Winterizing Your Boat
Fortunately, we boaters and anglers in LA (Lower Alabama) don’t have to go to the extremes that folks up north do when they prepare for winter.
In the cold climates, folks have to suck up RV antifreeze into the outboard or outdrive water intakes to ensure the motors don’t have any water left to freeze in the engine block.
All I’ve ever done is tilt the outboard completely down and let all the water drain out.
One thing I do is change the oil in the lower unit of the outdrive. If a seal is damaged and allows water into the drive, a hard freeze can burst the housing and cause thousands in damages. The task is easy to do with a large flathead screwdriver and a threaded pump hose you can find at any discount or sporting goods store.
Take the lower plug out of the lower unit and let it drain into a pan. Loosen the top plug to hasten the drain period. I give it 15-20 minutes to drain, come back and thread the pump hose specifically designed for this purpose. I pump gear oil designed for lower unit use until the oil starts running out of the top hole. I screw in the top plug and get ready to quickly screw in the bottom plug as soon as the hose is removed.
If the oil that was drained out doesn’t look milky, you’re good to go. If it is obvious there is water contamination, you had better get new seals installed before it’s time to fish in the spring.
Most of the outboard motors sold these days are of the four-stroke variety, which is essentially like the engine in your car. It needs a regular oil change to get the maximum performance and durability. The recommended oil change interval, determined by the hours of running time, is determined by the manufacturer.
Check your owner’s manual for the proper way to drain the old oil out of the engine without getting it everywhere. Change the oil filter and then refill the engine with the proper oil. Most manufacturers make oils for specific applications, but the owner’s manual may provide alternatives. Whatever you do, buy quality oil. Outboard engines may be similar to car engines, but outboards run at significantly higher RPMs than car engines.
Replace the fuel filter if it’s more than a year old. Look for the fuel/water separating filter that filters down to 10-microns.
I go out of my way to fill my boat with ethanol-free gas. It costs more, but ethanol can wreak havoc on fuel systems, especially in older boats. Several gas stations along the Gulf Coast sell ethanol-free boat gas. If you can’t find boat gas and are forced to use gas with 10-percent ethanol, be sure to treat the fuel with a stabilizer to maintain the integrity of the gas. Be sure to run the outboard for a few minutes to distribute the stabilizer through the fuel system before you store it for winter.
Find all the grease fittings on the outboard and pump in a few shots of fresh grease. Remove the batteries if the boat will be stored for the winter and keep them charged in a dry place off of a concrete floor. Batteries discharge on a concrete floor.
In the spring, reinstall the batteries and head out for a fun day of fishing on Alabama’s beautiful Gulf Coast.