Are you a boating enthusiast living in colder parts of the country like the northeastern states of Maine and Massachusetts or the northwestern states of Oregon and Washington? If so, you’re going to have to winterize your boat against the effects of the cold weather on the vessel.
Preparing your boat for the winter and finding safe storage are critical tasks involved with boat ownership. This guide gives you everything you need to know about winterizing your boat as the temperatures drop.
- How to Winterize Your Boat
- Winterizing the Boat Motor
- Winterizing Outboard Engines
- Winterizing Inboard Engines
- Winterizing the Engines Fuel System
- Winterizing Your Boats Plumbing System
- Can I Winterize My Boat Myself?
- What Is the Cost of DIY Boat Winterizing?
- The Final Cost of DIY Winterizing Your Boat
- Using Professionals to Winterize Your Boat
- Using the Marina to Winterize Your Boat
- Using a Mechanic to Winterize Your Boat
- Using a Boat Shop to Winterize Your Boat
- Hacks for Easy and Affordable Boat Winterizing
- Wrapping Up – Storing Your Boat for the Winter
How to Winterize Your Boat
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of winterizing, here’s a quick checklist of the tasks involved with the general winterization of freshwater and saltwater boats.
- Drain and remove all the water from the engine.
- Apply corrosion protective chemicals and treatments to the engine to prevent rust.
- Consult the owner’s manual for instructions.
- Add a fuel stabilizer to the tank and run the engine to get everything circulating in the fuel system.
- Change the fuel filters and fuel/water separators in the motor.
- Drain the fresh water plumbing system on the boat.
- Add antifreeze to the plumbing system.
- Ensure you remove all the water from raw water washdowns, bilge pumps, livewells, and others.
- Remove the drain plugs.
- Cover the boat or send it to winter storage for the season.
Many boat owners choose to leave their boats in the water during the winter. However, it’s the water that poses the biggest threat to your boat’s structural integrity and condition during the winter season.
Freeze damage is a big problem, and water on and in the boat promotes mildew and mold growth and furthers corrosion. Considering all these issues, it’s a much better idea to leave your boat in dry winter storage. You’ll improve the service life and condition of your boat, and you’ll reduce the maintenance requirements.
Winterizing the Boat Motor
The motor is probably the most vulnerable part of the boat o the change in seasons. When the temperatures drop, water in the engine can freeze and expand, causing huge problems and expensive repair bills.
Here’s a quick checklist you can apply to winterize inboard, outboard, and stern-drive engines.
- Add gas stabilizer to the system and run the engine.
- Check the wiring, plugs, cap, and rotor.
- Check the belts and adjust the tension.
- Check hoses and clean the fuel screens.
- Replace fuel and oil filters.
- Check the throttle cables and throttle settings.
- Lube the throttle cables and linkages.
- Flush the cooling system.
- Drain the manifold, block, coolers, and circulating pump.
- Add antifreeze to the manifold, block, and circulating pump.
- Change the gear lube and oil.
- Check the gimbal bearing.
- Grease all gimbals and u-joints.
- Lube the engine coupler splines.
- Check and replace worn sacrificial anodes.
- Check the fog engine.
- Check the power steering and trim fluids.
- Touch up any scratches and nicks in the paintwork.
- Check the propeller and hub.
- Replace the water pump impeller.
- Treat electricals with moisture-repellent.
- Treat engine with anticorrosion.
- Check the fuel bulb and line.
Now that you know the general guidelines for winterizing motors let’s drill down into the specifics for each model.
Winterizing Outboard Engines
The outboard engine drains the cooling system of all water when you tilt it in the downwards position. So, tilt the engine down all the way and leave it there to drain all the fluid and prevent freezing. Cover it when you finish winterizing the motor, and make sure there is no condensation under the cover where mold can grow.
Modern outboard motors have an auto-fogging setting that runs through the system using specialized fluids to protect the engine for the winter. Some models even have a dedicated “winterize” setting for the process.
Each engine manufacturer’s method is slightly different, so consult your owner’s manual or ask the dealer about the right way to winterize your motor. You’ll also find plenty of information for winterizing engines in online forums.
Winterizing Inboard Engines
If you’re winterizing an inboard engine, start with opening petcocks and removing drain plugs. Run antifreeze through the system to protect against freezing conditions. If you’re leaving the boat in the water for the winter, you’ll need to run the antifreeze through the system by closing the intake seacock and removing the intake hose.
Bring the engine up to operating temperature and submerge the hose in a bucket of antifreeze and run the motor until you see the antifreeze coming out of the exhaust port. Inboards also require a fogging process, and many models have the same fogging settings we discussed with outboard motors.
Winterizing the Engines Fuel System
The engine is important for winterizing, as are the fuel lines. The last thing you need is fuel lines splitting in the cold, dropping fuel all over the storage area – that’s a fire hazard and an expensive repair. You could also end up damaging the fuel pump and other parts of the motor.
Add fuel stabilizer to the tank and run it through the motor. Change the fuel filters and replace the fuel/water separator; we recommend replacing it rather than reusing it.
Winterizing Your Boats Plumbing System
With the engine and fuel system out of the way, it’s time to turn your attention to winterizing the plumbing on your boat. If you have freshwater systems like tanks, sinks, and heads, you’ll need to drain them and run antifreeze through the system.
