Monday, November 22, 2010

How To Winterize your Boat

It’s getting close to time for winter in Michigan and the dreaded task of putting the boat up for winter is looming.  So what does someone need to do if they are going to winterize their boat for the winter?  I hope to give you an easy check list for those of us stuck in the north and with no choice, except to put the boat up for another year.
            Let’s begin with the engine.  The heart of your boat is one thing you don’t want to let the winter take its toll on.  In states where freezing weather occurs you don’t want water in your gear case or engine.  When the water freezes it can cause serious problems like a cracked engine block or a cracked gear case.  This can cost serious money to fix or replace. 
There are a few things you will need before you get started.  You will need a flat head screw driver, fogging fog, “ear muffs” or container to run motor in, STA-BIL and lower end gear oil.
            You will need to run your engine when putting it up for the winter.  You can place the lower end in a container of water so you don’t over heat your engine, but I have found that the “ear muff” attachment for a hose works best.  You want to start the motor and disconnect the fuel line.  You are doing this to clear all the gas out of your engine.  You will want to give the carburetors a shot of the fogger.  Before all the gas is used up your motor will begin to run ruff, when this happens give the carburetors a bigger shot of the fog this will help make sure the engine is coated in the fog. 
            Now you want to remove the engine from the container of water or take off the “ear muffs”.  Put the motor strait up and down, this may mean you need to crank your trailer way down or even put the tongue of your trailer on the ground.  Let the water drain from the pick up on your lower end.  Some engines have drain plugs you can open, check your owner’s manual to see if you have one.  You also need to drain the water from the motor itself.  You can hand crank your fly wheel a few times or crank the motor a few times.  Like I said if you live in the north where it freezes this step is critical, if all the water is not out of the motor you could end up with some serious repair bills come spring.
            Once you have removed all the water from your lower end and the motor, you need to remove the spark plugs.  Once you have removed the spark plugs spray the fogger in to each spark plug hole.  Since you have the spark plugs out it is a good time to inspect the spark plugs.  Make sure they are gapped correctly, if the spark plug looks bad take this chance to replace it.  Once you have fogged the spark plug holes and checked over your spark plugs put them back in.
             Now we come to the point in the task that has two theories when dealing with the gear oil in the lower end.  Some say you need to drain the lower end oil and fill it back up all the way.  I, however, was taught that you need to drain the lower end oil and leave it out until spring.  The idea in both theories is that you want no water in the lower end.  By draining the lower end you are removing the water.  Some say that filling up the lower end with gear oil will push any water still in there out.  Like I said I was taught to drain all the oil out and leave the plugs out so any water can run out.
            Now let’s turn our attention to the fuel in your boat.  The most damaging thing that can happen come spring if you take care of winterizing your motor is water in your fuel.  Once again there are two theories on dealing with your fuel when winterizing your boat.  Some will fill the fuel tank all the way up, the idea behind this is that if your gas tank is completely full there is no room for condensation to build up and ruin the gas.  If this is what you chose to do I recommend that you use a fuel additive such as STA-BIL (which can be bought at any auto parts store or boat dealer) to help combat this.  The other option is to drain the fuel tank.  You can take it in and have it done by a professional (safest option) or you can siphon the fuel tank yourself.  Please if you do this yourself be careful.
            From the motor we turn our attention to the boat itself.  First and for most make sure you remove the drain plug from the boat.  You don’t want any water in the haul of your boat.  If it freezes you can develop a crack in the fiber glass and have serious problems.  Make sure that you jack the front of your boat so all the water in the haul runs out the back end of the boat.
            If you live in extremely cold areas of the country you may want to consider bringing your batteries indoors.  You want to make sure your batteries are fully charged.  This is a good time to check the water levels in the batteries and make sure they are full, if not fill them.  If you move your batteries into your house leave them on a trickle charge or don’t charge them at all.  Every so often you can check the batteries and see if they are still charged and if they are not you can charge them.
            When you are putting up your boat for the winter, it’s also a great time to clean out your boat.  Over the summer we all tend to accumulate things in the boat that we don’t need.  So this is a great time to clean out all the unneeded items in your boat.  I also take out all my tackle and store it in the house.  I want to keep it from getting mice in it.  It’s also a good time to go through your tackle and reorganize it (more to come on that subject at a later time).
            The last thing to deal with then winterizing your boat is your trailer.  This is a great time to make sure that the wheels are greased and if the bearings need re packing this is a great time to take care of it.  It also a good time to check your lights and make sure they are working properly, or even need to be replaced.
            I hope if you live in the cold climate these tips will help you so if you take them to heart next spring when you fire up the boat you don’t have an unwanted surprise in the form of a giant repair bill. 

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