Frozen ground, frosted windows, and snow flurries signify the return of Old Man Winter and my most dreaded chore of the year… winterizing the boat. The work involved doesn’t bother me one bit. It’s the thought that my open water fishing for the year has ended, and I will have to endure months of anticipation towards making my first cast next spring. While I love ice fishing for crappies and walleye and running for a tip-up flag with the hopes of hand reeling in a lunker northern pike, my dreams are still filled with visions of misty lakes, big bass, and fast bass boats. Although I dread this time of year, it is critical to properly winterize your boat so that first day on the lake in the spring doesn’t result in broken parts, expensive repair bills, and significant time off the water. Here is a list of essential steps to winterize your boat.
1.) Pull your boat out of the water and give it a good wash. Remove everything out of the storage compartments and vacuum the insides, the deck, and cockpit areas. Leave the compartments open so moisture will evaporate. Don’t forget to run your bilge pump so no water is left in the line and pull your plug.
2.) Now it’s time to “winterize” your engine. Add fuel stabilizer first in the fuel tank and then fill the tank with marine fuel. Run your engine long enough to get the fuel and stabilizer into the lines and throughout the engine. This will keep fuel remnants from spoiling in the tank or turning into a gummy varnish, which may ruin your tank, not to mention the condensation and oxidation that may occur.
3.) Flush out the cooling system to clean out or "flush out" sediment or bits of rust. Start this by removing the plug to drain the water from the engines. Use a "flushing kit" that you can purchase from a boat supply or boat dealer. Then, pump back into the cooling system some anti-freeze. If you don't flush out the cooling system, you can have ice freeze in the line and seriously damage or ruin your engine.
4.) Spray the engine with oil. It is recommended that you use fogging oil that can be found at any boat supply or boat dealer. This type of oil is formulated to not slide off the cylinders. You can remove the spark plugs and spray directly into their holes. Also, change the oil and oil filter. Don’t forget to drain the lower unit oil and replace with fresh lower unit gear oil. If water is left in the lower unit, it may freeze and cause damage to the gear casing.
5.) Lastly, check your prop for any dings or nicks. Also, take note of any other items that you may want to replace or fix, as winter is a great time to save up and purchase items for the boat as time draws near to opening day. Find a good boat cover that securely fits your boat.
Remember, check your owner’s manual for specific winterizing steps for your boat. I know it hurts to put the boat away, but soon we will be back on the water after the lakes unthaw. Proper winterizing will help ensure that you are ready to go on opening day.