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Winterizing your boat well in time before the season changes and temperature drops is an absolute must! Doing so, will not only ensure boat safety during winter but also a seamless boating experience for the coming year. In this blog, we cover everything you need to know about winterizing your boat – the importance of winterizing your boat, the benefits of winterizing your boat, and how to winterize a boat. Let’s get started –

Firstly, what does winterizing a boat mean?

Simply put, it is the process of safeguarding the boat and its systems from potential freeze damage. It involves safety and maintenance practices like engine winterization (both outboard and inboard), fuel treatments, battery and sanitation system care, boat covers, and storage.

Importance Of Winterizing Your Boat

Mentioned below are some of the key reasons that elucidate the importance of winterizing your boat:

– In the off-season, when the temperature drops, freshwater tends to expand in volume when it freezes and it can push outwards with a force of tens of thousands of squares per inch. This expansion is capable of splitting the hoses, damaging fiberglass, cracking the engine block, or even harming the refrigeration system.

– An unwinterized boat with water left in the hose can burst the pipeline and makes the fixtures vulnerable to cracking over the winter. A pump that hasn’t been dried properly will break into pieces in winter. Similarly, holding tanks that have not been emptied properly can result in solidifying the waste over the winter.

– Boats with undrained fuels like diesel and gasoline result in algae formation which can clog the filters and injectors. Furthermore, an unstabilized fuel might lead to the deposition of dirt in the engine, which can make it difficult to start and run the boat.

– A boat left uncovered and unprotected is vulnerable to dirt, mildew, and corrosion, which not only affects the boat aesthetically but also minimizes the life of the engine and reduces its efficiency.

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How To Winterize A Boat

As mentioned earlier, winterizing a boat involves several aspects. Let’s have a look at all the essential steps in detail below –

Engine Winterization:

Boat engines can be of two types – outboard and inboard. To begin with, let us understand how to winterize an outboard engine –
As such, outboard engines are designed to drain all the water from their cooling systems, when tilted downwards. Hence, the first step would be to tilt the engine downwards to facilitate this.

The next step involves taking care of the engine’s internal parts to protect it from corrosion. In the past, this was done by running fogging oil through the engine. However, in current times, most outboard engines provide a feature called ‘winterize mode’ in the control system which does the job. Alternatively, some manufacturers have come up with products that can be mixed into a remote fuel can of gasoline, and run through the engine to give it a layer of protection.

To learn about the best way to winterize your outboard engine, we would recommend you to have a look at your manual as every company has precise instructions for each model. Lastly, be sure to change your lower unit and/or powerhead oil to ensure that there has not been any water intrusion.

Thereafter, let’s understand the process of winterizing inboard engines –

As far as inboard boat engines are concerned, the most dangerous threat is the damage caused by the water that freezes inside its cooling passages. Therefore, the focus lies in anti-freezing the engine’s internal cooling passages and its exhaust components. This is done by removing the raw-water intake hose from its closed supply seacock, placing it in a bucket full of antifreeze followed by running the engine until antifreeze is flowing appropriately from the exhaust outlet.

Another important practice is to change the engine oil and filter. Failing to do so can result in residual water damage and corrosion. Besides, remember to fog the gasoline inboards that are expected to sit for a longer time period as well as to change the gear lube for boats with sterndrives.

Fuel Treatments:

Fuel storage systems pose an equally heavy damage threat from water. Traditionally, experts recommended fueling up the boats to more than 90% when storing them. Doing so limits the amount of air in the tank that can potentially introduce moisture into the fuel through condensation.

However, due to the nature of ethanol, some experts these days recommend leaving the fuel tank empty. Regardless of the fuel type (be it diesel or gasoline), adding an appropriate fuel stabilizer is a must! In addition to that, be sure to change the fuel filters as well.

Winterizing Water Systems:

Antifreezing fixtures like faucets, washdown nozzles, showerheads, etc. is also an important step involved in winterizing your boat. This is because when the temperature drops, these fixtures may break as a result of the expansion of ice. When choosing an antifreeze solution, opt for those made with propylene glycol, or be sure to check if it is safe for drinking water systems.

With respect to freshwater systems, begin with draining as much water as possible from the tank and lines by opening one or more fixtures. Next, remove the primary feed hose from the freshwater tank and place it into a bucket filled with antifreeze. Lastly, open all fixtures until antifreeze comes flowing out. Once done, do not forget to reattach your freshwater tank feed hose. 

As far as raw water systems like live wells are concerned, remove the raw-water hose for each pump from its closed supply seacock and submerge the hose end in a bucket filled with antifreeze. Thereafter, run each pump until antifreeze comes flowing out of each fixture.

