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Boat Sense


A thorough winterization on your ride typically insures a smooth start-up come springtime; The Fisherman's November edition of Boat Sense focuses on tips and tricks for winterizing your boat’s major systems.
By Capt. John N. Raguso

As much as many Fisherman readers dread putting their boats away for the winter since it marks the official “end of the boating season” and the arrival of the cold and dark winter months, doing a thorough winterization on your ride typically insures a smooth start-up come springtime.

While many readers travel the path of giving this decommissioning responsibility to their local marina or mechanic shop, winterizing your boat is a perfect DIY project for those who enjoy the hands-on experience and learning more about the mechanical operations of their fishing machine.

Much has been written about how to store the gasoline in your vessel’s fuel tank for the winter months, with apparent contradictions. Some experts advise to drain the tank to practically nothing, to avoid the breakdown of the fragile E-10 gas over the winter layoff period that averages four to six months for most Northeast boaters. While this move might be great for the fuel part of the equation, it doesn’t do any favors for the internals of your aluminum fuel tank (not applicable to poly tanks). The exposed aluminum on the tank’s interior walls can become a victim to corrosion due to its exposure to air and the extreme temperature variations (+/- 60 degrees or more) that can occur from November to April in Northeast and mid-Atlantic states. Moisture (due to condensation) can build up on the tank’s inner walls and accelerate the corrosion process even more.

The water droplets that form can then drop down into whatever fuel is remaining in the tank and cause dreaded “phase separation,” which is a condition where the water pulls the ethanol component in the E-10 gasoline out of the petroleum mix and settles to the bottom of the tank near the fuel line pick-ups. This witch’s brew of water and ethanol is poison for your two-stroke or four-stroke and a primary culprit for outboard engine failures and is typically not covered by your manufacturer’s warranty (read the fine print). There is a movement afoot by the Midwest farming lobby to force E-15 gasoline on us, but it is being fought by the boating lobby in Washington, since most outboards can’t digest this version of petrol.

I prepped my EdgeWater’s fuel tank using this “minimal fuel” method last season, having some potential concerns for the aforementioned problems, but didn’t have any hiccups when I dropped her in the water for the 2017 season. To minimize the potential phase separation part of the equation, I added 8 ounce of ValvTect E-10 fuel treatment to the approximately 20-gallons of fuel that was remaining in my tank (about 4x the recommended ratio of 1 ounce for every 10 gallons), which includes a special chemical formulation that fights against phase separation. The results for this season’s operations were fine, with no fuel-related problems.

In contrast to the “minimal fuel” approach to winterizing your boat’s gas tank described above, the classic winterization method requires that you fill up your tank with fresh fuel up to 95% of its capacity, leaving 5% of breathing space inside for expansion and contraction of the fuel during temperature extremes. Add the appropriate amount of stabilizer and/or a little bit more if you are concerned about phase separation and that’s it…put it to sleep and see ‘ya in the spring. I spoke to ValvTect’s Dave Grochocki about their latest gasoline treatment product ValvTect XP+, which offers extended protection for gasoline systems, helping to prevent ethanol related problems, stabilizing fuel for one year or longer, with enhanced moisture control and corrosion protection. I have used this product on my latest two current MarCeeJays (equipped with two four-strokes and one two-stroke respectively) with excellent results and have experienced zero fuel related problems. Similar gas treatment products are also offered by Starbrite (Star-Tron), CRC Marine (Stor & Go), MDR, Sta-Bil and others.

Fuel filters can be broken down into two groups. The primary fuel filter is usually a large canister and mount assembly located between the engine and the tank, either in the bilge area, in the outboard well, or somewhere else onboard that’s out from underfoot. The majority of these use a replaceable sealed 10-micron spin on canister as the main filtration agent as fuel flows from the tank to the engine(s). The second group of fuel filters are located on the outboard under the cowling and depending on your make and model, you might have an additional 1-to-3 filters installed in the fuel lines and vapor separators under the hood.

These secondary and tertiary filters might be in plain sight with easy access, or hidden behind mechanical obstructions or in the engine’s internals, requiring special tools and knowledge for a successful swap-out. Be sure to talk to your dealer and refer to your outboard’s operations manual to understand the whereabouts of all of these additional onboard fuel filters, the degree of difficulty in replacing them and the frequency of when they need to be inspected and changed. Whereas a generic primary 10-micron canister fuel filter will cost under $10 at most marine outlets, a manufacturer-specific onboard fuel filter can cost, $30, $40 or more, so be advised.

I like to remove my old fuel filter at season’s end and pour the contents into a small bucket to ascertain if there was an inordinate amount of dirt, tank scuz or water in the can. After disposing of the old fuel properly, I will then spin on a new filter element to close the fuel circuit. However, before commissioning in the springtime, I will take the canister off again and fill it up to the brim with fresh 93-octane gasoline to insure a quick start using the high-test fuel. Some fuel filters, like many in the Racor lineup, feature clear polycarbonate bowls with locking spigots on the bottom that allow the operator to drain out any water that visually appears in the bowl, preventing larger problems before they happen. When changing these two-part filters, the replaceable part is the center metal canister section, to which the lower clear bowl spins on and off to close the fuel loop.

I have upgraded the standard cast aluminum fuel filter mounts on my boats over to stainless steel. The painted aluminum frames typically last about 2-to-3 years before corrosion sets in due to the saltwater environment. I have had excellent luck with Sierra’s stainless steel replacement mount and have used that on my last three MarCeeJays with 100% results.

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