When the cold winter months approach, it's time to bid a brief farewell to your boat. Whether you're going to be putting it in a storage unit or keeping it on your property, there are several things you must do to keep it in tip-top shape before the freezing temperatures set in. Here are four tips to winterizing your boat the right way so that it's ready to launch when spring rolls back around.
Address Any and All Repairs
If you think that tossing on a cover and addressing any needed repairs in the spring is acceptable, you're probably setting yourself up for heartache. As it turns out, most everyone else has the same idea in mind, so this tends to be the busiest time of year for the boat mechanic. Before you store your boat for the winter, make sure you fix anything that's broken or needs attention.
Take Care of the Battery
The reason the battery needs special attention in the winter is because it will freeze at certain temperatures and lose its charge. Fortunately, if the battery is relatively new and fully charged, it can tolerate temps all the way down to 75 degrees below zero. However, if it has begun to lose some of its charge, 32 degrees will start the freezing process. Since you'd probably rather not have to replace your battery in the spring, there are some simple ways to make sure it stays charged, and a lot of it will depend on what sort of climate you're in.
For those in northern/cold climates: Unless you have a good reason to leave the battery on the boat--which some people do to power alarms and such--you should remove it and keep it inside a climate-controlled area. From there, you will need to give it a charge either once a month or right before the first use in the spring.
For those who live in the southern/warm climates: If there isn't any risk of a freeze in your area, you can leave the battery in place and attach a battery tender. This effectively prevents it from draining and gives it a charge when the voltage gets too low. The good thing with a battery tender is you don't have to worry about it overcharging and ruining the battery.
Protect the Engine
The biggest concerns about storing your boat for the winter, other than freezing, are fuel degradation and corrosion. While your boat sits idle, gasoline can go bad and gum up the fuel lines, and you definitely don't want to deal with this at any time of the year. Additionally, all the oils and lubricants can drain and settle as the boat sits, and this can lead to corrosion. Fortunately, there are several ways to head this off.
First, fill up your gas tank all the way in order to prevent any condensation from building up. Next pour engine stabilizer directly into the gas tank, being sure to follow the instructions on the bottle as different brands vary. It's important to run the engine for 10-15 minutes after adding the stabilizer to ensure that it spreads to all the engine parts. Also, be sure to change the oil and filter, topping off the oil for the same reason: to prevent condensation from accumulating.
Lastly, get some engine fogging oil and spray it into the carburetor while the engine is running. This will prevent corrosion on the valves, rings, and pistons. Once you've turned off the engine, remove the spark plugs and spray a small amount of fogging oil into the cylinders.
Winterize With a Boat Cover
In order to fully protect the exterior, you need the right cover. Your first option is to order a custom cover specifically designed for your boat. This will eliminate any guesswork as to whether or not it will fit. If you don't have a custom cover, you must get the proper dimensions of the boat. You'll need the centerline measurement that runs from bow to stern and the beam measurement, which is the boat's width at the widest part. That way you'll be sure to get the right size.
If your boat will be stored outdoors and exposed to the sun, the cover needs to be made of a material that offers good UV protection. For boats that will be stored in a humid environment, your main concern will be the prevention of mold and mildew. Therefore, the cover needs to be made of material that breathes well, such as a coated synthetic fabric. You can go with a cotton or polyester fabric, but most of them just don't stand up to nature's elements the way synthetics do. On the other hand, some polyester fabrics with a pigmented dye offer good water resiliency and UV protection. The darker the color, the less chance there is of UV damage.
For those climates where heavy rain, snow, and ice are a concern, pick a cover that can withstand these elements, particularly the weight of the snow. Going with canvas or a plastic tarp with a nice, tight fit should help with keeping snow from accumulating, especially if you are storing it elsewhere and won't be around to sweep off the top yourself. Boats.com has a great article about choosing the right cover before storing your boat for the winter. Or you can check out this link for more information.