How to Prepare Your Watercraft for Winter
As the proud owner of a watercraft, you probably take great care in making sure it stays in top shape. After all, the more you keep up with the care and maintenance of your vessel, the longer you can enjoy taking it out on the water for years to come. One of the most important aspects of proper care for your vessel is winterizing it before storing it away until the weather is more accommodating. Here are the top tips on how to prepare your watercraft for winter to ensure years of continued use and enjoyment.
1. Change the oil
One of the most important elements in how to prepare your watercraft for winter is to change the oil. Since a watercraft is out on the water, the chances of water occasionally getting into the oil is a likely scenario. If you are storing the vessel away for an extended stretch of time and leave the water in the oil, you run the risk that it can corrode the engine. Make sure you always perform an oil change prior to storing the watercraft. You also want to change the filter and dry it thoroughly before adding new oil to help safeguard the system.
2. Refresh the coolant system
The coolant system is also an important aspect of your vessel you need to care for prior to storage. You should drain out the coolant, flush the system with water, and then fill it with new antifreeze that is diluted to the suggested mixture for your watercraft. This will prevent the corrosion of the engine caused by freezing during winter.
3. Use engine fogging oil
Another way to protect your engine during the winter is by fogging the engine with fogging oil. Simply spray the oil into the carburetor or spark plug holes, depending on the instructions in your owner's manual, and turn the engine without starting it. This will protect the moving parts of the engine during winter.
4. Remove drive belts
Another crucial step in how to prepare your watercraft for winter is to remove the drive belts. The drive belts are vulnerable to cracking if they are kept under tension for long periods of time while in storage. When you combine that with the colder temperatures adding stress to the belt, it makes sense to make this part of your winter prep for your watercraft. Simply loosen or completely remove the belts and place them in a safe, dry location.
5. Grease the steering mechanism
Before storing your watercraft, you want to grease the steering and control mechanisms to ensure they will work properly when you pull the boat or jet ski out of storage. You should also ensure the joints themselves are covered with a recommended lubricant to avoid any issues.
6. Disconnect the battery
If you leave the battery hooked up during winter, it will eventually drain the battery and you will end up with a weak or completely dead battery when you take the vessel out of storage. You should disconnect the battery and top it off with water if your manual says to do so and store it somewhere dry and safe for the winter. You should also change it occasionally to make sure the levels are where they need to be when the season starts back up in the spring.
7. Fill the gas tank
While you want to remove the battery, you don't want to remove the fuel. If you leave the fuel tank empty, it can cause condensation to build up which will lead to corrosion or even worse, damage, if the condensation freezes. You should add a fuel stabilizer to make sure the fuel is still ready to use in the spring.
8. Seal exhaust ports on inboard watercraft
Certain models of watercraft have inboard exhaust port openings. This can be a problem when storing for winter because critters can climb in there and nest, sometimes even reaching the engine. An easy solution is to use duct tape to close off these ports prior to storage.
9. Thoroughly clean interior and exterior
You should never store a watercraft dirty. This can lead to a buildup of grease, saltwater, algae, and dirt which can eventually lead to issues such as rust and corrosion of your vessel. You should clean the interior such as floorboards and seats from any build up gunk before storing. The exterior should be washed and waxed to provide extra protection against damages.
10. Cover and store
You should always cover your watercraft with an approved cover no matter where you store it. A cover protects against dirt, dust, water, grime, and other debris to help prolong the life of your vessel. It also means that when the warm weather comes back around, you can simply uncover the watercraft, hook up the battery, replace the drive belts, and head out to the water for some fun.
The matter of where to store the watercraft is also important. Make sure you store it somewhere that is safe from the elements during the winter such as a boathouse, storage unit, or garage depending on the size of your watercraft.