When you take away days you have to work, days when the temperatures are way too hot or way too cold, days you have to attend weddings, funerals, birthday parties, family vacations, family reunions, business meetings, days when you're a bit under the weather, and that big block of time known as winter - what you have left is the fishing season. And in late fall the fishing season begins its gradual fading into a distant memory, your attention turns to winterizing the fishin' rig. The time and effort you spend now will have a definite effect on your rig's performance, or lack of it, and certainly save you time, effort and money come spring. Remember, most insurance policies do not cover damage done by lack of maintenance or neglect.
Your first step in winterizing should be to make a checklist of all items that need to be accomplished. Check the owner's manual of your boat, motor and trailer for manufacturer's recommendations on winterization. If you are a new boat owner, perhaps you should employ the assistance of a friend with experience in winterizing or hire a professional to do the job. The following is a generic outline of areas which should be of concern to you.
The best protection for the your boat is to store it inside. This protects the boat exterior against harmful UV rays, winds, snow, rain and extreme temperature changes, all of which affect gelcoat, varnish, and gear. If inside storage is not possible make sure that your boat is well covered with a tarp or some other sturdy cover.
Pull the drain plug and open livewell drains.
LivewellsMake sure the livewells are clean and dry. Use soap, hot water and a stiff brush to clean. Once the livewells are clean, blow out all intake and discharge lines. Add a little RV antifreeze to prevent any remaining water from freezing. To allow for air circulation use a small block of wood to prevent livewell lids from fully closing.
Bilges Make sure the bilges are clean and dry. Use soap, hot water and a stiff brush to clean up any oil spills. Once the bilges are clean, spray with a moisture displacing lubricant and add a little RV antifreeze to prevent any water from freezing.
InteriorRemove any valuables, fishing rods, tackle, trolling motor, electronics, dock & anchor lines, PFD, fire extinguishers, flares, fenders, etc. Over the winter these items can be cleaned, checked and replaced as necessary. Open all drawers and lockers and clean thoroughly. Turn cushions up on edge so that air is able to circulate around them or, better yet, bring them home to a climate controlled area. To allow for air circulation use a small block of wood to prevent compartment lids from fully closing. Thoroughly vacuum all carpeted areas. Place small open containers of moth balls in the front and back of the boat to keep unwanted critters from crawling under the cover or tarp and using your boat for a winter residence.
ExteriorPressure wash hull. Check the hull for blisters and if you find any that should be attended to you might want to open them to drain over the winter. While you're at it, why not give the hull a good wax job?
BatteriesDisconnect the battery cables, remove the battery(s) from the boat. Clean the terminal ends and battery with a solution of baking soda and water, rinse thoroughly with clean water. Apply a light coat of grease on the terminal end of the battery and cables. Store the battery in a cool dry place. Do not store the battery on a concrete floor. Use a battery box or set it on a block of wood. Use a trickle charger once a month to keep battery charged. Do not charge battery near any open flame or in a confined area.
Stabilizing Your FuelFor Inboard tanks - Fill your fuel tank(s) to avoid a build up of condensation over the winter months. Using a fuel stabilizer such as STA-BIL® will stabilize fresh fuel and protect an engine's fuel system up to 15 months when used as directed.
Using STA-BIL®in all types of power equipment when the fuel is still fresh is an inexpensive and effective way to protect engines and treat your gas for quick starts next season. STA-BIL® contains proprietary additives designed to reduce oxidation and metal corrosion of gasoline and diesel fuels. These additives prevent the fuel from oxidizing which can cause the build up of gum and varnish in your fuel system. In simpler terms, STA-BIL® surrounds "good" fuel molecules with a coating so that oxygen can not "break down" the fuel molecules into "bad" gum and varnish. Make sure you run the engine for a few minutes after adding STA-BIL® so that it can work its way through the entire fuel system.
Note-Part of the above was taken from the Gold Eagle® website.
Change the fuel filter(s) and water separator(s).If the outboard has portable fuel tanks, disconnect the fuel hose from both the tank and engine. Close the fuel tank filler cap vent screw. Add a fuel stabilizer by following the instructions on the product label. Store fuel tanks in a well-ventilated area away from heat or flame.
