If you’re a boat owner, you might have heard this line before: “There are only two happy days in the life of a boat owner: the day you buy the boat, and the day you sell it.” Exaggerated, sure, but it succeeds in telling the tale of a boat owner that doesn’t know how to maintain and prepare their boat every fall.
Storing your boat the correct way each winter can save a lot of time and money in the long term. People in warmer climates may not realize they should winterize their boats as well. If you’re new to boat ownership, or have recently moved a boat using uShip, take this to heart: failing to winterize your boat can cause serious damage. Frozen pipes and engines, busted plumbing lines, and ruptured sewage tanks that appear at low temperatures are rarely covered by insurance policies.
So, even if you’re in San Diego or another region without a “winter” season per se, you should still properly prepare your boat for the off-season. Here are our top six tips:
1. Read the Owner’s Manual
Before you start the process, you should consult the winterizing and storage section of your boat’s manual. All boats and marine engines are different, so before you drain the engine and add antifreeze, be sure to consult the manual.
2. Check the Hull
- Be on the lookout for stress cracks, especially around the bow eye. These are potentially very serious, as they could indicate that your boat has structural damage. If there are severe cracks, you should have a professional take a look at it.
- Scrape all the barnacles off the bottom of the boat and then sand away any leftover residue.
- Attack dirt and sea filth with a strong pressure washer.
- If your hull is aluminum, you should use a rubber mallet to bang out any dents.
3. Prep the Interior
- In order to prevent mold and mildew from forming in your boat, make sure that the cover has some ventilation.
- Clean all the carpets.
- Remove all the electronics that you can; then spray all the exposed electrical cords with a moisture-displacing emollient.
- Drain all sinks and showers, and then fill them with antifreeze.
4. Find a Reliable Cover
- When choosing a cover, make sure that it protects your boat’s waterline.
- Tie your cover down securely to ensure that no wind or rodents can penetrate it.
- Polyvinyl covers usually work very well.
5. Look after the Engine
- Remove the engine’s cover and search for loose connections, clamps, and wires.
- Run the engine, and then change the oil and oil filter.
- Idle the engine and flush it with fresh water until the water draining out is clean; then place the engine in a vertical position so that the water drains completely.
- If you have a stern-drive or inboard engine, fill it with antifreeze.
- Add fuel stabilizer and idle the engine for 15 minutes
- With the engine running, spray fogging oil down the carburetor (for a fuel-injected engine, use two-cycle oil rather than fogging oil).
- When the engine stops, remove the spark plugs, and spray fogging oil into the cylinders.
- Fill the engine with fuel and fuel stabilizer.
- With a wire brush, clean up oil spills, then spray with a lubricant and add some antifreeze.
6. Remove the Battery on Land
- This one’s important: If you’re storing your boat on land, be sure to remove the battery and store it indoors. HOWEVER, if your boat is stored in water, leave the battery in place so the bilge pump can continue to
As you can see, winterizing a boat is not the easiest process. It is, however, absolutely esseential to keeping your boat in working order and avoiding expensive repairs come spring. After all, a boat is a significant investment — but if you don’t winterize or keep a regular maintenance schedule, you’ll find yourself looking to sell or scrap sooner than you think.
John Donegan is a writer at SpareFoot, the online marketplace where you can find and reserve a self-storage unit with comparison shopping tools that show real-time availability and exclusive deals. John lives in Austin, TX and occasionally directs videos for rap artists.