Inboard Winter Storage Do's and Don'ts

Inboard Winter Storage Do’s and Don’ts

There are two important reasons to winterize your boat, preparing for long periods of inactivity and being proactive in protecting your investment from damage. Winterizing is preventive maintenance that is necessary for your boat’s survival not only in the winter months but in the summer months as well. Below are some helpful tips to protecting your valuable recreational asset during the off-season.

Give It a Full Tank of Fuel or Empty it
In the perfect world, you want no fuel in the tank but that is difficult to achieve sometimes. Bakes recommends adding a fuel stabilizer and fill your boat's fuel tank with premium, prior to stowing it away for the winter. Failing to do so will allow moisture in the air to condense on the sides of the fuel tank as the temperature changes causing water contamination in your fuel while the boat is stored.

Change Your Fluids!
It is crucial to your engine's health to replace your engine's fluids and filters. This will eliminate the chance for moisture and contaminate separation from the system while it sits and provides better overall protection for key internal parts. Do not forget your transmission ATF fluid, it is easy for moisture to get in the transmission from its open vent system mounted so low in the bilge. Swap out your transmission’s fluid with fresh to avoid the chance of corroded clutches and sticky gears. If your boat is equipped with a v-drive make sure to inspect and service the v-drive oil when needed as well. 

“Fog” Your Engine (Non-catalyst equipped engines)
If you do not have a catalyst equipped exhaust system fogging the engine is a step you should take. When the boat is not being used, oil tends to settle on the bottom of the engine block, exposing the pistons and valves to air, humidity, and other corrosive elements. To guard against this situation, you need to “fog” your engine with fogging fluid during long periods of inactivity. There are lots of ways to fog your engine, in all cases, this is fairly technical so if you are not experienced, have a shop take care of it. One way is to remove your spark arrestor/air cleaner and spray "fogging oil" down the throttle body or carburetor with the engine running until you see smoke coming out of the exhaust. With some fuel-injected engines, you will not see any smoke, about 3 oz or 15-20 seconds of spraying fogging oil is appropriate for a V8 engine. You can also remove all your spark plugs and spray fogging oil in each cylinder coating each cylinder and cylinder wall with the protective oil. 

Don’t Use Antifreeze if Possible
Pink antifreeze might be an “easy” solution to freeze protection but is it the right thing to do for our waterways? Your engine uses freshwater coolant, (water straight from the lake), and draining the existing raw water from the engine block and manifolds and replacing it with “non-toxic antifreeze” is not always environmentally friendly. Many antifreeze products still feature an ethylene glycol base, which is known to release toxins into the water. If you have to use antifreeze make sure you use the correct pink antifreeze and that you use a minimal amount. Most engine manufactures recommend draining all the winterization points only in the manual and to be honest, filling the engine with antifreeze sounds easy but done incorrectly will only fill half the engine and leave you with a false sense of security. The only acceptable time antifreeze should be used is for components that cannot be easily drained liked heater cores and shower systems. In our shop, Bakes drains the system, blows out with air, back flushes with antifreeze, then blows with compressed air so whatever is left in the system is mixed or antifreeze only. 

No Water Allowed
The most important winterization tip is to remove the remaining water in all your engine components and accessories. When exposed to freezing temperatures, there is a high possibility of rendering valuable equipment useless, including the engine block itself from freeze damage. Therefore, it's important to not only drain all remaining water out of the engine but also out of any components that may also have water flowing into them, such as the heater, shower, and ballast systems. This will most likely involve the removal of several drain plugs, hoses, and in some cases blowing low-pressure compressed air thru the accessories such as heaters and shower systems. It is a good idea to leave winterize points open as a relief point and place all the drain plugs in a plastic bag.

Put Battery on Charger or Remove
If you have an onboard battery charger you can plugin there is no need to remove your batteries at all. The new maintenance chargers can be left plugged in long term and will fully maintain your batteries during inactivity. If you do not have a charger or you are storing where there is no power. You should disconnect the battery and remove it from the boat for easier maintenance and better protection against the elements. Hot, cold, and inactivity are the main causes of battery failure. Storing it in your garage is an ideal climate temperature, be sure to still maintain the charge and replenish the water level with distilled water if needed. Doing this will dramatically increase longevity and help you avoid a dead battery during boating season.

No Gear Allowed!
Getting all your gear out of the boat is important to reduce moisture and prevent mildew damage to your favorite neoprene vest or ski gloves. Not only will mildew ruin your gear but your wet gear can also permanently stain your carpet and vinyl from the dyes used in the fabrics. If you have room at home or in your garage, get your loose seats and cushions out of the boat and into a controlled environment. This will help circulate air in the boat and reduce moisture levels.

Check Your Prop
Check your boat's propeller for bent or nicked blades that may have happened over the course of the boating season. If you see any “burn” marks (dull spots) on the prop blades, that is a sure sign that the prop is out of balance and you are losing performance. Not only will a damaged prop reduce overall performance, but it can also cause other damage like leaky transmission seals, kick an engine out of alignment, and burn up your strut bushings. If there is any damage, you should get your prop repaired and balanced during the winterization process. This way, your boat is ready to go come sunshine and calm waters! A periodic prop check-up is a good idea as you might not see any damage at all. With our inboard boats having a true prop is very important to carry a spare prop and a prop puller to avoid downtime when the sun is shining! 

Clean, Clean, and Clean Your Boat Again
Before tucking your boat away for the winter, be sure to give it a good thorough cleaning inside and out. If you store your boat dirty, these impurities will be even harder to remove in the spring. Your carpet and vinyl are areas where dirt combined with moisture can breed mildew, especially in the dark moist environment of a covered boat with little or no ventilation. Once the interior and exterior of your boat are squeaky clean, you can apply conditioners on the vinyl (Aerospace 303) to help prevent mildewing. Air circulation helps more than anything to prevent mildew, so open any cushions up on edge and leave compartments such as the motor box open so that air can circulate around them.   Also, another simple way to keep your boat mildew-free is to install a dehumidifier or an odor/moisture “absorber” such as Damprid or Dri-Z-Air.

Trailer Storage
If you own a trailer, it's a good idea to put the boat and trailer up on blocks for winter to take the pressure off the tires and suspension. We know how hard of a task this is for most boat owners and, to be honest, not many boat owners do it but if you know it will be parked for a long time this could not hurt. You can also grease your wheel bearings to ensure there is no air or moisture trapped inside the hub avoiding rust and bearing failure.

Keep It Out of the Elements
Whether you'll be storing your boat inside or outside your boat should be covered. If it will be outdoors and exposed to the elements, you'll need a properly sized and fitted cover. It should also be supported with a cover support system so water will run off the cover and not accumulate puddles eventually damaging the cover and getting the boat wet. If you are storing outside it also works great to put your boat cover on then tarp the boat over the top of the tower to keep all of your boats out of the weather. Bakes does not recommend shrink wrapping for storage. With boats, there is just too much moisture and shrink wrapping traps it inside the boat and ends up turning the boat into a greenhouse.

Even if your boat will be kept indoors, the main concern is keeping dust and animals out of your boat, so nearly any type of cover will get the job done. A fitted cover is preferred because it will also keep mice, rats, cats, squirrels, and other undesirable animals from making your boat home for the winter.