It is also recommended that you consult your owners manual for the manufacturers recommendations on how to handle fuel in your winterization process.
Outboard EngineFlush engine with fresh water using flush muffs or similar device attached to the raw water pickup. Let all water drain from the engine. Wash engine down with soap and water and rinse thoroughly.
If your outboard is oil injected, fill the oil tank and reserve with factory recommended oil to prevent condensation from forming inside the tank during storage.
Fog the engine with fogging oil to prevent rust. Fogging oil is formulated to stick to the cylinders and not slide down the walls. To lubricate the cylinder walls and pistons spray some of the fogging oil into the cylinders through the spark plug holes once the engine has cooled down. Check the spark plugs and replace them as necessary.
Change the gear oil in the lower unit and check for excessive moisture in the oil. This could indicate leaking seals and should be repaired.
Remove and inspect prop. Check the prop for nicks and dents. Even slight damage can hinder performance. Worse yet, blade damage can cause vibration, damaging other engine parts and the drive system. Some damaged props can be repaired by marine dealers for a fraction of the cost of a new one.
Grease all fittings.
Lightly lubricate the exterior of the engine or polish with a good wax.
Inboard EngineYou should run the engine to warm it up and change the oil while it is warm. This tends to allow impurities to be drained away with the oil. You should also change the oil filter(s). Flush the engine with fresh water. You should circulate antifreeze through the manifold by using a pickup hose from the waterpump to a bucket of antifreeze. Start the engine and allow the antifreeze to circulate until water starts to exit the exhaust. This process will vary slightly depending on whether you have a Raw Water cooling system or an Enclosed Fresh Water cooling system. While you're in the engine room you should also change the fluid in your transmission. Remove spark plugs and use fogging oil to spray into each cylinder. Wipe down the engine with a shop towel sprayed with a little fogging oil or WD-40.
Stern DriveYou should thoroughly inspect the stern drive and remove any plant life or barnacles from the lower unit. Remove and inspect prop. Check the props for nicks and dents. Even slight damage can hinder performance. Worse yet, blade damage can cause vibration, damaging other engine parts and the drive system. Some damaged props can be repaired by marine dealers for a fraction of the cost of a new one. Apply water resistant grease to propeller shaft and threads. Drain the gear case and check for excessive moisture in the oil. This could indicate leaking seals and should be repaired. Clean the lower unit with soap and water. If your stern drive has a rubber boot, check it for cracks or pinholes. Grease all fittings and check fluid levels in hydraulic steering or lift pumps. Check with your owner's manual for additional recommendations by the manufacturer.
After you're finished winterizing your boat and motor, don't forget to winterize your trailer. Here are some tips to ensure that your trailer is road-ready next spring.
Consider jacking up the trailer and supporting the weight on three or four jack stands. This will help the tires last longer and to keep the tires from "flat spotting" due to sitting for six months in the same position during cold temperatures. The jack stands should have a sheet of 3/4" plywood, about 18" square, placed under them if the trailer is parked on grass or dirt to prevent the jack stands from sinking into the ground.
Check the lug nuts and tighten them. Check tire inflation. The correct inflation pressure is molded into the sidewall. Now is a good time to rotate the trailer tires. If applicable, check brakes and brake fluid.
Lubricate all rollers, pivot points, the winch, and the coupler. This is also the time to add grease to the bearing protectors, or pull the wheels and repack the bearings. Your dealer can advise you whether repacking or replacement is necessary. The dealer can best perform this maintenance because repacking or replacing the hub's inner parts requires special tools for components with specific tolerances.
Rust spreads easily, so inspect your trailer. Sand off and prime any rust spots you find.
Look for signs of cracking or metal fatigue. Tighten bolts and screws and inspect the electrical system for worn wires or loose connections. The bulb bases inside taillights can be sprayed with WD-40 to keep moisture out.
Store the trailer for adequate drainage so that the bow of the boat is slightly higher than the stern.
By following some of the above suggestions you should be in good shape for the winter. Do not, however, neglect to consult your owner's manuals for manufacture's recommendations on winterizing your boat and other systems. If you have not done a winterization job before or don't have an experienced friend to rely on seek out a professional to do the job for you.