For those who can’t enjoy the waves all year round, winterizing your boat is a must if you want to get back out on the water come warmer weather. Maintaining your boat now will save you time, headaches and money down the road. Your insurance may not cover neglect. So how do you keep your boat in tip-top shape for winter?
Step 1: Protect It Against the Elements
Ideally, you’ll want to store your boat in a climate-controlled facility where it’s secure and dry. Options include:
- Dry stacked storage stores multiple boats simultaneously by stacking and removing boats with forklifts.
- Depending on the size of your boat, you may be able to use a standard self-storage facility.
- At-home garage storage is probably the most convenient and affordable storage option. If you lack a garage, you can store your boat in your driveway or yard. For this option, make sure you shrink-wrap or cover your boat in a waterproof, fitted tarp to prevent water damage or mildew growth.
- A covered outdoor storage facility can accommodate various-sized boats and can provide more cover from most weather, but it may still be exposed to the elements. Tarps or shrink-wrapping should also be used for this type of storage.
- Wet storage at a marina should only be used for areas where temps stay above freezing. You’ll also want to use a fitted waterproof cover and check on your boat once a week during the off-season to prevent damage from weather, barnacles, and algae.
- For short-term wet storage, you may use a boat lift that keeps your boat hovered above the water. These lifts can be vulnerable during extreme weather and make your boat susceptible to flooding and critters/pests.
Step 2: Work from the Inside Out
Unless you want to paddle come spring, you’ll want to take special care of your boat’s engines, electrical systems and batteries during the winter months:
- Drain the engine (for inboards and stern-drives) so that water in the cooling chamber doesn’t freeze, expand, and crack the engine block and manifolds.
- Fog the engine cylinders to coat the inside of the engine and prevent corrosion from forming inside the engine, cylinders, pistons, and rings.
- Treat the fuel with a stabilizer so that carburetors and injectors aren’t clogged with deposits.
- Change the oil to stop condensation and prevent corrosion.
For outdoor storage, run antifreeze through the boat’s water systems to prevent ice damage.
- Remove the battery and keep it on a trickle charger to avoid a dead battery in spring.
- Don’t forget the interior! Remove valuables, electronics, lines, fire extinguishers, flares, cushions, etc. Open and clean the refrigerator and freezer and be sure to go through all drawers and lockers.
Step 3: Ask the Experts
Always be sure to consult your owner’s manual for your boat and motor for other recommendations on winterization. When in doubt, hire a professional.