Winterizing your boat is always a bittersweet—yet extremely necessary—task for most boat owners who live in states that experience seasonal weather (okay, Florida boaters, you can stop reading right now—lucky you).
The boat winterization process is important because it ensures that your beloved vessel will have a long winter’s nap before returning to the water in the spring well-rested and in perfect operating condition.
To learn more about how to winterize your boat, read on for our boat winterization checklist.
1. Determine if/when you will complete the winterization process.
The first step in the winterization process is asking yourself, when should I winterize my boat? For boaters living in the midwest or northern states, this may be an easy question to answer. The unofficial “end” of boating season typically occurs after Labor Day weekend, so if you don’t plan on using your boat much after that, you can go ahead and start the process right away.
For other owners who live in milder climates, you may be able to extend your season through September or even into October.
Finally, if you do plan to use your boat frequently throughout the fall and winter months (for fishing or general cold-weather cruising), then there’s no need to winterize your boat at all.
2. DIY or Professionally Serviced?
The winterization process can be quite extensive and mechanical, particularly depending on what type of boat or engine you have. You’ll want to make the decision whether you will winterize your boat by yourself, or if you’ll pay to have it professionally serviced by a marine mechanic.
There are obviously pros and cons for either option, but those looking to save a little extra money might want to opt for do-it-yourself; however, if you want to ensure that your boat is properly cared for or you’re not confident in your own technical abilities, then professional service might be the right choice for you.
3. Think About All Your Boat’s Systems
When it comes to the actual steps to winterizing your boat, you’ll want to focus on four main systems:
- Your Engine
- Fuel Systems
- Plumbing Systems
- Any other onboard systems that can hold water (these many include your bilge pump, raw water washdown stations, livewells, etc.).
Here’s a few other key considerations to keep in mind while winterizing your boat:
- It’s extremely important to ensure that all water has been drained, removed, and dried from all of your systems.
- Be sure to consult your owner’s manual for any special instructions that need to be completed during winterization (i.e. fogging).
- Always add a marine-grade fuel stabilizer to your fuel system, then run the engine for about 10 minutes to fully circulate the stabilizer throughout the engine.
- Add antifreeze to your plumbing systems, if applicable.
- Change the oil and fuel filters, and remove your drain plugs.
4. Decide Where You Will Store Your Boat
Another important step in winterization is deciding where you will store your boat during the off-season. You have a few different options to consider for boat storage:
- At your home, if possible – A garage, barn, or backyard will do the trick if you have a trailer. If you have your own dock, using an elevated boat lift at your boat house is also an option. If storing outside in the elements, be sure to utilize a boat cover, tarp, or even consider shrink wrapping your vessel.
- In-water boat storage – If you don’t have a boat lift, or if you dock your boat at a local marina, this is also an option.
- Dry outdoor boat storage – This is a popular option that is also quite affordable compared to other storage options.
- Dry indoor boat storage – This may be the most expensive choice; however, it will provide the best protection for your boat.
5. Patiently Await Next Year’s Boating Season
This may be the hardest part of all—waiting patiently until the next boating season rolls back around.
You can pass the time in the off-season by planning boating trips for next year, researching new boating activities to try, making upgrades and improvements to your boat, or attending a winter boat show.