Boat Storage 

Taking care of your boat is very important if you want it to be ready to use when spring comes.  Winterizing your boat can prevent significant damage such as cracks, leaks, corrosion, and frozen pipes. Fluids freezing, settling from sitting dormant, moisture, and corrosion can lead to significant repair bills. To prevent costly repairs in the spring when you put your boat back into service, it is important to take the proper preventitative measures in the fall.

Here are some steps to take when winterizing your boat off season:

Find a storage location

Your options are storing in your garage, driveway or backyard, rack storage, a marina, or a storage facility. Be sure to consult your owner’s manual for safety rules and instructions on towing capacity, and proper methods for storage.

Clean

Thoroughly cleaning you boat inside and out will help you to discover anything that might need repaired before storing your boat away until the spring. It will help you to identify any spills, leaks or messes that you may not have been aware of, and help you avoid discovering any mysterious, leaks, drips, spills or odors in the spring. Cleaning your boat and applying a rust inhibitor on your steering, control cables and metal hardware will helpf to prevent corrosion while in storage.

Repair damages

It is best to repair anything that is broken, worn, or damaged in the fall when marinas, boatyards and suppliers are less busy than in the springtime rush. Don’t wait to repair obvious items like a crack, you will not want your boat sitting all winter long, as damage could become worse.

Remove electronics

All electronics should be removed and stored in a safe, dry, warm and dust free environment.

Prevent mildew

You should also store items such as cushions, curtains, sails, personal flotation devices, and fire extinguishers. Empty the refrigerator and prop open lockers and drawers so they can air out. In order to avoid mildew, keep the moisture content limited inside your boat and plan to check it often.  Dehumidifiers can help increase air temperatures inside the boat preventing moisture build up, as it keeps the air circulating inside the boat. Place some boxes of baking soda throughout your boat to help absorb moisture.

Drain

Drain the fluid from your manifolds, engine block, water pump, and coolers. Be sure to drain and fill the crankcase with proper lubricants. Drain the waste tanks, fresh water tank, and hot water heater. Add non-toxic antifreeze to your water tank, hot water heater, and waste tank.

Fuel and antifreeze

Fill the gas tank to capacity or run it dry to prevent condensation, oxidation, and gas spoilage. Be sure to put fuel additives to preserve the fuel and prevent damage to the fuel system. Run the engine for about 15 minutes to make sure additives reach the fuel in your fuel lines. Put antifreeze into the cooling system and water tanks feeding into the supply lines for the water faucets and shower. 

Monitor oil

After running the engine to warm it up, change the oil when still warm. Storing your boat long-term with old dirty oil may cause the oil to get thick and make starting the boat difficult after taking it our of storage. Make sure you change the oil filter always when you change the oil.

Prepare the engine

Check and change transmission fluid as necessary, remove the spark plugs, and use “fogging oil” on each cylinder. Spray a clean towel with fogging oil or WD-40 and wipe down the engine.

Paint

Sand the bottom of the boat to get off any growth or scraped paint and have it repainted.  A clean hull is a happy hull.

Prepare the battery

Remove the battery by disconnecting the battery cables. At this point check the terminal ends and clean them with a wire brush if needed, you can wash the battery by making a solution of water and baking soda, then rinse the battery with distilled water. The battery terminal ends and cables should have a light coating of grease put on them before storing. A trickle charger can be used to keep the battery charged. When storing a baterry make sure it is in a dry, safe place and keep off of concrete surfaces.

Inspect the stern/out drive

Thoroughly inspect the stern/outdrive drive. Remove any plants, barnacles or other growth from the lower unit. For stern/out drives with rubber boots, be sure to check four tight seals free from cracks or holes.  Grease all zerk fitting and check all your fluid levels.

Clean bilges

Bilges should be clean and dry when storing. If you find it necessary to clean the bilge use soap with hot water and a stiff brush to scrug the bulge area.  Clean up any spills from oil. Once the bilges are clean, you may spray them with a lubricant that will help displace moisture you may wish to add antifreeze to prevent water from freezing.

Choose a proper cover

Covering your boat with a tightly fitted cover before storing it is important, even if storing indoors. Choose a cover that has good ventilation. Check the cover for tears or damage.

Read your owners manual to determine the way the manufacturer recommends to winterize your boat; Every boat is different and each one has specific items that must be checked.  Do not be afraid to seek a professional to help you especially if you have never winterized a boat before. It’s better to be safe than sorry and it gives you an opportunity to ask questions.