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Winterizing Your Boat –Protect from the Elements

The kids are in school and the leaves are turning vibrant color, which also means thinking about when and how to winterize your boat so you can avoid costly repairs in the spring.  Here’s a list to make winterizing your boat more efficient:

Your Boat

Boat out of water1. If possible, store your boat ashore for the winter.  The bulkhead, keel and motor are the critical areas needing support.  Cradles work best, but don’t store your boat on a cradle that wasn’t designed for the boat you have.

2. If you store your boat in the water, make sure to close all through-hull fittings, gate valves and seacocks to keep the water out.  As water freezes, it expands and can break these important features.  Also, plug any exhaust ports. Do not, however, close cockpit drains.  Check on your boat occasionally to make sure lines are secure and the bilge remains dry.

3. Make sure to cover your boat.  Use a frame under the cover to prevent water from pooling or tearing the cover.  Canvas is best because it breathes.  If you use plastic, make sure you leave vents in it to allow any moisture to escape.  Allow for drainage if you’re storing outside.

4. Add non-toxic antifreeze to water tanks, toilets and septic holding tanks.  Never use engine antifreeze in a freshwater system.

5. Make sure to remove any electronic equipment, important documents or other valuables.  Marinas are more like ghost yards in the winter, and tempting to thieves.

Your Engine

* Drain the cooling system and add anti-freeze.  On outboards, this means filling a large bucket or drum with enough antifreeze fluid to reach the water intake, then running the motor until it is warm.  Use non-toxic antifreeze only.

* Disconnect the battery and store in a warm, dry place. If you have to leave it on board to operate an alarm or bilge pump, fill battery cells with distilled water and fully charge it so it doesn’t freeze.  Apply petroleum jelly to clean terminals to prevent corrosion.

* Oil: Drain and replace the engine, transmission and outdrive oil. Replace gear oil in outdrives.  Use internal oil fogger when the engine is warm to prevent corrosion.  Many boat dealers have service centers that can help with the messy fluids and recycling for a reasonable price.

* Top off fuel tanks, leaving a little room for expansion.  Add a fuel stabilizer, especially if you run gasoline with ethanol blended in.  What’s better?  Not using blended fuel.  An interactive map of “clear” gasoline locations is located at

* To keep water from collecting in outdrives, leave them in the down position.

If winterizing a boat isn’t your forte, call or visit your local marine service center for prices and scheduling.

There are some great “how-to” videos on YouTube from West Marine, Boat U.S. Foundation and other marine mechanics for boaters who prefer winterizing their own boats.  There are also more tips on winterizing your boat and trailer at

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