Preparing Your Boat for Winter Storage

By: Mark Scocco

It's that time of year when the leaves are off the trees and snow in the forecast isn't too surprising. It's time to store your boat for the winter and begin thinking about next year's tournaments. Boats seem to work better when they're used often. When equipment sits, moisture builds and eats away at electrical connections and metallic materials. Winter maintenance helps to protect your investment.

Putting the boat away properly requires time and attention to details. If you're not the handy type, take the rig to a reputable marina. If you prefer to winterize your boat yourself, purchase the products and follow the directions on each container.

If you do nothing else, winterize the motor before storing it. Damage can be caused by freezing water or corrosion and rust on working parts. The lower unit is most susceptible. Fluid in the unit should be drained completely and replaced with fresh fluid. To change the fluid, remove the bottom and top screws on the lower unit and drain out the old oil. If you see water, or the oil is milky, you may have bad seals, the first clue of lower unit damage. Insert the new tube of gear case lube into the bottom hole and force the oil in until it runs out the top hole. Put the top screw in, which will form a lock allowing time to replace the bottom screw.

Fogging oil should be sprayed into the carburetor to reduce condensation and prevent rust from building up in internal parts of the engine. Fog carburetor while the engine runs for 20-30 seconds or until it begins to smoke. Once the engine is fogged, detach the fuel line and run the engine until all of the gas is burned. Lower the motor so all of the water drains from it, then turn it over a few times to blow out what water remains in the cooling system.

If your gas tanks are empty, fill them half way. Then, add fuel conditioner which will prevent fuel oxidation, gum and varnish deposits. Remember to leave room for new fuel in the spring. As fuel sits, it suffers a drop in octane which may cause engine damage. Before your first outing in the spring, fill up your tanks so that the good new gas will mix with the conditioned fuel.

Winter is a good time to replace spark plugs and other motor accessories that may be worn. Inspect the fuel line hose for leaks and clean the fuel filter. Don't forget the propeller. Remove the prop and coat the shaft with grease. If your prop is damaged, send it out for repairs. You won't be needing it for a while.

Spray the entire engine with a light silicone lubricant to avert airborne corrosives and extend the life of rubber and plastic parts. Lubricate the steering rams that go through the tilt tube of the motor. Use a light oil or the fogging oil that you used in the motor.

Store the boat with the bow up and the drain plugs out. This especially important if the boat is stored outside. Open storage compartments to ventilate them and unhook electrical connections from the batteries. Make sure to unplug your trolling motor from the panel. Coat the plug with anti-corrosion grease or oil. Remove the prop and clear away any dried weeds or fishing line that may prevent proper operation. Wash and wax the boat, cover it, and allow for good ventilation to prevent mildewing.

The most important thing to do to the trailer is to re-pack the bearings. If a bad seal has permitted water to get in, they'll surely rust while sitting idle for the winter. When you pull the bearings, inspect the races for wear and pitting in the bearings themselves. If you see any wear, replace them immediately. Make sure your tires are properly inflated and you may want to jack up the axle to take the weight off of the tires while the boat sits. A coat of grease on the ball coupler and winch will ensure they work smoothly next spring. Inspect tail lights are working. Pop out the bulbs and coat the contacts with a fine layer of grease.

Remove electronics and store in a warm, dry place. Battery terminals should be cleaned to remove corrosion and coated with a light coat of grease. Bring batteries to a full charge and check fluid level if necessary. Check the batteries again before use in the spring.

Follow these guidelines and you shouldn't have to worry about equipment failures when spring fishing fever strikes and your equipment will last much longer.


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