As the boating season draws to a close - you there down in the Keys, and anywhere else that is still enjoying 70-80 degree weather, you can disregard this! - it’s time to think about properly preparing your boat for storage over the winter months.
So Why Winterize?
Winterization is a seasonal form of boat maintenance; regular maintenance and proper care have a definite effect on your boat’s performance! (Click here to read our blog about basic maintenance tips.) Adopting a preventative approach and making it routine guarantees you will identify potential issues before they become big, dig-into-your-wallet-to-shell-out-serious-cash service problems. There are several excellent resources on the web that provide step-by-step instructions for winterizing, but here are a few of the top tips to give you peace of mind until spring.
Your engines should be flushed with fresh water for at least 15 minutes prior to winter storage. This removes salt, sand and other contaminants that can damage the engine over time. It is also important to do the following:
- "Fog" the cylinders. Click here to watch a brief rundown of this from a Yamaha Product Specialist.
- Change the gear oil. Dirty oil left for several months can wind up damaging the components it's meant to protect!
- Fill the oil tanks (2-cycle engines).
- Change the oil (4-cycle engines).
- Coat each outboard engine with a protector.
- Charge and then properly store the batteries. (Note: With the advent of more sophisticated batteries and their associated systems, there are arguments to be made for leaving batteries in place for storage. Read more about that here.)
For further engine-specific winterization tips, visit Yamaha's Maintenance Matters page.
Fresh & Raw Water Systems
Your entire fresh water system must be completely drained. This means disconnecting all hoses, check valves, etc., and blowing all the water from the system. (Be sure to use low air pressure in order to prevent the possibility of system damage!) Keep in mind, that because the check valve is built into the pump, blowing the lines will not completely drain water from the pumps. To remedy this, remove the inlet and outlet hoses on the pump, then turn it on and allow it to pump out any remaining water (should be about a cupful.) An alternative to this procedure is the use of a commercially available, non-toxic fresh water system antifreeze. Using one that is tinted red or pink makes it easy to tell if the antifreeze - rather than water - has made it through your system.
Similar to the fresh water system, the raw water system must be completely drained, including the sea strainers in the stern bilge. Disconnect all the hoses, and blow the water from the system, being careful once again to use only low air pressure. A check valve is also built-into the raw water wash down pump, so removing the inlet and outlet hoses is necessary here as well. You may also use non-toxic, potable water system antifreeze.
Don't forget those fishbox pumps and your livewells! Antifreeze may be used in your fishbox pumps, but be careful not to let the pump run dry for more than a few seconds, lest you cause damage. To treat the livewell, drain it, install the drain plug, and fill with the potable water antifreeze. Then activate the recirculation pump until the antifreeze is visible at the discharge fitting. Remove the drain plug, and wipe down the inside of the livewell.
Instructions on how to properly winterize your marine toilet may vary depending upon its manufacturer, so be sure to consult your owner's manual for the correct procedure. The basics however, are the same: Drain the intake and discharge hoses completely, using low air pressure if necessary. The head holding tank and overboard discharge pump must be pumped dry, and one gallon of potable water antifreeze poured into the tank through the deck waste pump outfitting. After the antifreeze has been added to the holding tank, open the overboard discharge valve, and activate the overboard macerate pump until the antifreeze solution is visible at the discharge through-hull.
If your boat will be stored in a climate where freezing temperatures are a possibility, appropriate steps must be taken to ensure the bilge is bone-dry. Any water or condensation left behind can freeze, and the resulting expansion can cause damage. Coat all metal components, wire busses and connector plugs in the bilge with a protecting oil. At this time it is also important to treat and protect all strainers, seacocks and steering components before the boat is laid-up for the winter. Compartments in the bilge that will not drain completely should be pumped out, then sponged to ensure they are dry. Don't forget to dry the self-bailing cockpit troughs too!
Remove the canvas, clean it thoroughly, then store in a safe, dry place. Remove all electronics, and coat all wire connectors and bus bars in the helm compartment with a protecting oil. For your powder coating, any boat or automotive wax can be applied to protect it during storage.
These are just a few of the most important considerations to be made for extended periods of storage. Further reading, we suggest the following sites, which offer a wealth of information:
- Boating Magazine - Guide to Winterizing Your Boat
- Water Blogged - The Boat Trader blog, with its article on Winterizing
- Discover Boating's article on Winterizing Your Boat
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