• Winterizing Your Boat!

    Attachment 1090As the season comes to an end, we must perform the somber task of winterizing the boat. This is a necessary process to ensure our boat remains protected from the elements through the winter. If done improperly it can cost us thousands of dollars in repairs so attention to detail is a must. However, don't let that discourage you from performing this function yourself. If you don't feel confident in accomplishing the task the first time, hire a marine mechanic to winterize the boat while you watch and ask questions. If the mechanic balks at the idea of allowing you to observe and ask questions, find another mechanic.

    You should have a service manual for the engine and drive system on your boat. Although they are more expensive, the service manuals obtained from the manufacturer are more detailed and better suited for this task.

    Once you have the manual, find the section for winterizing your boat often referred to as lay up, cold weather or extended storage. This may be an independent section or may be included in the servicing section. Read this section thoroughly to ensure you understand all the tasks involved.

    Your boat may only require a few steps to sufficiently winterize it for the season but as boat size increases so do the systems that require attention. Regardless it is a good idea to perform the task using a checklist or notebook to prevent missing critical items and have a written record of the boat's operational status. That is why I recommend to start your own service log.

    Tools Required, Parts and Fluids

    It helps to have a full complement of tools available the first time you winterize your boat and as you go through the process make a note of the tools that you use. The next time you winterize, you can assemble the required tools into a small kit that will make it easier as you move about the boat.

    Gather all the new parts that you will be replacing such as impellers, oil filters, and air filters etc. Be sure and add these part numbers to the you list for future reference. Make sure you have enough of the proper fluids such as oil, anti-freeze and corrosion inhibitor.

    Attachment 1081
    Preparation and Planning

    Develop a game-plan so you can approach the process in a logical manner. For instance, do you need to add fuel treatment? If so, then add the fuel treatment early enough to allow it to circulate throughout your fuel system. I add the fuel treatment to my tank then cruise over to the fuel dock for a fill up and holding tank pump out. I also run the generator so the fuel treatment passes into its fuel system. Then when I arrive back in my slip the engines are warm enough to continue with the winterizing. Attached to this article is an example service log that contains some of the steps I accomplish to winterize my boat. If you read through the steps you will see how I arrange items in a sequence that allows me to accomplish many tasks in a short period of time.

    It is impossible to cover all of the possible winterizing scenarios. However what we can do is describe some of the processes, point out areas that require extra attention and discuss common mistakes. We will begin at the stern of the boat and move forward covering the areas.

    The Stern

    Check the condition of the propeller and if necessary replace or remove it for repair. If your boat is an inboard check the condition of the drive shaft anodes.

    If your boat is equipped with a sterndrive, you will be changing the drive lube and replacing the impeller. Some manufacturers recommend replacing the drive's raw water impeller every two to three years. Personally, I always changed the impeller each year to avoid any problems over the summer. On some engine sterndrive combinations, Alpha 1 for example, the impeller is located between the upper and lower units of the sterndrive while others make it easier and locate it on the engine. On drives with the impeller located inside the drive be careful and watch for o-rings as you separate the halves. Be sure to install new o-rings and gaskets along with the impeller.

    Changing the drive lube is a relatively easy process. However, when you begin to replace the lube, it is critical to follow the manufacturer's instructions in detail. Some drives have two ports while some have more. I know of an instance where a drive was refilled using the top port (service manual directed it to be filled from the bottom). After approximately two hours of operation the owner said they heard a loud bang, the motor revved and the boat would not move. Filling the drive from the top port allowed an air pocket to form in the lower unit blocking the lube. This gave the owner the mistaken indication the drive was full. Once the sterndrive operated for a short period of time the air pocket made its way to the top of the sterndrive leaving the drive gear un-lubricated. It didn't take long for the gear fail.

    Remove the drive from the boat so you can check the condition of the drive shaft, u-joint and gimbal bearing. Ensure the gimbal bearing rotates smoothly and the u-joint pivots with no play. If any discrepancies are noted replace the worn parts. Now check the condition of the drive boot. This boot is placed around the shaft between the sterndrive and gimbal housing. Ensure that it is in good condition with no cuts or cracks. Rotate and tilt the drive mount to various positions and inspect the boot closely. This boot serves two functions. It prevents water from flowing into your boat and protects the drive shaft assembly from water damage. Leaking drive boots commonly cause sterndrive boats to sink. If you remove the drive for any reason, you will need to check the drive/engine alignment. On some of the Volvo sterndrives removal is not necessary and the components can be inspected by removing the upper gear box.

    If your drive is equipped with grease fittings (zerks) lubricate them now. As the new grease is forced into the fittings, it will flush out any water trapped inside. Waiting until spring can yield a nasty surprise of a rusted gimbal bearing if this is not accomplished.

    Ensure your zincs, magnesium or other anti-corrosion devices are in good condition. Although corrosion tends to proceed at a faster rate with warmer water temps ensure you have adequate protection for the winter.

    Washdown Stations
    If your boat is equipped with a wash down station don't forget to include it in your winterizing steps. How you proceed with the winterization will be determined by the type of system you have if it is a raw water system you can close the sea cock, disconnect the hose and place it in a bucket of pink anti-freeze, then pump the anti-freeze though the hose. The same process can be followed for those boats that use a fresh water washdown system. In most cases, this type of system will have a shutoff valve in the plumbing and a drain valve.

    Engine Room

    The exact winterizing procedures vary per engine manufacturer so be sure to follow the steps listed in your manufacturer's service manual. In some cases, the engines will come equipped with fittings to make the winterizing process easier, otherwise you may have to follow the steps below.

    Now run your engine and allow it to reach normal operating temperature, this will allow the thermostat to open so the anti-freeze can flow through the various passages.

    If your engine has a freshwater cooling system with a heat exchanger, this is a good time to drain and refill with the correct anti-freeze water mixture. Anti-freeze contains a corrosion inhibitor that breaks down due to age and heat, so ensure you change it according to the engine manufacturer's guidelines. For the freshwater cooling system, the anti-freeze the same type used in your car. The anti-freeze used to winterize the raw water side of the cooling system and other boat components is an environmentally friendly RV anti-freeze referred to as the pink stuff. Don't forget to check the condition of the zinc anode located in the heat exchanger. If it appears to be more than fifty percent corroded replace with a new one.

    Once the engine is warm you can shut it down and prepare to introduce the RV anti-freeze into the raw water side of the system. Ensure your seacock is closed and depending on your specific setup you may have to either remove the water hose from the seacock or pour the anti-freeze into the raw water strainer. On my boat, I remove the water hose from the seacock and place it in a bucket of the pink stuff. It normally takes approximately 5 gallons per engine.

    Attachment 1082

    If you use fogging oil have it handy along with the RV anti-freeze. Start your engine and begin to introduce the anti-freeze into the engine. When you see a good flow of the pink stuff flowing out of the exhaust shut down the engine using the fogging oil.

    Attachment 1083

    Use a small wet/dry vacuum to remove any remaining water from the hose, strainer and seacock. If you removed the hose, now would be a good time to lubricate the seacock.

    Next locate your raw water pump and remove the plugs to drain the water from the pump housing. These are normally located on the bottom side of the pump housing and on some Sherwood pumps, there are two drains. Once the pump is drained install the plugs.

    Attachment 1086

    At this point, many people will install a new impeller. That is acceptable; however, I prefer to wait until spring so the impeller is not sitting in the pump disfigured for months.

    Now look at each side of the engine block below the manifolds, and you should notice the engine block drains. These may either be petcocks or plugs as shown in the picture below.

    In most cases the engine blocks will have two of these on each side. Removing these allows water to drain from various passages in the engine block. Important, when water stops draining from these openings stick a small piece of wire into the holes to ensure that it has not become blocked by corrosion.

    Next remove the drain plugs from your exhast manifolds, in most cases these are bronze plugs but the amount and type will vary per manufacturer. Once again use a small piece of wire to ensure the holes are clear and all of the water has drained then install the plugs.

    Now remove the water hose from the thermostat housing and allow it to drain. It does not hurt to use a wet/dry vacuum to help remove some of the water.

    At this point, you can change the oil and filter. There are several good oil change kits on the market that remove the old oil through the dipstick tube, otherwise you will have to remove the drain plug from the oil pan. This method can be really messy and in most cases, it is tough to get a suitable container under the oil pan. I strongly recommend using one of the kits.

    Once the old oil is drained, loosen the oil filter and place a large ziplock bag around it. The bag will prevent oil from spilling everywhere and when the filter is totally removed you can seal the bag. Place a light coating of oil along the rubber seal on the new filter and install it, hand tighten only.

    You may be asking why change the oil now and not wait until spring? As the crankcase heats up then cools off any moisture trapped in the crankcase air will condense to water. The oil can cause the water to become acidic, which will intensify any corrosion. So changing to fresh oil helps to reduce this effect.

    I also recommend waiting until spring to change spark plugs. If you used fogging oil, the plugs will have a good coating of the anti-corrosive which will protect them until spring. Then you can replace the plugs while tuning up the engine.

    Finally, perform a quick inspection of the belts, hoses and wiring on the engine and ensure they are in good shape. If you operate around salt water you may consider applying a corrosion inhibitor to the engine's exterior.

    Transmission and V Drive
    Check the fluid level in the transmission and change the fluid at the recommended time interval. Inspect for any signs of leakage around the shaft seals.

    Check you generator's service manual for specific winterizing procedures. Essentially the process is the same as winterizing an engine. However, you won't find block drains on the engine. If you generator has a water lift type of muffler, you should find a plug in the bottom of the muffler to drain water.

    If you store your boat off the water, then it is advisable to remove your batteries and store them in a dry place. Check the water levels if applicable and make sure they are fully charged and clean. If your boat spends the winter on the water, check the water levels and make sure the batteries are clean. Ensure an appropriate charging source remains connected to the batteries to power the bilge pumps.

    Hot Water Heater
    Before draining your hot water heater turn the breaker off to remove power from the heating elements or you will burn them up. On many of the late model boats the hot water heaters come equipped with bypass fittings to aid in winterizing. Check your owners manual for specific winterizing instructions. Older models have a drain valve which you can open to allow the water to drain. Additionally you can remove the cold water input line, open the faucets and flush with pressurized air.

    Attachment 1089
    Fresh Water Tank

    Before draining your freshwater tank, either pull the circuit breaker or remove the fuse for the freshwater pump to prevent it from running dry. Most freshwater tanks have a drain located on the bottom, or they may have a filter in the line near the water pump which will allow the tank to sufficiently drain for winterizing. If not you you may have to disconnect a hose.

    Make sure your bilge is clean if there is any water in the bilge, add some pink stuff. Then activate the bilge pumps and allow them to pump what they can overboard.

    The Cabin

    Freshwater System
    A lot of people run the pink stuff through their freshwater system, however I have been very successful with draining the system and purging it with an air hose. This prevents any strange odors or after taste left in the freshwater system. To do this I drain the freshwater tank and hot water heater as described in the previous section, then I open the closest faucet to the tank. Remove the output line from the freshwater pump and begin blowing air through the lines. When you reach the point where only air is coming from the faucet, close it and open the next one. Keep repeating this process until you have purged the faucet located the farthest from the tank. I leave the line at the water pump disconnected to allow any residual to drain.

    Raw Water Sanitation Device
    If your head uses raw water for flushing, close the seacock. Pour approximately one half gallon of the pink stuff into the head along with a cup of deodorizer and flush that into the holding tank. Now add the remainder of the pink stuff along with deodorizer to the bowl and allow to remain for the winter. Remove the water intake line from the seacock and allow it to drain. Using a vacuum remove any water left in the seacock and then lubricate it. Now you can reconnect the line to the seacock and leave it closed.

    Other Types of Sanitation Devices
    There are so many different types of sanitation devices on the market today that the owners manual is the best source of winterizing information.

    Air Conditioning Systems
    Air-conditioning systems use raw water flowing through a coil to remove heat from the pump and are actually quite easy to winterize. Ensure the seacock is closed then remove the hose. This should be enough to allow the water to drain from the pump, but you can use the vacuum to be sure. Vacuum any water from the seacock, lubricate it, and leave it closed.

    Disconnect the hose from the outlet side of the water pump and vacuum the water from the coil on the air conditioner. If you haven't cleaned the scale deposits from the coil in a while, leave the hose disconnected from the pump, so you can flush it with muriatic acid in the spring.

    Odds and Ends
    Don't forget to do a quick check of the cabin for any liquid items that may freeze and burst. Check all of your cabinets and storage areas. To help eliminate mildew, I hang several of the "damp rid" moisture absorbers throughout the cabin. It also helps to remove all linen, elevate the mattresses and cushions to ensure good airflow circulation.

    The Bow

    In most cases, there are few items associated with the bow that require winterizing. If you have a washdown system the winterizing steps should be the same as for a stern washdown.

    If you have a rope anchor rode, this is a good time to remove the rode place it in a pillow case and run it through the washer. Give it a heavy dose of fabric softener and it will help it to remain soft so it will not jam your windlass.

    As I mentioned earlier, it is impossible to cover every item in detail but hopefully this article will give you an idea of how to proceed with your winterizing. Keep in mind there are different methods to accomplish the various tasks, and if you have a good idea or find out that we have missed something important, comment below and we can add it to the article.


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