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A look at some of the proper wintertime storage practices and related preventative maintenance steps for your boat.
By Toby Lapinski with BoatUS
Tags: inshore, general
A boat stored ashore needs to be properly supported to make it through winter unscathed. Image courtesy of BoatUS.

Unfortunately we are fast-approaching that time of the year when boaters need to think about proper winter storage and the related preventive maintenance that come with responsible boat ownership. The folks over at BoatUS recently put together a thorough boat winterizing guide.

They outline pretty much all of the steps from storage to engine preparation, and they even include a handy checklist to make certain that you don’t miss anything when undertaking this project yourself. While I recommend the full text to really get a grasp on the do’s and don’ts of the project, I pulled some of the finer tips and pointers from the guide and have included them below.

Also, for a thorough look at recommended practices regarding your boat’s fuel system, be sure to give a look to the article written by our very own Jim Hutchinson, Jr, which appears in the September 22 edition of The Fisherman Magazine September 22 issue of The Fisherman Magazine.

On small boats that aren’t left in the water, you may want to take your batteries home and put them on a trickle charger. If you chose to keep them aboard, here are some tips: Top up wet-cell batteries with electrolyte. Make sure battery cable connections are tight and free of corrosion—clean them if necessary with a pot scrubber or emery board. Coat the connections with a corrosion inhibitor like Boeshield T-9. Leave the batteries hooked up to a marine charger that has a float setting or leave them unplugged but charge them up completely at least once a month.

Batteries left on an automotive trickle charger for long periods of time run the risk of boiling off the electrolyte and, at the extreme, exploding. Today’s batteries do best when charged using a marine “smart charger” that varies the charge based on differences in battery chemistry and matches charging voltage to what the battery can accept at different stages of the charging cycle. When buying a marine battery charger, look for the following features:

  • A three-stage charger with bulk, absorption, and float stages (or a four-stage charger with an additional prefloat stage) and battery type selection
  • Output of 25-40 percent of the battery bank capacity in amp hours
  • Temperature sensing at the batteries for automatic adjustment of charger output
  • Equalization phase for use with flooded cell batteries
  • Ignition protection if installed in a gasoline engine room space


While winterizing procedures vary somewhat for older engines versus newer ones, and for two-stroke versus four-stroke outboards, the basics are the same.

The engine’s gas tank must be filled and treated with stabilizers or drained completely.

The engine should be flushed according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Sometimes, this doesn’t involve running the engine at all; newer engines have a garden hose fitting that allows for a quick flush without starting the engine. Check your manual for specifics.

The engine’s lubricants (engine oil for four-stroke outboards, and lower unit gear lube for all outboards) should be drained and refilled, and the fuel filters changed. Water or other contaminants must be flushed out and replaced with fresh fluids before winter. Any water present in the gear case, for example, will sit on steel shafts and bearings over the winter, coating them with rust.

Run the engine (use a small portable tank that has stabilizer mixed in it if you’ve drained the main tank as well as ear muffs for cooling water) to get the oil and lower unit lubricant warm before draining. This will make it flow easier and also get any contaminants in suspension so they drain instead of sitting inside. Change the oil filter when you change the oil.

After treating the fuel and running the engine for a few minutes, the engine should be “fogged” with a storage lubricant. This protects the internals (bearings, seals, and rotating surfaces) with a thin film of lubricant, which helps keep rust and corrosion away. With the engine running, inject fogging oil through the carburetors or electronic fuel injection (EFI) system air intakes in such a way as to “flood” the engine with oil until it begins to smoke, then continue fogging it until it stalls. Fogging can also be done with the engine shut down; in this case, the spark plugs are removed and the oil is sprayed into the cylinders, rotating the flywheel to distribute the oil.

Store the engine in the running (tilted down) position; otherwise water that gets in through the hub can freeze and crack the lower unit housing. If possible, take smaller outboards home for safekeeping.

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