Boat winter checklist

I might have posted this before, but you can never be too careful when putting your boat away for the winter. Even if you live in the warmer climate's where taking the boat out because of ice isn't a problem...its still good to do a number of the items regularly. 

Cleaning buildup from the pontoons.
Taking a boat out of service requires the owner to take preventative steps to prevent corrosion and damage to the boats and its systems.  In the Northern states it is often called winterization, but in reality any time the boat is in a “lay-up” situation for a number of months, the owners should take steps to protect their investment.  Most of the following items can be done on the trailer, in the slip on the lift or in a shop. If you have a larger boat that stays in the water you will also want to makes sure that your boat is protected from the lake freezing by using bubblers to prevent ice build up against the hull.

Each boat is different and the options and systems on yours might need additional items serviced.  If you are planning on doing all the work, make sure you have a copy of the boat, engine and systems service manuals.

By following a simple checklist and with a little elbow grease, you can protect your boat during lay-up. If you are uncomfortable doing any of these items, call a professional. 

  1. Add a fuel stabilizer to preserve both the fuel and the fuel tank for the upcoming winter and spring months.
  2. Run the engine, checking the timing and basic operations. This also distributes the fuel stabilizer through out the fuels system.
  3. Remove the boat from the water and inspect the exterior for damage.  Make and repairs or notes to remind you in the spring and give the boat a coat of wax.
  4. You will need to protect the internal passage ways of the engine from freezing. Depending on the type of engine and cooling system you may need to add antifreeze to the cooling system (partial or fully closed cooling systems).  And/or you might need to drain the water from the engine block and manifolds and refill with marine grade non toxic antifreeze.  This can be done using an inexpensive flushing adapter, garden hoses and antifreeze. 
  5. During the time you are flushing and refilling the cooling system, spray sticky “fogging” oil in the carburetor or intake while the engine is running. Fogging oil will stick to the engine internal passage ways giving the inside of the engine a protective coating against corrosion.
    Fogging spray
  6. After you have filled the cooling passages with anti freeze and fogged the engine, shut the engine off and inspect the lower unit. Remove the bottom plug in the lower unit and remove any water that might be mixed with the oil (hopefully there will not be any water or you might need more repairs in the spring).
  7. Inspect the throttle, steering and shift cables for binding and wear
  8. Apply anti corrosion grease to all fittings, linkages and steering cables
  9. Check all the belts, hoses and the general condition of the engine, drive unit and lower unit.
  10. Remove any items from the cabin that might freeze.
  11. Remove and food that would attract rodents and bugs.
  12. Place some type of anti moisture containers (like Damp Rid) through out the cabin to help reduce any moisture build up that could cause mold and mildew over the winter.  Often times it’s a good idea to place the cushions and mattresses on an edge or lifted up with small blocks so there can be airflow over more surface areas.
  13. If you have a water system, galley and head, you will need to drain the water and refill the system with non toxic marine grade anti freeze also.
  14. Last, cover the boat to keep out the elements, animals and bugs. Tarps or shrink wrap doesn’t matter.  If it’s too airtight the boat will get large amounts of condensation leading to mold and mildew. Make sure however you cover the boat it is tight but still has air flow.

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