“They're closing down the hangouts, the air is turning cool, they're shutting off the super slide, the kids are back in school.” Boaters and Jimmy Buffet fans will recognize these words as part of his popular ballad signaling the end of summer. So, as we end a season of fun and relaxation, we have some work to do! Proper winterization of your boat is a must to close out the season and ensure a trouble free “start up” for power boaters next spring. I see three options: load up the boat and head south to the coast until spring, pay someone else to do it for you, or do it yourself as a labor of love. If you are just a little mechanically minded, and too frugal to choose option one or two, here are a few tips for safe storage.
Now is the time to change the oil on an inboard engine. Moisture and acids in old oil will pit bearings and other engine parts while in storage. Warm-up the engine first so the dirty oil will drain out and impurities will be easier to flush out. Coating internal engine parts with fogging oil is best done through open sparkplug holes. If this is not easily done, spray the fogging oil into the carburetor or intake manifold with the engine running until it stalls and dies.
Water condensation and deteriorating fuel can cause big problems. Add a fuel stabilizer to the fuel tanks and fill them nearly full. Run the engine for a few minutes to get the treated gas throughout the entire fuel system. Next, drain the lower unit of old gear oil and replace it with new oil. Check the old oil for moisture. The presence of water or oil that is milky or lumpy is a sign of moisture getting into the system and means you need new seals before next season. Be sure to grease and lubricate other fittings such as steering mechanisms, throttles, and any u-joints or pivot points.
Most importantly, flush and drain the engine cooling system. Water must be drained out of the engine to prevent damage from expanding water if it freezes. Check your owner’s manual for the location of drain plugs on the engine block, and for outboards, be certain that all water has drained from the engine. These same precautions must be taken with any onboard plumbing or air conditioning devices. Empty waste and freshwater holding tanks as much as possible. Add nontoxic antifreeze to the freshwater tank and run faucets and showerheads until the antifreeze appears. Don’t forget about heads and floor drains.
Storing a boat inside is the best method, but it can be expensive. The next best thing would be to shrink-wrap your boat or at least to cover your boat with a durable, well-fitting cover. Be sure to remove batteries from the boat and store them in a cool, dry place. If possible, place them on a smart charger or charge them once a month throughout the winter.
The old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” certainly applies here. Go online or check your owner’s manual for more winterization and maintenance advice. Most of these tips apply to personal watercraft, as well as other seasonal motorized equipment. Good luck, and I hope you have a great boating season next year!
Ed Mulvey, CPCU
Vice President - Personal Lines Underwriting