Putting your boat up for the winter does not mean merely putting it on the trailer or boatlift and take a nap. If you want your boat to last and to crank next year you need to take a few steps to ensure it is in good working order for the coming season. I do know of people who take no precautions and have no adverse effects, but with ethanol in the picture now they will.
One of the first things we need to address is gas stabilization. Most of the gas you buy now has 7 to 10 percent ethanol in it. Ethanol absorbs water, and that is not good for your engine. I suggest filling your tank up to the top and then add the appropriate amount of fuel stabilizer that treats ethanol. Stabil Marine (it is blue not red) is the biggest seller. Startron is another great product. You will find that most boat mechanics suggest using an ethanol treatment with every fill up. Gasoline has a tendency to separate into its more basic elements. Turpentine (or what we call turpentine) will gum up carburetors and fuel injectors. Fuel stabilizer helps this from becoming a problem by making the gasoline less prone to separation. I also “fog” my engine if I am going to be putting it up for a while. You can buy a can of aerosol fogging oil at most boat accessories stores. Disconnect the fuel line and just before the engine runs out of fuel, spray fogging oil into the carburetor(s). Fogging oil is an anticorrosive that will protect the internal surfaces of the carburetor and the cylinders. Typically the engine will run rough just before it runs out of fuel. As that happens, give the carburetor(s) a heavier shot of fogging oil to make sure internal surfaces are fully coated.
Lower units need attention as well. Lower units can get some moisture in them throughout the year, and this must be addressed so that freezing of this moisture does not crack the lower unit. Drain and refill your lower unit before putting your boat away for the winter. Also, make sure your outboard engine is not in a raised position. When the engine is raised it collects water in the bearings and the lower unit. If this water freezes it will crack the lower unit. I have had this happen to me personally. Make sure you flush the intake with freshwater and salt x if available. Remove the propeller and check to make sure there is no fishing line or other thing wrapped around the propeller shaft.
If your boat has a water system it should be protected as well. You can buy RV (which is non-toxic) antifreeze for your head and water system. Fill your tanks and add the appropriate amount of non-toxic anti-freeze. Then run your systems so that the treated water has a chance to fill the hoses and every nook and cranny to keep them from freezing.
Make sure it is cleaned well with good quality boat soap. I use Orpine wash/wax. It leaves a small amount of wax every time you wash you boat and will make cleaning it easier next time. If you have growth on the bottom On/Off is a great product to remove barnacles and algae. On/Off is a very powerful muriatic acid and must be used with caution. Make sure you wear gloves and a respirator.
Then check the grease in your bearings to make sure they are good to go for next year. If they are low you can add grease easily if you have bearing buddies on your hubs. Simply get a grease gun and fill them full.
Tight lines and fair winds.
Capt. Chris Medlin is a third-generation tackle shop owner and charter captain. He makes his home on Topsail but loves fishing all over. Most of the time you can find him at East Coast Sports in Surf City or just contact him through his website at Eastcoastsports.com.