Boat Winterization Saves Headaches Next Spring

by Tim Shamess

I don't want to be the bearer of bad news, but it's that time again. The leaves are starting to change colour, there is frost in the air, and snow in the weather forecast. It's time to start thinking about winterizing you boat. With a little time and effort you can keep your boat from becoming a maintenance nightmare next spring.

The most important job is to properly winterize your motor. There are a few things to do and they are not overly hard. Damage can occur from rust and the freezing of water in the lower end unit of your motor. Drain the gear oil from the lower end unit,   there are usually two screws on the side of the motor near the propeller. Place a container underneath the motor to catch the gear oil, take both the top and bottom screw out. If you only take out the bottom screw, a vacuum may occur and nothing will come out. Watch
the oil; if you see water, or if the oil appears milky coloured, it may be a sign of trouble to come. It may mean leaking seals in the lower end of your motor, a sign of possible damage.

You now need to replace the gear oil. I have a little trick that a neighbour taught me. I have a small garden sprayer, the kind that you can pump up and pressurize with a pump handle. I put my gear oil in it. I then put the nozzle end into the bottom hole and spray the oil into the lower end. When the oil comes out the top hole, stop spraying the oil, but keep the nozzle of the garden sprayer in the bottom hole to keep the oil from leaking out. Quickly put the screw into the top hole, when the screw is tight, this will create a vacuum keeping the oil from running out the bottom. You can now quickly put the bottom screw in; this can be tricky, especially if you are a butter fingers like me.   

To protect the carburetor and other internal workings of the motor you need to fog the engine with an engine storage spray. You need to have the engine running in water. You can do this at the dock, in a water barrel, or with a pair of ear muffs and a garden hose over the water pickups. As the engine runs, spray the engine storage spray into the carburetor. This can be quite challenging if you have more then one carb on your motor (mine has three!). Keep spraying until the engine begins to smoke, it may take 20 or 30 seconds. You may have to increase the rpm. to keep the motor from stalling out before it is properly fogged. When the motor begins to smoke, disconnect the fuel line and run the engine until it stalls. You want to get the fuel out of the carbs; if any is left, a build-up of deposits may occur from the evaporating fuel. Any rubber parts can be affected as well. I like to take the spark plugs out at this point and spray some of the engine storage spray into the cylinders. I then turn the engine a few turns by hand. This will ensure that the cylinder walls, pistons and rings will be well lubricated and eliminate the possibility of rust.

Next take the propeller off, and remove any weeds and fishing line that may be wrapped around the propeller shaft. Inspect the seals around the prop shaft, look for any cracking or leaking. Lubricate the prop shaft with the recommended lubricant and inspect the propeller for any cracks or signs of damage, Your boat will be parked for a few months; now is the perfect time to send your propeller out for repairs. Lower the motor to its normal operating position and turn the ignition over a few times to get any remaining water out of the cooling system. When you are sure all the water has drained out, spray the exterior of the motor with silicone or some other similar light lubrication spray; this will prevent corrosion. Put a heavy plastic bag over the bottom end of the motor. Use duct tape to hold it on. This will prevent any mice or other small animals from nesting inside your water intakes or propeller. You may want to add some fuel stabilizer to you fuel tanks; this will help keep the gas from causing varnish deposits. Leave room in your fuel tanks so you can add fresh gas in the spring.

"When gas was better quality, we would recommend completely filling the fuel tanks, thus eliminating the possibility of condensation building up inside the tanks," my neighbour and licensed Mercruiser and OMC marine mechanic Edmund told me. " We now recommend emptying the fuel tanks and adding conditioner to each tank."

I recommend that you check with a marine mechanic trained on your specific model of outboard, or your dealer for the recommended fuel conditioner. Be sure to follow the directions exactly.  Any electrical connections should be coated with grease to keep rust from giving you electrical problems in the spring. While you are at it, it won't hurt to check your owner's manual for all the lubrication points and give everything the recommended lubricant. Remove any electronic devices and store them in a clean, dry area inside. I once had a fish finder that never worked right again after a winter in the boat.

The terminals on your battery should be cleaned and given a light coat of grease. Check the level of battery fluid and bring the battery to a full charge. Store the battery indoors in a warm area, do not place your battery on a concrete floor, it will drain the power in no time. About mid -winter, I like to put my battery on the charger, just to be sure it is strong and holding its charge

My boat has carpeting on the floors. I like to give the carpeting a thorough vacuuming, and I wash the vinyl on the seats and use a protectant on them. I give the entire boat a good wash and wax; this helps keep the fibreglass from fading or discolouring. Make sure all the compartments, live wells, and the bilge area are dry. A sponge works well to get any water out. I prop any compartments open to allow air circulation and prevent mould and mildew from forming. A few strategically placed moth balls will also deter rodents from nesting, and help with preventing mould and mildew. A few in each compartment and space are all it takes. Be sure to remove any life jackets, rain suits or other similar items, give them the recommended cleaning (life jackets usually have a tag with instructions on the recommended method) and store in a clean dry area.

Since I store my boat outside, I have a commercially available cover that I use; I also use a framework of 2x4's to keep the tarp held up in the middle, as heavy snow puts a lot of weight on the tarp. The framework helps keep snow and rain off the boat. I keep the bow of the boat held up and the plug out; that way any moisture can drain out.

When it comes to my trailer, I always repack the bearings with grease, checking the bearings for wear as well. If water has entered a hub, it can cause rust, or even crack a hub while it sits over the winter. I check the tire pressure and jack the trailer off the ground to get the weight off the tires. It is possible to get a flat spot on the tires if they sit too long. I give the trailer coupler, body and the suspension components a visual inspection and check all bolts for tightness; then I give the coupler a coat of grease.

I always take the lights apart to ensure no water is sitting inside of them. I make sure the lights work and then give the contacts a coat of grease. The electrical connector on both the trailer and my vehicle get a visual inspection and a light coat of grease. I also have a small rubber cap that put over the connectors. I learned my lesson after my wife got a grease spot on her winter coat after she threw it in the back of our van.

While these methods work for me and my boat and outboard, they may not be the exact method for you. If you are in doubt, check your owner's manual, or talk to your marine repair shop; they should be able to offer the advice you need to tackle your own boat. A little time and effort now will save a lot of grief in the spring, and maximize your time on the water.

 

 

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