If your boat is kept on a trailer, don't procrastinate; here's what you need to do before the cold weather sets in.

BoatUS ANGLER: Do It Yourself Department

Winterizing Must Do's

from BoatUS Trailering Magazine

A covered boat that has been winterizedIf your boat is kept on a trailer, don't procrastinate; here's what you need to do before the cold weather sets in.

The BoatUS Marine Insurance claim files show that a boat on a trailer is more likely to be damaged in an early freeze than a boat in the water. Here’s how to avoid that.

Top Off Fuel Tanks. Tanks should be full (but leave some room for the gas to expand), which minimizes explosive fumes and helps prevent phase separation if the gasoline contains ethanol. Add stabilizer to keep the gasoline from losing its kick. Also consider one of the many ethanol treatments available.

Batteries. If you can do it, charge them fully, remove from the boat, and store in a warm place. Coat the posts and terminals with WD-40 to keep corrosion from interrupting a connection.

Outboards and I/Os. Look at your owner’s manual for specific winterizing instructions. With four-stroke outboards and sterndrive inboards, you’ll need to change the crankcase oil and possibly filters. Before changing the oil, use a screw-on attachment or a muff to get cooling water to the lower unit so that you can run the engine and lower the oil’s viscosity.

Note: When you loosen the drain plug, watch for water or a creamy-colored liquid, which indicates a seal needs replacing. Sometimes, metal shavings can be seen, which also require professional attention. Various devices for changing oil as well as muffs are available at West Marine, Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s.

To winterize the raw-water-cooling system, use the garden hose to bring the engine back up to operating temperatures. Shut the engine off and connect the hose to a bucket of nontoxic antifreeze (a handy kit for winterizing lower units is available at West Marine). Start the engine, which will pull the antifreeze through the cooling system until you see it come out the exhaust. Running the engine before you add antifreeze opens the thermostat so that antifreeze will get into all the cooling passages. As an alternative, you can also remove the thermostat. Just before the bucket of antifreeze is empty, squirt a fogging spray into the carburetor (if the engine has one), which should stall the engine. If not, turn off the ignition. To deter theft, smaller outboards are safer in your garage.

Inboards. Change the oil and filters. The method of winterizing the cooling system is similar to I/Os but is done by disconnecting the intake hose and placing it in a bucket of nontoxic antifreeze. The transmission fluid should be drained and new gear oil added.

Remove the Removables. If electronics can be removed, do so and consider using a dielectric grease or spray on your connections to counter corrosion. If you keep registration information onboard, take it inside for the winter. Remove throw cushions, too, to prevent mildew buildup. Prop up any seat cushions so air can circulate on both top and bottom. Remove life jackets, anchor lines, and dock lines for the same reason. Open any rod lockers and live well compartments, and hang a mildew-control bag.

Inspect the Inspectables. This is the right time to take a look at expiration dates of any flares as well as the charging status of fire extinguishers. It is always better to discover out-of-date equipment when at home on land than when you need them or when the DNR or Coast Guard has just come alongside while on the water, asking to do an inspection. While you are in this mode, bring the first aid kit inside and replace bandages that may have become wet or medical supplies that have expired.

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