A Step-by-Step to Winterizing a Boat


As of 2017, there were approximately 12 million registered boats in the United States. With more people looking for ways to relax while enjoying the great outdoors, that number will likely only increase. That means hundreds of new boat owners have to learn how to properly maintain their craft every year.

If you’re one of them, you’ll have to prioritize your maintenance tasks to keep your boat in good shape. Winterizing it for long-term storage is one of the best ways to make sure your boat lasts for decades.

Winterizing a boat is simple as long as you know where to start. Use this guide and you’ll get the task done in no time.

Drain, Dry, and Maintain Your Engine

Your boat’s engine is one of the most expensive and vulnerable components of the watercraft. It’s exposed to water anytime you take it out and it’s fairly normal for water to collect in the engine compartment.

Though it’s normal, excess moisture can cause the engine to break down. It encourages corrosion and increases your risk of the engine’s parts seizing up when you’re on the water.

The best thing you can do when getting it ready for boat storage is to dry the compartment out completely. Open all low point areas in the compartment and let the water drain out. Once it’s dry, change the engine oil with your manufacturer’s recommended oil and clean the compartment thoroughly.

This will help your engine stay in good shape through the winter months.

Add a Fuel Stabilizer to the Tank

If you plan on leaving fuel in the tank, you need to make sure it can survive months of stagnation. The gas in your tank is made for immediate use, not to sit for months on end. When it does, it starts to break down and can collect in your fuel tank.

Over time, this hurts your engine’s ability to run smoothly. Worse, it can lead to premature breakdowns.

Instead, add a fuel stabilizer to your tank and top it off. This will keep air from oxidizing the gas and helps it last longer.

In the spring, you can run the engine like normal without draining the fuel tank. The fuel stabilizer won’t hurt your engine or its components.

Lubricate All Moving Parts

Your boat is full of moving parts across almost every surface. Those parts are vulnerable to corrosion and damage if left out in the elements.

The best thing you can do as part of your winterizing checklist is to lubricate those parts thoroughly.

Use a dedicated marine lubricant so any residue left after storage will continue protecting your boat once you’re able to hit the water again. If you’re not sure which products are best, ask your local marina or boat supply store for recommendations.

Clean Your Boat Well

One of the first things you’ll discover when learning how to winterize a boat is that the cleaner the craft is, the better. Give your boat a good deep cleaning.

Start with the deck. Mop and scrub the surface until all mildew, mold, and other debris is gone. Then, inspect your cushions for damage. Let the vinyl covers dry completely and set the cushions in the sun for several days to dry out.

Then, turn your attention to the exterior. Scrub the hull to remove any buildup, barnacles, and marine plant matter that might stick to the finish. Once it’s clean and dry, wax the exterior and polish it with a soft cloth.

Make sure you’re using purpose-built boat cleaning agents for the best results. These will protect the fiberglass from damage while the boat is in storage.

Clean Out All Storage Compartments

Unfortunately, even the most secure storage facilities aren’t completely safe from vandalism and theft. You need to reduce your risk of loss before you put your boat in storage.

The best way to do that is to clean out all storage compartments on the craft. If you have valuables or expensive navigation equipment in place, consider removing those, too.

General boat equipment can typically stay in place without a problem. However, if there’s a chance that a thief might be able to sell the equipment for money, it’s best to remove the temptation.

Prep Your Battery

Your boat’s battery, like the fuel supply, is meant to get used. Anytime you take the boat out on the water, the engine helps charge the battery. However, in storage, the battery will start to lose charge over time.

If it depletes completely, you’ll end up needing to replace it sooner than you should.

Before you put the boat in storage, charge the battery completely. Then, disconnect it from the terminals in the engine. This will help it maintain a charge for longer periods of time.

If you’re not comfortable doing this, invest in a trickle charger to keep the battery topped off during the winter months.

Cover the Boat

A good boat cover is an absolute must even if you’re putting the boat in covered or enclosed storage. Invest in a cover made from high-grade marine vinyl that fits your boat’s unique shape and size.

Cover the boat after you clean it and let it sit until spring. The cover will keep dust, dirt, and debris from collecting on the surface. Even better, it can extend the lifespan of some of the more expensive components and computer equipment on board.

Winterizing a Boat Is the Best Way to Preserve It

As a responsible boat owner, you’ll do everything you can to keep your boat water-worthy every year. Winterizing a boat is the easiest and best way to keep it in great condition while it’s in storage.

Follow these simple steps and you’ll be able to protect your boat from damage every winter.

Winterizing your watercraft is just one step in your regular boat maintenance routine. Check out our latest posts for more advice on how to keep your boat in the best shape possible whether you’re on the water or off.

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