Winterize your boat now — beat the incoming freeze

three men on a boat

The popular BoatUS organization says it as good as anyone: Winterize now or possibly face a costly repair come spring. Boaters are preparing to put their boats to bed for an off-season nap, but not every boat owner knows the secrets of winterizing a boat and perhaps more importantly, the motor.

It may be three weeks or six weeks but the first freeze will come, and that’s all it takes.


Water expands almost 10% by volume, and the pressure it produces can split granite. That expansion means that any water left in your engine, potable water system or refrigeration system can do some major damage over the winter. Even an engine block can crack open during cold weather. The key is making sure all water gets drained out or replaced by antifreeze.

Batteries are best stored at home. Remove batteries, bring them to the garage or basement and use a trickle charger to keep them topped off. That alone will add years to their life.


It’s easier to prevent mold than to attempt to remove it months later. Without some air circulation, a boat’s interior can build up condensation, which can lead to a moldy mess next spring. Many owners place open trays of charcoal on the boat floor to absorb dampness. Adding a tray or two of mothballs will help keep mice away.

Cleaning the hull now makes spring clean-up much easier. Bottom-crud and other stains come off a whole lot easier now then after sitting all winter.

Engine preparation

Now for the engine. If you are mechanically-inclined and confident, it’s a doable DIY project, but it’s best to have a dealer perform winterization. And too, be sure to use the manufacturer’s recommended products so not to void any future warranty claims. That alone is cheap insurance.

There is more than one type of anti-freeze. Be sure to use the right type, which won’t damage engine components or on-board systems.

Add fuel stabilizer before you fill your tank. That helps mix the stabilizer so it protects all of the gas. Many manufacturers and most dealers will recommend running the engine for a few minutes after adding a stabilizer to protect the engine’s fuel system.

Wait for spring

Write down what you did or what your dealer did. That way, next spring, you won’t wonder if the lower unit was serviced, the crankcase oil changed or the plugs replaced. Many boat owners choose to run the engine first in the spring, then change the plugs. Right now is also a good time to send a chipped propeller out to be repaired.

If your rig is going to be stored outdoors, cover the tires and travel cover with a tarp or other waterproof material, prop up the top and start counting the days until spring.


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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.



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