Think about winterizing your boat now

Rotor cap
The impellers and rotor cap shown here needed replaced after failing during use. A regular preventive program could have saved the day. (Mike Tontimonia photo)

The person who coined the phrase, “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it,” obviously was not a boater. Indeed, boat motors never break down at the dock or while on a trailer.

That’s just the way it is and it isn’t going to change anytime in this lifetime. So give serious thought to fixing it before it gets a chance to break.

That’s exactly what the following suggestions are all about. Right now, pleasure boating is on summer’s last lap and boat owners are already thinking about putting their craft away for the winter months.

The majority of pleasure-only boats are inboard/outboard or simply inboard powered. Most of these power plants are cooled by water drawn from the lake or river that floats it, meaning that any problem that prevents cooling water from doing its job needs to be corrected.

Engine performance might need attention as well. Waiting until it gets worse is not a good idea.

Fresh spark plugs may the short answer to a sputtering motor but the problem may be more than that. In fact, the smallest problem can quickly get worse.

Get it fixed before it breaks. Don’t put it off until spring.


Have a certified marine mechanic complete an agreed on preventive maintenance list while performing the winterizing prep.

Include the appropriate cooling system check, anti-freeze flush, rotor cap replacement if appropriate, possibly an impeller replacement plus an oil and filter change.

Depending on the type of power plant, a good preventative program may also include fuel system check, closed coolant system flush and more.

Outboard motors

What about outboard motors? First, understand that winterization of an outboard is typically a simpler process if done at all.

Serious anglers often find the need to use their boats year-round, thus may never find the right time to fix things that don’t yet need fixing.

So make time or suffer the consequences.

Older two-stroke cycle motors are fairly simple machines. Newer four-stroke units are far more complex.

Annual oil and filter changes are absolute and cooling water impellers should also be replaced occasionally.

Many manufacturers are recommending that water pump impellers be replaced every three years and some are now suggesting annual replacement.


Cost of preventing on the water breakdowns? A lot less than replacing a powerhead, and a whole lot less painful than a ruined vacation.

Take the time now to check oil level and other indicators of possible upcoming issues. Be especially aware of the gasoline used.


Purchase ethanol free gas when and where you can; that in itself is the easy way to baby your motor.

A high number of states and nearly 1,500 filling stations now offer E-15, often at the same pump as E-10 and higher octane gas. No one yet knows how damaging E-15 might be.

Federal law prohibits the use of fuel with greater than 10 percent ethanol in boat motors, whatever that’s worth. So do many warranties.

Never the less, be aware of the pump handle you grab, it could be an engine or fuel system killer. If you must burn E-10, be sure to use an additive.

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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.


  1. More misinformation. E10 Fuel is approved for all outboard motors and no additives are necessary when burning E10. Where does the idea of misfueling come from? Is this common? I believe the general public clearly understands how to read labels and clearly knows not to use E15 in their outboards.

  2. I cannot say how disappointed I am to read such misinformation in Farm and Dairy. If you guys want to continue to divide agriculture, this is a great start. Every marine engine manufacturer has approved E10 for decades. They all have recommendations for storage, but the same is true if it is E10 or ethanol-free. If you are under the impression that today’s gasoline is the same as it was 5 years ago, let alone 10, it is time to research the subject. Ethanol is the easy target, but a lazy one. Those that work directly with fuels and engines know better.

    I just recently rode on a boat that was previously owned by my father and has been running E10 for over two decades. Not one issue to date. Learn the facts, follow manufacturer guidance and read the mandatory labels at the fuel station, and life will go on as it should.

    Need more info, read what nationally-recognized mechanic, Bobby Likis had to say on the issue here:

  3. Unfortunately for Farm and Dairy, their contract columnist is badly misinformed (or is it intentional?).

    E10 performs perfectly with outboard and other small engines. My family has used only E10 in all of ours for 35+ years here in the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” Our island ‘driveway’ is 2 miles of liquid water for 7 months each year – every day, I depend on outboards fueled with E10 as my primary transportation. It’s seamless and problem-free.

    Shame on the editors for not catching this (or was it intentional?). Folks – Don’t let them scare you into paying 60-90 cts more per gallon for “oxy-free.”

    No, E15 is not intended for small engines. But I also hope boat owners know enough to not fuel their outboards with diesel fuel.


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