As the cooler days of October close in upon us, this is the time to start thinking about the fall lay-up of your boat. Some boats require a bit more work than others, but the general requirements are about the same. Even if you leave the actual winterization work to the experts, there is much you as the owner can do to ensure the boat is well prepared, and potentially save a few bucks along the way.
Prior to bringing the boat in for the season it is important to make notes of all signs of wear and tear. Be critical, and write down anything that may need attention. Some questions to consider might be: Does it sound and feel smooth in its running? Are there any strange smells, squeaks or rattles? Does the drive and transmission shift smoothly? Are there vibrations? How is the steering? Test everything down to the lights, horns, blowers and radio. Also, you will want to check the expiration date on the emergency signal flares and fire extinguisher to make sure that neither needs to be updated.
After all this is done empty all summer items from your boat. Take out towels, clothing, food, water, beach toys and all liquids. You do not want to leave anything on board that could spoil or grow mold through the winter. If you have an onboard MSD (toilet) you will want to empty that out as well. If it is portable you can remove it from the boat and clean it out. If it is built in, pump it at the marina and treat the tank & toilet with a non-toxic antifreeze. Don’t forget to do the same with any ice maker on board.
The engine manifolds and all water systems on the boat need to be pumped out, run until they are empty and partially refilled with sufficient RV antifreeze. Allow the system to run until the antifreeze runs from every spigot, faucet or shower wand.
During the season’s last run the fuel should be generously stabilized and allowed to work through the engine. The tanks should be filled to between 3/4 and 7/8 full, adding the proper ration of stabilizer to the new fuel. This will prevent any condensation from accumulating inside the tank.
All engines and drivetrains should be winterized. The goal of this is to remove entrained water from the engine and manifolds, replace the worn oil and filters, fog the cylinder walls if you can and service the raw water pumps. Many owners and experts will recommend that this be done professionally. Mistakes in this department tend to be a bit pricey.
Right after your boat has been winterized you will want to thoroughly clean it. Again, double-check that all removable items have been removed. Vacuum what you can and leave all hatch covers; seat cushions and lockers open to promote ventilation. Give the boat a good scrubbing before its winter break.
Your boat should always be covered for winter. If you are going to be storing your boat outdoors it may be a good idea to shrink-wrap it with vents. This is unless you have a wooden boat. Then it should be in cold covered storage over dirt or gravel. If you have a cold molded boat (like a Van Dam Custom Boat) you can store your boat in either cold or heated indoors and over dirt, gravel or concrete. Shrink-wrapping is not recommended for wooden boats since the torch used to shrink can easily damage the surrounding clear finish.
The more care and attention you pay to the winter storage of your boat the quicker you will get it in the water at the beginning of next season. While everyone else is getting his or her repairs done you will be out for your first ride of the year. Proper care and maintenance is a year round job for boat owners.
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