Winter Layup

Published in the September 2012 Issue September 2012 Ask The Expert

Temperatures in the closing months of the boating season are a funny thing. When we take out our boats in the spring, 60 degrees can feel like 80 degrees. In the fall it seems like the logic gets flipped on its head with 60 degrees starting to feel like 40. Once that happens you know it's time to start thinking about what to do with your boat for the upcoming months.

Preparing your boat for the winter is essential and it's important that it is done right. A big mistake that people make is thinking that you don't need to spend any time or money preparing your boat for the winter when it is not going to be used anyway. Not following proper winterizing techniques can lead to big headaches and big bills when you want to get out on the water next spring. Oh, and don't forget that most warranties and insurance companies often don't cover damage caused by lack of maintenance.

The steps for preparing a boat for the cold winter months are simple and, if done properly, can prove to be beneficial season after season. First place to get started is to check out your owner's manual. Inside it you will find tips for winterizing that are specific. The following are some important steps that every boat owner should take to keep his boat in top shape.


Inboard Engines

Just before you put your boat into storage for the winter season, take it out and warm the engine up by running it for a little while and change the oil and the oil filter. Doing these two together will help to remove impurities from the engine.

Also make sure to run anti-freeze through the manifold. Because cooling systems differ by engine, make sure to refer to your boat manual or manufacturer for more information on how to properly do this.

To help protect the engine from moisture and erosion, remove the spark plugs and spray fogging oil inside the cylinders for about three seconds. The exhaust may be a little smoky for a short period after you first start it up in the spring, but this is nothing to worry about. While you are at it, see if you need to replace the spark plugs. Doing all of this will go a ways toward a smooth launch when you get your boat back on the water.

Electrical System

Properly preparing the electrical system of your boat before winter can go a long way in preventing costly and frustrating repairs in the spring. Disconnect the battery terminals and, if possible, store them in an area that doesn't experience freezing temperatures. If needed, add distilled water and charge it occasionally to help it consistently maintain a full charge. Clean off any corrosion on the battery terminals.

Care should also be taken for the electrical wiring on your boat. Particularly with non-marinized wiring, wires and connection can be prone to corrosion which can result in short circuits and blown fuses. Remove any electronics and store them inside your home. Spray any exposed electrical connections with a water displacing lubricant.



Inspecting the hull of your boat is a very important step to do. Check the outside of your boat for any stress cracks or blisters. Any water that gets inside these can freeze during the winter and make the problem worse. If the issue looks serious, make sure to have it looked at by a professional.

Also check for any free-riding creatures that have tagged a ride on your boat. If so, get `em off and scrape, then sand, any residue that is left over. This might be a good time to remove any dirt or sea scum with a good power wash.

After you have washed it, give the hull a good wax. A great product to try is Star brite's Premium Marine Polish Boat Wax with PTEF. This positively reviewed boat wax is great for giving your boat (and tow vehicle, if you wanted) a long-lasting shine. You can use it easily by hand or with a buffer; just apply, let it dry and wipe it off.



To avoid a nasty mold and mildew-filled interior, make sure to give the inside of your boat the care it deserves. Remove any moist objects that might be hidden in some easily forgotten storage area. Thoroughly vacuum the floors and compartments to make sure there isn't any leftover food that might be enticing to mice and other rodents. Clean all surfaces and don't forget to wash the decks as well.

At this time, also give the seats a good cleaning with an appropriate vinyl cleaner. It might be a good idea to prop seat cushions on their side to ensure that air can circulate around them. Prop all compartments open with Styrofoam or something similar to help air to circulate even more. Chemical dehumidifiers are a great way to conquer any leftover moisture.



If you are storing your boat outside, choosing the right cover is critical in protecting your boat from the harsh elements of winter. Make sure to find a cover that protects the water line of the boat. Polytarp covers are great because they are inexpensive. The more costly polyvinyl covers work great as well, particularly for their water repellency and resistance to mildew.

With any cover, make sure that it has a frame to prevent the pooling of water and help distribute the weight of any snow that might pile on. Simple PVC pipe can be an inexpensive and effective method for building a frame if your cover didn't come with a kit. Several companies, such as Kover Klamps, sell clamps to help build a frame perfect for your boat cover. Consider adding a vent somewhere in the cover to allow moisture to escape.

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