Here's a handy checklist to follow for winterizing your boat:
- Add fuel stabilizer. Add a good fuel stabilizer to your fuel tank, in the proportions recommended by the product manufacturer. I like to do this before I take my boat out for my last fishing trip of the year. This ensures that the stabilizer is thoroughly mixed and has run through the system, including fuel hoses and separators. Fuel stabilizer keeps your fuel from breaking down during the winter and creating varnish in your carburetors or fuel injectors.
- Change gearcase oil. Drain the oil and refill with a product approved for your motor. Make sure you check for water in the oil as you drain it-if there's water mixed in with it, the oil will look white and milky. If water has leaked into your oil lines, you will need to have your seals replaced at your dealership. This is an important maintenance item, because if water is present in your gear case, it can freeze and crack over the winter.
- De-carbonize the motor. All outboard motor manufacturers recommend decarbonizing your motor in the fall. As its name suggests, this process removes the carbon from your pistons, rings and heads. Carbon build-up can cause rings to stick, ruining powerheads. Follow the directions in your owner's manual or on the product can.
- Fog the cylinders. Fogging the cylinders with fogging oil helps to prevent rust during the off season. It also ensures proper lubrication when you start your motor the first time next spring. Make sure to follow the instructions in your owner's manual for this procedure.
- Take care of your batteries. Remove and charge your boat batteries now, and periodically re-charge them throughout the winter. Idle batteries will drain over time.
- Repack your trailer's wheel bearings. While you're at it, check for wear, too, and replace bearings and seals if you note any signs of wear.
- Protect your livewells and pumps with antifreeze. Water can gather in low spots in your pumps and hoses. Run RV water-tank antifreeze through your livewells and pumps to guard against damage from freezing. Although RV antifreeze is non-toxic, remember to flush out your pumps and livewells next spring before putting any bait or fish in them.
- Grease the zerks that lubricate the steering and tilt shafts.
- Store your motor properly. Reduce the risk of rusting your hydraulic cylinders by storing your motor in a vertical position.