We’ve finally reached that sad time of year when we have to start thinking about what we’ll do with our boat for the winter. When fall rolls around, the leaves start falling, and the kids go back to school; it’s about time to hang it up.
Well, it’s time to dock the boat, but we can certainly start thinking about ice fishing, right?
Anyway, you want to make sure you’re taking the right steps to ensure your boat is ready to rock come next season. If you’re an experienced boat owner, you most likely know a lot of these things, but I’ve got a few secrets up my sleeve.
Make sure you read through to the end to get the best of the best tips on what to do to winterize your boat this year.
1. A Clean Boat is a Happy Boat
The same rules apply to all of our fishing gear. We try our best to keep it clean, and it tries its best to catch us fish. Simple right?
Cleaning your boat before storing it for the winter will create less work for you when you pull it out in the spring. You want to wash it from top to bottom and all the hardware as well with a good boat cleaner from Gander. During the cleaning process is when you may notice any damage that occurred during the season.
At this point, you can get in there and fix it before the boat sits for the winter. By starting your boat with a clean exterior and interior, you’re helping to prevent corrosion, so everything is in ship-shape come next year.
2. Don’t Forget the Fuel System
You want to make sure to top off the fuel tank at the end of the season because this will prevent condensation in the tank during the winter.
Changing the fuel filter and adding a marine stabilizer will reduce the amount of gum and varnish that builds up inside the tank as well. Make sure you run the engine for about 15 minutes after doing this, so you get everything circulating through the fuel system.
3. Same Goes for the Cooling System
If you have a raw water cooling system like an inboard motorboat, you’ll have to flush the engine to remove any build-up and prevent corrosion over the winter. If you live in an area that may experience sub-zero temperatures during the winter, you also want to flush antifreeze through the system.
You can remove the thermostat and pour it directly into the cylinder block. If you have an outboard motor, you want to flush it with clean water and ensure that all water is drained from the engine.
4. Getting Oily
As with all the other fluids you also want to change the oil and filter to flush out any built-up sediment or other unwanted materials. Use the oil as recommended by the manufacturer, and you’ll want to check the transmission fluid as well.
Experts recommend using fogging oil by spraying it in the air intakes when the engine is on. Any visible areas of the engine’s exterior can get fogging oil as well. This will help tremendously with preventing rust during the cold months.
You also don’t want to overlook lubrication in other areas of the boat. For example, you might have to grease the fittings or apply moisture removing lubricant to moving metal parts on the boat. Take a look at any hinges or latches on the exterior of the boat and hit them with a penetrating lubricant. You would want to lubricate these before the winter, so they don’t start seizing up when it gets cold.
Take a look at the wheel bearings. If they have any wear on them, you might want to diagnose the situation and come up with a solution.
Lastly, pull the propeller off and inspect it for any damage. You’ll want to coat the shaft with water-resistant grease as well before re-installing it.
5. Drain it
You want to drain almost every component of your boat. When you’re trying to winterize your boat, any form of standing water can cause cracks and seriously costly damage to your boat. Take a look at the gear case and drain it if there is water intrusion.
You might have some leaking seals, and you can choose to fix them at this time if that’s the case. You’ll also want to drain the freshwater holding tank, engine, and hot water heater.
6. Charge it up
I always look at batteries as the big brother of the boat. They seem to take the bulk of the punches when they come at the boat, and the battery is the one that has to deal with them. You need to make sure your battery survives the winter so it can get you back on the water in the spring.
I would recommend unplugging the battery charger and testing the charge frequently. Whenever the battery power drops under 75% go ahead and plug it back in until its fully charged again. Repeat this process as many times as you need to during the winter. There are also battery charges that do this automatically. If you don’t want to fuss with it, then purchase one of these battery chargers at Gander.
If you live somewhere that experiences frequent sub-zero temperatures you may want to remove the battery from the boat completely. Store the battery in the house or garage and keep a charger on it. This honestly isn’t a bad idea no matter where you live.
7. Remove Everything
Take a walk on the boat from front to back. If you’re dealing with a jon boat or another small outboard motorboat, you’re good to go at this point. For you folks with the larger speedboats, you’ll want to hang on tight.
Take everything off the boat, it might seem like a pain, but it’s well worth it because everything will last longer. How many people have you met who told you that a boat was a “money pit?”
They told you that because it’s 100% true. A boat is a money pit so you need to do whatever you can to keep some of that money in your wallet even if that means pulling the life jackets, fishing line, ropes, anchors, etc. out of the boat.
You want to pay close attention to any electronics you might have on the boat too; Radars, fish finders, GPS. If possible, take all of these off the boat and store them in a safe location.
8. Decide on Storage
Once your boat is ready to store for the winter, now comes the complicated part.
Deciding on what type of storage you want if challenging because you spent so much money on your boat, now you have to spend even more money if you want to keep it safe all winter.
Here are a few of your options, each with their pros and cons:
- You need a cover
- Exposure to elements
- Takes up space
- May not look great
Standard Storage Unit
- Cheaper than some alternatives
- Safe indoors
- Plenty of storage facilities
- Will require transportation
- Only really works for smaller boats
- Near the dock
- Protection if indoors
- May require a cover if left outdoors
As you can see, you have a couple of different choices. I have always stored my boat with a cover in my own yard with no problem. It’s the most convenient choice and, of course, the most affordable.
If you live somewhere, that doesn’t allow boat storage, I would recommend purchasing a storage unit because it’s safer and more affordable than dry rack storage. Plus, you also have access to the storage unit whenever you want, the dry rack requires you to get someone to let you in.
It might seem like a nightmare that it’s almost time to store your boat away for the winter but look at it this way. You’ll have a bright and shiny new boat to look at come spring and it’ll be ready for another boating season with few to no issues.
Do you have any thoughts or questions? Leave a comment below!