Battery 101: The Right Way to Winterize Your Boat

Every winter we think about all everything we have to do to get ready for the onslaught of snow and ice that head our way. We check the window insulation and change the filter in the furnace. We gas up the snow plow and make sure each car has a sturdy ice scraper. For boat owners, this time of year also means we need to winterize your boat.

Not winterizing the boat could mean your first trip to the water this spring will leave you high and dry. Try this checklist to make sure your boat will make it through these hard winter months, and be ready to go once it warms up.

Schedule Required Maintenance

As soon as the weather starts to thaw, marine shops see their service requests go through the roof. The start of winter is a great time to beat the rush.

If you know that you’ll be needing maintenance before you can put the boat on the water come spring, go ahead and get it done now. You may even find places that will cut you a deal for giving them business during the offseason.

Decide Storage

In water storage versus out of water storage is a common debate. There are pros and cons to both, but either way, you’ll need to make sure you winterize the boat in the way that is appropriate for where you plan to store it.

In-Water Storage

  • Check for leaks and make repairs as necessary to prevent swamping or even sinking the boat.
  • Check the bilge pump and floats to make sure they are working correctly.
  • If the water surrounding the boat is likely to freeze, use water agitators to bring the warmer water up to the surface.
  • Cover tightly with boat cover.

Out-Of-Water Storage

  • Thoroughly clean the interior and the exterior of the boat. A pressure washer is a good way to knock off any algae or barnacles.
  • Allow all water to drain from the boat.
  • Check for any blisters on the hull and make sure any necessary repairs are attended to before winter begins.
  • Cover tightly with boat cover.

Change The Oil

Changing the oil in a boat is very important as water and other material from the water can make its way into the system over time. The longer oil sits it can become acidic. That along with contaminants from the water can cause a lot of damage to the engine of your boat.

Pro-Tip: Let the engine run for a few minutes before changing the oil. This movement stirs up any debris and other contaminants and makes sure they get flushed out with the oil during the oil change.

Charge The Battery

Believe it or not, even a marine battery will still discharge when it’s not in use. It’s a really good idea to make sure that the battery is cleaned and fully charged before putting it in storage.

You will also want to make sure that any and all switches are turned off. (It may also be a good idea to disconnect any equipment that may cause a drain on the battery.)

Depending on how long the boat will be in storage, you will want to check on the battery’s state of charge. Recharging it every month or two will keep it from discharging to the point of no return.

If you have a trickle charger, this is a good time to put it to work. A trickle charger will keep the battery charged throughout the winter months without overcharging the battery.

Empty The Tank Or Stabilize The Fuel

When gasoline is allowed to sit for long periods of time there is a risk of separation. This means that as the ethanol in the gas takes on moisture it starts to separate from the gasoline and can damage the engine if used. The best option is to empty the fuel tank completely.

If that’s not an option for you, you can use a fuel stabilizer. Simply add it to the fuel tank a few days to a week before you plan to take the boat off of the water.

This allows the stabilizer to circulate throughout the system. Then fill up the tank until it’s just under full.

About 90-95% full should do the trick. Add more fuel stabilizer and you should be good to go for the winter.