When it comes time to pull your boat out of the water for the offseason – or any prolonged period of time – you need to make sure you have a plan for protecting your investment. We call this process winterization. And if you’ve never been through it before, it’s imperative that you learn how.

6 Tips for Winterizing Your Boat

Winterization is a catchall term used to describe the process of prepping and protecting your boat for a prolonged period where it won’t be used. In many parts of the country, there’s a need to prevent damage that can occur when there are freezing temperatures, ice, and snow. 

In most parts of Arizona, inclement winter weather isn’t an issue. However, it’s still important to understand what goes into the process so that you know how to handle a variety of situations. Let’s explore a few of the basics:


Prioritize the Engine


For inboards and stern-drives, preparing the engine is the most important step in the entire winterization process. Not only is it the most expensive component in the boat, but it’s also the most susceptible to cold weather damage.

“Locate and open the petcocks (some engines have bronze plugs similar to bilge plugs) underneath the manifolds and on the sides of the engine block. Remove the water-pump hose from the bottom of the water pump to let it drain completely,” Randy Vance writes for BoatingMag.com. “If you don’t drain the engine, water in the cooling chambers can freeze, expand and crack the engine block and manifolds.”

It costs nothing to drain the engine. But if you don’t drain the engine and freezing temperatures cause the engine blocks to crack, you could be looking at a $5,000 to $20,000 repair bill.


Treat Your Fuel


If you aren’t careful, your boat’s carburetors and fuel injectors can become clogged with ruinous varnish deposits. It’s for this reason that you need to treat your boat’s fuel with a stabilizer. Something simple like Pennzoil Fuel Stabilizer, PRI-G is adequate for the job. Simply add it to the fuel and run the engine for 10 or 15 minutes to let it cycle through a few times. 


Change the Oil


Regardless of when you last changed the engine oil on your boat, it’s a good idea to do it again immediately prior to winterization. This eliminates moisture and prevents corrosion. If you fail to do this step, you could end up with loss of power, poor fuel economy, or even engine failure.


Protect the Upholstery


During the offseason, you want to ensure your boat is protected from the elements. This is especially important if you store your boat outside.

In addition to cleaning and protecting the hull, it’s recommended that you protect upholstery by using the proper seat covers. There are a wide variety of seat covers on the market, so take your time to find the correct material and fit for your boat (which helps prevent damaged, torn, and stained upholstery). 


Disconnect Batteries


With so much emphasis on the engine and the visible portions of the boat, it’s easy to forget about the batteries that are hiding out of sight. If you’re prone to forget, leave yourself a reminder to disconnect all batteries prior to winterizing. 

“Disconnecting the battery keeps it from dying over the winter, ensuring that the boat will be ready for a quick start in spring,” Nationwide mentions. “It also comes with the added bonus of helping the batteries last longer—which is a benefit given that marine batteries tend to cost more than their dry land counterparts.”


Find the Right Storage


How/where you store your boat will depend on factors like location, budget, and the type of boat you own. Indoor storage is great, but it’s also the most costly. (And in a climate like Arizona, it isn’t always necessary.) You can also do outdoor dry storage (which allows you to park your boat on a trailer). The other option is to leave it in the water at a dock or marina. 

Adding it All Up

Though you might not need to winterize your boat every year, you may encounter situations in the future where it’s necessary. Understanding the why and how is helpful in protecting your investment and ensuring your boat performs well for years to come.