Properly storing your boat at the end of the season is crucial for the health and longevity of the watercraft. Boats take a beating all season long, and then to compound the damage they can take from rough water and weather, the cold can cause all sorts of problems with the hardware, rubber, and mechanical and electrical components.
To help get you started, we’ve put together a simple and easy explanation of best practices for storing your boat for the winter.
Deciding Whether to Store Your Boat Inside or Outside
Storing a boat safely outside for the winter can be quite a hassle, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. Ultimately, there are pros and cons to both indoor and outdoor storage.
If you chose to store your boat indoors for the winter, you have a number of options. You can winter your boat in an out-of-water boat storage unit, a dry stack, or even in an enclosed garage (Ideally climate controlled, but not necessarily). The different options range in price availability, and convenience to get to, but on average involve more up-front cost than outdoor storage.
There are some very good reasons to invest in an indoor storage option for wintering your boat, though. Among them: higher upfront costs ensure that your boat will be taken care of properly, with little to no effort on your part. This can save you big bucks on repairing cold-weather damage in the future, ultimately saving money. Some storage locations, while perhaps not as convenient to travel to from your home, are extremely convenient to the water, and will even put the boat in the water again for you when the next season starts.
Outdoor storage at your own house can seem like a less expensive option, but beware of cutting corners. You absolutely have to have a water-tight way to cover your boat to prevent mold and mildew from developing. Ideally, if you store your boat outside over the winter you will ensure it is properly prepared and dried before shrink-wrapping it and moving it out of the sun for the season.
How to Prepare Your Boat for Storage
When you’re getting ready to store your boat for the winter you should thoroughly prepare, clean, and detail it one last time. Because of thall the components that need specialized care, this can be a lengthy process, but is necessary for maintaining the health of your watercraft.
- Run the boat one last time – This will allow you to check for any mechanical issues that might need repair or replacement.
- Clean the boat – Thoroughly clean the entirety of your boat with marine detergent and specialized cleaner for each part that requires it. Dry the hull, wax it, and reapply the gel coat if needed. Make sure you know what kind of material your boat is made for and use a cleaner safe for it. You should also clean all fabric and metal components. This is also a good time to check everything for exterior damage and repair it before the cold weather sets in.
- Winterize the engine – To do this, you’ll need to flush the engine with clean, fresh water, refill the coolant system, and briefly warm the engine before replacing the oil and all filters. Add fogging oil to carburetors and spark plug holes to prevent corrosion. Finally, top off the gas, add fuel stabilizer, and run the engine for 10-15 minutes so the stabilizer incorporates into the fuel line.
- Loosen the drive belts – When you’ll no longer be running the engine, loosen the drive belts to reduce stress on them. This will help them last longer.
- Add lubrication – Add lubricant to all moving parts like hinges, latches, and linkages across the boat and engine, checking all parts for damage, residue, and debris that needs to be removed while you do. Once everything is cleaned and oiled, add marine packing grease in the steering mechanisms and anywhere else needed to protect from moisture.
- Remove and charge the battery – Take the battery out and charge it completely before winter. Since winter is especially hard on batteries, it’s best to store it in a battery maintainer or trickle charger — otherwise, you can check the battery and top off the charge every week or two throughout the winter. Marine batteries shouldn’t fall below 20% charge. Don’t forget to clean the terminals and cable ends, and coat both in grease.
- Remove and store portable components – Whatever isn’t part of the boat or attached to it should be removed, cleaned, and stored somewhere watertight.
- Finishing touches – Once everything has been taken care of, it’s time to take care of the final details on the boat. Give everything one last wax and/or gel coat for added protection during the winter.
- Cover and store your boat – At this point, your boat is ready to be covered and stored! Ensure that there are no places where animals or insects can make winter nests by srinkwrapping the boat, sealing exhaust ports and any other openings with tape and covering the boat with a fitted cover, or storing the boat in an indoor environment free of creepy crawlies.
We hope this article has given you an idea of how to correctly prepare your boat for winter storage. It might seem like a daunting tasks, but by breaking boat winterization into small, simple steps, you can make the task much less intimidating.
If you don’t have the time to devote to full boat winterization, or don’t feel confident that you can adequately perform the necessary maintenance and repairs, you can always hire an experienced marine detailer. These can either be found at marinas, dealerships, or through mobile detailing services that will go anywhere your boat is.