Sanitation System Care:

Marine sanitation systems (single portable MSD as well as those which have multiple electric-flush heads attached to a large size holding tank) need to be meticulously winterized to survive cold temperatures. Firstly, run fresh water through all the flush heads to ensure there is no smelly residue in the system.

After that, empty your holding tank at a pump-out facility by flushing it with fresh water a few times before hanging up the pump-out hose.

Next, remove the raw-water inlet hose for each head from its seacock and submerge it in a full of antifreeze (be sure to close the seacock before you do this). Please note: If you use any other waste treatment device (eg: LectraSan), there may be some other special instructions for you. Consult your manufacturer to understand the same.

Battery Care:

Amidst winterizing all other parts of your boat, do not forget that your batteries call for maintenance too. Leaving your batteries unattended throughout winter can cost you in ways more than one. Ensure that your batteries are on a trickle charge during the downtime. If you don’t have a solar charger or a plug at the boatyard, store your batteries at home — connected to a trickle charger.

Apart from that, remember that different battery types come with different charging needs. Some batteries may have a higher charging voltage tolerance than others. For this reason, it is important that you research what’s best for your individual battery type and take the necessary steps.

Boat Cover:

Lastly, no matter which option you choose for boat storage (in or out of water), you need to figure out how to cover your boat for the season. The goal here is to go for something that protects your boat from ice, snow, and UV rays all throughout. Some basic cover options include plastic tarps, canvas tarps, and fitted covers. Apart from these options, you can opt for shrink-wrap too.

How To Properly Cover Your Boat:

Whatever method of covering your boat you choose, properly covering your boat during the winter season is essential to protect it from the harsh elements and ensure its longevity. Begin by thoroughly cleaning your boat, removing any dirt, grime, or debris that may have accumulated. This step prevents potential damage or corrosion during storage. Next, inspect your boat for any existing cracks, leaks, or weak spots. Repair and seal them promptly to prevent water intrusion. When selecting a cover, choose one specifically designed for your boat’s make and model, ensuring a proper fit and maximum protection. High-quality covers made from weather-resistant materials, such as marine-grade canvas or polyester, provide superior durability and safeguard against moisture, UV rays, and mildew. Properly secure the cover using tie-down straps, snaps, or bungee cords to prevent it from coming loose or being damaged by strong winds.

Additionally, consider using support poles or frames to prevent water from pooling and placing stress on the cover. Lastly, periodically check and maintain your boat cover throughout the winter season to ensure its effectiveness. By following these comprehensive steps, you can safeguard your boat from the detrimental effects of winter weather and preserve its value for years to come.

Benefits Of Winterizing Your Boat

Now that we have established the importance of winterizing your boat and how to go about it, let’s understand its key benefits in brief:

One of the most satisfying reasons for winterizing your boat will be that you can rest assured that it will be ready for the next boating season. Mechanical and other maintenance involved in the process of winterizing your boat will ensure that you will be able to fully enjoy the summer season on your boat.

– Thereafter, apart from boat safety, taking all the necessary steps for timely boat maintenance will also limit the possibility of the need for repairs and replacement in the future. The importance of winterizing your boat cannot be overstated.

– As a result, it will also prove to be a smart, cost-effective decision  —  especially when you take into account how much you will have to spend in case of repairs or replacing expensive parts due to negligence.

What If You Don’t Experience Harsh Winters?

Winterizing your boat may be a necessary autumn ritual for northern boaters, but what about those living in warmer climates? Well, even if you don’t plan on using your boat until next spring, investing the time and money in proper maintenance is highly recommended and here’s why. While a complete winterization schedule may be unnecessary, conducting regular maintenance is crucial to prevent potential damage to both the boat and its engine. Even in warmer climates, an unexpected hard freeze or a short cold snap can cause damage to mechanical parts, electrical systems, and even the hull and trailer. It is important to note that sterndrives, which are powered by automotive engines, require more preventive maintenance compared to outboard-powered boats like bass boats, pontoons, and certain runabout models. In such cases, you have two options – perform the maintenance yourself or take your boat to a dealership for fall service. Many dealerships offer bundled packages and employ factory-trained technicians to carry out the required work, providing you with the assurance that all aspects are taken care of professionally. This approach gives you peace of mind and guarantees that your investment is protected throughout the dormant period.

Wrapping Up

In conclusion, while winterizing your boat may seem to be an extensive process, it is undoubtedly a worthwhile investment!

About DockMaster Inc.

DockMaster is an industry-leading marine management system for marinas, boatyards, and boat dealerships. Visual Marina™ management includes storage & billing, occupancy tracking, reservations, and dry stack management, including integrations to leading consumer applications for boat rentals, online reservations, concierge/launch scheduling, and our new fuel integration with FuelCloud. To request a free demo, click here.

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