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How to Winterize and Store Your Boat

For many boat owners, the ability to spend every weekend out on the water is a dream come true — until they’re faced with seasonal drops in temperature. Winter is coming — is your boat ready?

When you haul your boat out of the water for the season, make sure it as clean as possible — ready for cast-off next spring. You also want to prevent it from being damaged as a result of the elements.  The No. 1 threat to your boat during winter is water in the system that freezes, expands and then causes something expensive to burst.

To keep your boat safe and seaworthy, make sure you properly winterize it:

Remove extra weight

When you’re storing a boat out of water, the weight of the boat isn’t distributed across most of the hull as it is in water, but rests on whatever supports keep the boat upright. Removing any excess weight lightens the load and can help keep your boat from becoming dented or warped in storage. So remove fire extinguishers, seat covers, flares, lifejackets — pretty much everything that isn’t nailed down.

Clean from top to bottom

Get out your soap and scrub brushes and clean off every bit of the boat and take other maintenance measures. This includes everything from running the bilge pump to empty the bilge and cleaning the windscreen to washing the exterior. Check the hull for any algae or barnacles, too. Make sure everything is washed and dried before you put it in storage so you don’t end up with a smelly boat next spring.

Protect the engine

Fill the engine approximately seven-eighths of the way with a mixture of fuel and fuel additives that will protect the engine. You might also consider running the engine for 10 to 15 minutes to make sure the additives reach the fuel that’s already in the line.

Next, flush out the cooling system and add fresh coolant, change the oil and install a new oil filter. Remove the spark plugs and spray fogging oil into each of the cylinders. Remove the battery and clean the connectors. Take the battery indoors to charge it every 30 to 60 days during the off-season.

Empty the water systems

Run fresh water through the head and any other water-transporting systems. Then pump antifreeze into the system, including the head, macerator, Y-valve and discharge hose. Then close off the systems.

Store it

With a few extra hands to help, you can winterize your boat over a Saturday afternoon. When it’s ready to store, the best option is to rent space in an indoor, climate-controlled storage unit. A bit less expensive is having the entire boat shrink-wrapped. For many people, though, the boat stays on its trailer in the garage.

If you do store it on a trailer, add some jack stands for extra support so the entire weight doesn’t rest on the trailer wheels for months.

Don’t forget about it

Every so often, check on your boat — or, if you’re storing it at a marina, make sure an employee checks on it. Keeping an eye out for rodents, insects, unexpected water and slipped jack stands can help you prevent a small problem from becoming a large one.

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