hose. If this hose has a crack, or hole, it could pour raw fuel inside the boat, and you may not even notice it.