Winter is on the way and that means one thing for boat owners – winterize your boat!

As the daylight shrinks and the temps start to dip, it’s time to pull the boat out of water and find a good storage option until next season.

But, it’s not just about getting the boat on land at this time of year. Canadian winter weather requires that you winterize your boat to ensure it’s protected no matter how cold it gets. We want to offer everything you need to know to be able to keep your boat healthy and happy for many, many boating seasons to come.

How to winterize your boat

The first step to winterize your boat – and know you’re doing it according to your specific make and model – read your manual and know your boat. All boats will have unique functions and features, but the remaining steps below are pretty universal to the off-season preparation and care necessary.

  1. Prepare your inboard engine
    Your engine is the heartbeat of your watercraft, it works hard day after day, and needs to be pampered. Winterizing is your opportunity to show it a little love after a long, lovely season of fun on the water. First, warm it up. Then, change the oil along with the transmission fluid. Next, you want to flush it with clean water and circulate antifreeze through the manifold. Remove the spark plugs and spray fogging oil into each cylinder. Finally, wipe down the engine with a towel and spray it with fogging oil, an anticorrosive to protect the internal surfaces of the carburetor and the cylinders, or some WD-40.
  2. Prepare your outboard engine
    Wash the engine down with soap and water. Flush it out with more clean, fresh water. Next, disconnect the fuel hose and run it until it stops. Lubricate the cylinders with fogging oil and then lubricate the engine’s exterior. Apply a water resistant grease to the propeller shaft and change the gear oil.
  3. Your sterndrive
    A sterndrive or inboard/outboard drive (I/O) is a method of propulsion through the water that combines inboard power with outboard drive. This inboard engine is connected to an outboard drive unit at the rear of a power board. Given how much it’s in contact with the water, you need to inspect it and remove any plant life or barnacles. Drain the gear case and assess for any excess moisture in the oil. Excess moisture could mean a leaky seal – repair as soon as possible! Clean the lower unit with soap and water and grease all of the fittings. Lastly, check the fluid levels in the hydraulics and lift pumps.
  4. Attend to the fuel
    While you may want to burn your tank of fuel on your last trip, resist the urge! An empty or near-empty fuel tank is vulnerable to condensation build up which can cause major problems such as rust and corrosion, particulate damage or possibly, diesel bug (a single microorganism or group of microorganisms that grow on fuels). Following your last boat ride of the season, fill up the fuel tank. Consider adding a fuel stabilizer. Change your fuel filters and water separators to get things ready for the next year.
  5. The bilges
    Clean and dry the bilges. Confirm that your bilge pump operates properly. Pump out the holding tank and spray the bilges with a moisture displacing lubricant, adding propylene glycol antifreeze to the head to prevent any remaining water from freezing and causing damage. Drain all of the systems that use water (freshwater system, water heater, shower sump, etc.) and replace with propylene glycol antifreeze where required.
  6. The boat’s interior
    Be sure to remove your valuables. Remove any accessories – life jackets, electronics and fire extinguishers. With the boat empty, wipe down the entire interior with a soft cloth.
  7. The boat’s exterior
    With all of the insides taken care of, don’t forget the exterior. Pressure wash the hull, props, shafts and rudders before you cover it up.

Off to storage!

A few options after you’ve winterized your boat:

Self storage – Store the boat yourself either at your home or at a self storage facility. For small boats, a garage is a common place, or thoroughly covered outdoors.

Boatyard storage – Exactly as it sounds, boats are stored outdoors in a boatyard. Typically, boatyards are located near the water or a marina, and offer a more affordable option compared to a marina or high and dry storage.

High and dry storage – High and dry storage stores boats indoors up on a rack alongside other boats. They’re commonly lifted with forklifts to lift and lower boats.