Trailering Magazine Archives - Trailering Maintenance

Putting It Away
Winterizing Steps You Need to Take

winterizingGuess where the majority of winterizing claims serviced by the BoatUS Insurance Division comes from? Minnesota? Nope. Alaska? Not even close.


Accidents most often occur on boats registered in California. Yes, you read that right. The reason is a subtle one: while usually a moderate climate, it gets cold in northern California if only for a day or two. That's when the problems begin. And in almost every case, it's the result of a boater not taking precautions.


The steps taken in winterizing a trailer boat will vary depending on geographic location s well as whether the boater intends to do some fishing or go for a ride while everyone else is at home watching the Super Bowl. But there are some basics to which everyone needs to pay attention:


Top off the fuel tanks
If the tanks are full (but provide room for the gas to expand), water can't appear and corrode the tank's interior. Add stabilizer to keep the gasoline from loosing its kick. A full tank will also keep fumes minimal.


Goodbye Bimini/Dodger
For whatever reason, some recreational boaters believe because the canvas that is spread over aluminum frames can keep the sun off them on an August day, the same material is going to keep three feet of snow off the boat in December. Snow weighs more than the sun. BoatUS Insurance files are filled with reports of bent aluminum frames because owners mistakenly figured their biminis could support a week's worth of snow. While we're on the subject, the canvas that is stretched across your boat can be torn by strong winter winds. Remove the equipment that is designed to protect you from the sun.


The Plug
As is probably all too obvious, every where a boat ramp exists, there is a story about someone forgetting to put the drain plug back in after launching their boat. And these stories occur most often early in the season when boaters appear at the ramp for the first trip. Having the drain plug in the boat is not something you want done when your boat is outside on a trailer. Rainwater and melted snow will collect on the floor and the bilge and a deep freeze can result in some cracks in places you don't want cracks. Take the plug out, tie it around the steering wheel so you'll remember to put it back in at the ramp and let the rain water flow out as the boat sits on the trailer.


Live wells?
Drain them. The stories are endless when the topic turns to a live well full of water during a deep freeze.


Pick a Parking Place
If your boat is going to sit outside, point the trailer tongue away from the street. This may mean some extra time when taking the boat to the ramp next season but not doing so makes it easier for someone looking for a boat on a trailer to back up and take it away within 30 seconds time. BoatUS insurance records show a trailer with personal watercraft is five times more likely to disappear from a driveway than any other kind boat on a trailer. A number of BoatUS Trailering Club Members lock their trailer at the hitch to ensure any potential getaway takes longer than originally thought.


Remove the Removables Take the battery inside and, if possible, store it on a slab of wood (cold concrete on a garage floor can be the same as leaving it on the boat outside). If electronics can be removed, do so. If you keep registration information onboard, take it inside for the winter.


Inspect the Inspectables This is the right time to take a look at expiration dates of flares as well as the charging status of the fire extinguisher. It is always better to discover out of date equipment when at home on land than when you need them or when the 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


The Engine

Books have been written about how to winterize an engine. If it is an outboard, this is the time to change the lower unit oil. If you can run the engine using the garden hose as a water intake, fog the carbueretor so that engine parts are coated with a protecting oil. It is here where the four most common mistakes are made when the job is to winterize a boat-and some of these may not apply to your particular boat:

  • The engine block isn't drained
  • the Sea Strainer isn't drained
  • Seacocks or gate valves aren't closed
  • Petcocks that are used to drain water from the engine aren't inspected for possible clogging (Source the BoatUS Marine Insurance Division). If it is at all possible, tke the outboard off the boat and store it in an upright position in the garage.

A Few Notes About the Trailer

  • If it is possible, take the wheels off and block the hubs so they sit off the ground.
  • Cover the hubs with a few thorough wraps of plastic so that moisture is kept out of the bearings and brakes.
  • Take the tires inside or cover them if they will remain on the trailer (this is done because tires will begin the process called dry rot when sitting unused for long periods of time and the sun will harm a tire as well).
  • Don't park the boat (and trailer) under a tree because tree limbs and leaves fall during the winter. In one case, you have a mess to clean up and in another case, you have a bigger mess to clean up. In both cases, it is something that can usually be avoided.
  • Check the trailer from time to time. Do a walk-a-round and make sure nothing has shifted during the layover. This is especially important to do if your boat and trailer are stored at a marina or another area that is away from your line of sight.
  • For more information about winterizing, you can read the entire article from our sister publication Seaworthy October 1993) on the BoatUS web site: