Preparing Your Boat for Winter

winterize your boat

Summer is over too soon. It’s hard to believe winter is right around the corner. If you have a boat or other personal watercraft, proper storage is essential to ensure it is ready to run again next spring. It’s also a great time to talk to your Farm Bureau Insurance agent about renewing or updating your insurance coverage.

The time and effort you spend now will have a definite effect on your boat’s performance, or lack of it, and certainly save you time, effort and money come spring. You should remember that your insurance policy may not cover damage done by lack of maintenance or neglect.

Cleaning & Preparing Your Boat:

Just as you regularly service your car engine, you should have your boat’s engine fluids inspected, excess water drained and fittings lubricated.

  • Thoroughly clean your boat from top to bottom. Be sure to keep it waxed and sealed. Decals will shrink/wrinkle during the winter; wax will help prevent that issue.
  • Check over the hull with a fine tooth comb to see if there are any cracks, holes or loose hardware.
  • Clean your seats and covers and treat them with a protectant to seal out dust and dirt.
  • Storing removable seats and cushions in your home garage can keep them from shrinking or cracking.
  • Your boat must be dry for storage. Avoid any damp areas or moisture. Air your boat out on a hot, sunny day.
  • Remove and store all electronics, such as the GPS system, radios and entertainment systems at home in a safe, dry place.
  • Cover your boat for storage.

Mechanical Inspections

(If you are not comfortable with the procedures dealing with the engine, have an experienced mechanic perform them.)

  • Start by topping off your tanks (not more than 7/8 full to allow for expansion in the spring) and stabilizing your fuel.
  • Completely drain your fresh water tanks and water heater if you have them. You can add non-toxic antifreeze directly to your water tank and pump it directly through your hot and cold plumbing, but to save time and antifreeze, consider installing a siphon hose fitting just before your water pump and a water heater bypass loop.
  • Change your engine oil and replace all the filters.
  • Check your battery for corrosion or leaking battery fluids. Inspect all cables for damage.
  • Check the hoses, belts and clamps for damage, replace if necessary.
  • Check the propeller for any damage. (This can also help you spread out any costly repairs needed, so your boat will be ready when the weather is.)
  • Check your trailer’s tires, bearings, frame and ties. Your trailer can take a lot of abuse of the road, many times it will show wear & tear before the boat does.

Storing Your Boat

The best place for your boat to be during the winter is out of the water, under cover, in a climate-controlled boat storage area. This, however, can be very expensive. If you don’t have this option, consider shrink-wrapping your boat. This, too, is a little expensive but provides a very protective cover. Short of these two items, make sure that your boat is well covered with a tarp or some other sturdy cover. Here are the top ten things to consider when storing your boat.

  1. Store boats stern down so rain and melting snow will drain out through the scuppers
  2. Open all seacocks and drains to prevent damage from freezing
  3. Use fuel stabilizing additives and follow proper procedures for winterizing engines and systems
  4. Provide structural support under boat covers and tarps
  5. Never tie off boat covers or tarps to boat stands
  6. Trailer boat hulls should have some support so the weight is not all on the trailer tires
  7. Remove electronics, food stuff, valuables, canvas, cushions and store at home
  8. Put moisture absorbers in the cabin and lockers
  9. Never use a portable heater or auto battery charger in bilge
  10. If your boat is blocked, check stands and blocking periodically during storage

If you have questions about your boat insurance, feel free to contact a Farm Bureau Insurance agent.