Winter’s here and if you’re one of the many folks who don’t use your boat through the cold months, it’s important to properly winterize it before storing it. Take a little time now to care for your rig so that you’re not that guy who’s stuck on the ramp on opening day next spring, with the cowling off and nowhere to go.
Here’s a step by step look at how to do it:
Okay, to make sure your motor kicks over next season, there are several things you should do to it now. The first step is to change the oil in your outboard (if you have a four-stroke) and also change the lube in your lower unit.?
“You don’t want any sludge to settle in and sit there all winter,” says Jerry Herota, a Jedi master-type wrench man at Buck’s Outboard in Sacramento. “So keep it fresh. Also, hit all the zerk fittings with grease and lube the prop shaft.”?
Since gasoline can go bad over time, it’s also a very good idea to run the fuel out of your four-stroke engine before you store it. With a two-stroke motor, however, it’s better to add a fuel conditioner to your tank and run it through the engine. In a two-stroke, the lubrication (oil) is mixed in with the fuel, so running one out of gas causes metal parts to grind on one-another without any protection (bad idea!). Several companies make fuel additives and Herota likes the one made by Yamaha.
If you’re really feeling ambitious, Herota says, you can also pull the spark plugs and spray some storage seal into your cylinders. Also, before putting the cowling back on, it doesn’t hurt to spray the entire engine with silicone spray to displace moisture.??It’s also a good idea to store it in the upright position.”
“You also want to make sure your battery is full,” he says. “Once you’re done running the engine, disconnect the wires and then leave your motor in its vertical upright running position to keep water from collecting in it. Also, don’t wrap your motor with plastic because it will sweat when it gets warm outside and you’ll have a rain forest under the cowling by spring. Cover it instead with canvas and then let it air out from time to time on the nice days.”??
You don’t have to do quite as much to your hull to get it ready for winter, but there are a few tricks to follow to ensure she’s in top shape for the 2007 season.
Mike Burns of Smoker Craft Boats in Stayton, OR says that the first thing he does before storing his boat for extended periods is wash it — inside and out — with a mild detergent. Then, he’ll pour some Spic-N-Span into the bilge to neutralize any fishy smell that’s lingering in the bowls of the vessel. ??
“The most important thing, however, is to cover it — but you need to allow the boat to breathe,” he says. “Without ventilation, you’re going to have mold. And on sunny days, make sure to take the cover off and let everything dry out.”
Jim Farrand, who works at the Smoker Craft factory, added that a good wax job will help protect the boat and keep it looking good. A little buffing isn’t a bad idea, either, he notes, if you’ve got an aluminum boat. “Take some light steel wool and go with the grain,” he says. “In other words, buff on a horizontal path — not a vertical one. Scotch Brite pads with flat boards work really nice.”??
Perhaps the easiest thing to do to winterize your vessel is to make sure it doesn’t become a catch basin for rain.
“It may be obvious,” Herota says, “but it’s extremely important to make sure the drain plug is pulled.
I don’t care how many tarps and covers you have on the boat, water’s going to get down in there. I once had a customer who forgot to pull the plug and when they pulled the cover off in the spring, the boat was full to the gunwales. No wonder the tires were so flat on the trailer!”
Here’s where a little effort now will go a long way in sparing you that embarrassing moment on the boat ramp next spring.? Sunny Lampe of Sunny’s Electric Marine in Sacramento says that one of the most important things you can do before storing your boat for the winter is take batteries out and then make sure to recharge them every 30 days. Also, you should keep them indoors where they won’t be subjected to any freezing temperatures.
“Be sure to take all your electronics off — fish finders, radios, GPS units, etc.,” he says. “And hit all your electrical connections with Corrosion X, which will keep them waterproof and protect them from corrosion.
Also, clean the dirt out of your pull-out light connections and hit them with Corrosion X as well. Right now is also a good time to dig out your bilge pump and clean it.”?
Trailers are pretty durable, but they can always use a little TLC as well. If you can, take the boat off the trailer and thoroughly douse it with a pressure washer. Then, tighten up everything that’s loose and replace the bunks or carpet as necessary. It’s not a bad idea, either, to check all your lighting and wiring as well.
“If you have a small boat, say something like a 12 or 14 footer, it will help prolong the life of your tires by getting the trailer up on blocks to keep the weight off the wheels,” says Herota. “With bigger boats, this isn’t very practical, so just try to roll the tires a little each month. And one last thing — give the Bearing Buddies on your hubs a shot of grease. That should force any moisture out so it doesn’t sit there all winter.”
By following these simple suggestions, you should have no trouble with your boat when it’s time to start fishing next year.