Open all faucets and allow them to run until the tank is dry. Close the taps and add antifreeze to your freshwater tank. Open the faucet farthest from the tank and wait for the antifreeze to come out of the faucet before closing it off again.
Repeat this process through the rest of the faucets in the system. If you have a hot water heater, run the hot faucets to ensure antifreeze gets to the heater.
Pump out the holding tanks and add antifreeze through the head on the boat. If the boat has a portable MSD, remove and empty it to prevent a nasty surprise the following spring.
Can I Winterize My Boat Myself?
If you have basic handy skills and time, you can always take on winterizing your boat yourself.
DIY winterization can save you some money on the annual costs of boat ownership. The key to winterizing your boat yourself is to have a plan and take your time working through the procedure to ensure the success of every step.
What Is the Cost of DIY Boat Winterizing?
You can find all the tools and sundries you need to winterize your boat online. Many of the tools are affordable, and they’ll last you a lifetime. Pick up a flushing kit and a can of fogging oil to protect the valves, pistons, and cylinders in the engine.
Get some fuel stabilizer; we recommend the STA-BIL Fuel Stabilizer on Amazon and pick up some high-quality oil for the oil change. You’ll need a decent amount of antifreeze for the process, and don’t forget about the fuel and oil filters.
The Final Cost of DIY Winterizing Your Boat
If we add up the costs of the parts and tools you need for winterizing your boat yourself, you’re looking at around $300. The first time you try to winterize the boat, expect it to take two to three hours.
With the right experience and practice, you can complete the tasks involved with winterizing your boat in around an hour. Make sure you review the instructions for winterization in the owner’s manual and follow the guide in a systematic, step-by-step process to succeed with the tasks.
Using Professionals to Winterize Your Boat
While we estimate the average cost of winterizing a boat at around $300, it could be more or less than this figure, depending on the boat’s make, model, and size. However, you can expect to pay significantly more to have a professional handle the job for you.
However, some people don’t have the skills or the time to winterize their boats themselves. If that’s the case, you have three options for completing the winterizing tasks before the bad weather sets in for the season.
Using the Marina to Winterize Your Boat
If you’re planning on leaving your boat in the water for the winter, speak to your marina about their winterizing services. Most marinas that offer a decent range of utilities and amenities will include boat servicing and winterization for people using the marina.
Most marinas charge around $500 to winterize a boat for the season, and that usually includes the shrink-wrapping of the vessel and the de-winterizing tasks involved with getting the boat back in shape the following spring.
Using a Mechanic to Winterize Your Boat
If you don’t keep the boat in a marina, you always have the option of hiring a mechanic to service and winterize the engine before you send the boat to storage.
A good mechanic can charge anywhere up to $400 to winterize the boat. It’s around the same price as doing it yourself because the mechanic gets a discount on the parts and sundries from their suppliers. Some mechanics may also charge you a call-out fee.
Using a Boat Shop to Winterize Your Boat
Your third choice for winterizing your boat is to use a professional boat shop to handle everything for you.
These services are usually full-house, and you just tell them where to collect your boat. They pull it from the water, service and winterize it, and send it to dry storage for the season. They also deliver it back to the water at the end of the season.
Using a professional boat service to handle winterizing the vessel can cost you anywhere from $300 to $600, depending on the services you request from the shop.
Hacks for Easy and Affordable Boat Winterizing
Winterizing your boat isn’t horribly expensive, but if you’re on a tight budget, every penny helps, especially around the holidays. Fortunately, we discovered a few clever hacks for reducing the servicing and winterizing costs and improving your results with the process.
When completing oil changes, make sure you bring the engine up to temperature before draining and replacing the oil. This process helps with the easy draining of the oil, and it also helps the new oil get at all the engine components before storage.
Don’t let the marketing fool you – it’s perfectly fine to use automotive antifreeze for your boat, and it’s less expensive than the marine version, saving you a few dollars. We recommend going with RV antifreeze concentrate for the most affordable option.
Buy a custom fabric cover for the boat. This strategy saves you on the annual costs of shrink wrap and reduces plastic waste going into the environment from storing your boat.
Disconnect and remove the batteries from the system. Keeping the batteries connected drains them and reduces the recharging time and battery life of the unit.
Wrapping Up – Storing Your Boat for the Winter
Let’s wrap up this guide for winterizing your boat with the duties you need to complete before putting your boat into storage for the season.
- Pressure wash the hull, clean any barnacles off the shafts and props, struts, rudders, and trim tabs.
- Clean the strainers and thru-hulls.
- Open seacocks and drain any water.
- Check for blisters on the hull and cracks that you need to bring to the service manager’s attention.
- Give the hull a wax job.
- Remove the batteries into dry storage.
- Close the seacocks, check the rudder shafts and the stuffing boxes for any leaks. Tighten and repack as required.
- Check the battery charge, clean the terminals, and add distilled water to top off levels.
- Check the bilge pumps and ensure the float switches activate the pumps properly.
- Give every area of the boat a check for mildew, mold, and pest infestations.
- If you’re using a mooring area that freezes, suspend water agitators to prevent your vessel from getting iced in.
We recommend removing the boat from the water and placing it in dry storage for the winter for the best results. It might add more to the costs of winterizing the boat, but it’s worth it if you want to extend the vessel’s service life.