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How to Winterize a Boat in 10 Steps

When you follow these ten steps for how to winterize a boat you'll help prevent major expenses down the line.

How to Winterize a Boat in 10 Steps
Image via sraggio on Flickr

Winterizing your favorite fish-catching machine is probably one of the least favorite chores of fall, but knowing how to winterize a boat is an absolute necessity in order to maintain the longevity of your boating lifestyle. The individual steps may vary slightly based on the average low temperatures for your area and the type of motors or accessories your vessel may have. However, the major goals of draining the water from the engine and lubricating as many of the internal engine surfaces as possible in order to prevent corrosion or internal damage will be the same.

By taking the time to thoroughly complete your boat winterizing duties, you'll prevent more expensive problems later down the line. At the same time you'll be addressing any issues that are best handled by an expert mechanic during the off-season when they are less busy. This will mean more time on the water and less time that the boat is in the shop or with the mechanic come spring. As with any type of boat maintenance, be sure to check your owner's manual for specific manufacturer instructions on winterization since boats and engines can differ.

Before you get started with the winterizing process, it will help to make a checklist of the items you'll need. This list will include:

  • boat stands
  • plywood bases
  • pressure washer
  • hose
  • earmuffs or flushing kit
  • boat trailer
  • freshwater source
  • non-toxic antifreeze
  • fogging oil
  • screwdriver
  • wrench
  • lithium grease
  • oil
  • oil filter
  • fuel stabilizer
  • grease gun
  • gelcoat paste
  • boat cover or tarp
  • tie-down straps

The more time you take storing and winterizing your vessel properly, the less money you'll have to spend on repairs, the more time you'll have on the water, and the more hassle-free use you'll get to experience next season.

Remove From Water

Remove the boat from the water using either a trailer or forklift. Check to be sure that the area where you plan to store the boat is flat and solid. Then, block up the boat using cement blocks or boat stands with plywood bases to spread the weight evenly. Improper blocking can cause stress cracks and other problems, so it's important to take the extra time to be sure your boat is blocked correctly.

All photos by Debbie Hanson

Flush the Motor

Hook up a fresh water source to run the engine out of water by using an "earmuff" motor flusher (sometimes referred to as dog ears) or a flush kit. Use a hose to flush the engine if it has a self-contained rinse or use an earmuff flusher that slides onto lower unit of engine and flush using the "earmuffs."

Fogging Oil

Start engine and spray fogging oil directly into carburetor or intake. Then, pull spark plugs and spray fogging fluid into top of cylinders. The fogging oil will lubricate all of the parts internally, such as the cylinder walls and piston rings, and will help to prevent rusting and corrosion.

Heavy Dose of Fogging Oil

Spray fogging oil until engine stalls, giving it an extra heavy spray just as the engine starts to die. There may be a considerable amount of smoke that comes out of the engine during this step; however, this is normal. Keep engine off at this point and turn off the fresh water source.


Drain and replace any water from water separators and filters, lubricate the linkages and pivot points. Grease or lubricate all throttle, shift cables, steering linkage and starter shaft using a grease gun and lithium grease or lubricant. Pull any and all drain plugs on the engine in an effort to remove all water from block. This step is especially important if you have an inboard motor.

Add Antifreeze

Replace drains and fill block, manifolds and water tanks with non-toxic, pink antifreeze. Be sure to completely drain the fresh water tank and hot water heater. Turn the water heater off first, then add antifreeze directly to the water tank and pump it through your hot and cold plumbing (remembering to include the shower and wash down areas).

Fuel Stabilizer

Check and replace fluids. Fill your fuel tank to avoid condensation build up while in storage, and then add the proper amount of fuel stabilizer to the tank by following the instructions on the product. Drain and refill gear case, then change the oil and filter. Use the proper type of oil as specified in your owner's manual, and fill oil tank.

Wash & Repair

Pressure wash the hull of the boat to remove water stains, dirt, barnacles, and algae. While pressure washing, look for any damaged surfaces, such as blisters on the hull or chips in the gelcoat. Repair any cracks, scratches or chips with gelcoat paste. Check your prop as well, in case there is a need for repairs, and don't forget to lubricate the prop shaft.

Sacrificial Anodes

Check all sacrificial anodes or zincs on the boat and replace if necessary so that they continue to protect the vessel from dissolving or corroding. Also, be sure to remove all valuables, electronics, lines, fishing rods, life jackets, fire extinguishers, flares, and fenders. Electronics and other accessories can all be cleaned and checked while off the boat during the winter.

Boat Cover

Cover your vessel with a water-repellent and mildew-resistant boat cover or tarp. Then secure the cover with tie down straps and store in a climate-controlled area if possible. If a climate-controlled storage environment is not available, you may want to shrink-wrap the boat in order to protect it from the elements.

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