Tips to Winterize Your Boat

With Labor Day behind us and back-to-school mode in full swing, it’s actually STARTING to feel like fall. Even the cooler temperatures (at least in the DC area) are marking the end of summer. What this means for some of us (but hopefully not all of us yet!) is that we need to start thinking about winterizing our boats.

By investing a few hours and a little money this fall, you can be sure that you and your boat get off to a smooth start next spring. Start by making a checklist. Here are some general tips to help with your planning:

You can also check out how-to videos on or additional tips from the Discover Boating campaign. And BoatU.S. even has a handy Winter Worksheet (PDF) that can be a great start.

  1. Flush the engine with fresh water. For inboard motors or stern drives, do a final flush with anti-freeze (not typically necessary for outboards).
  2. Fill the tank with gas (less space limits the possibility of condensation), and add some fuel stabilizer. Run the motor for five minutes to mix the stabilizer. Then shut off the fuel valve (for outboards, simply disconnect the fuel hose), and run the remaining fuel out of the engine.
  3. Apply fogging oil on the carburetor while it is warm to the touch. Also, remove spark plugs and spray fogging oil through the spark plug holes inside spark plug cylinders.
  4. Replace your fuel filter.
  5. Wipe any excess grease and grime off the engine.
  6. Once you pull the boat from the water, hand-wash the hull, and apply a wax coat on fiberglass hulls (to protect against winter grime); doing this by hand also allows you to inspect for any imperfections, dings or cracks that need immediate attention (before the freeze).
  7. ompletely drain your bilge.
  8. Visually inspect your propeller.
  9. Clean and dry the interior of your boat to remove all grit and debris. For boats with vinyl seats, treat the vinyl with a protectant.
  10. Remove your battery and other electronics (like sonar), and store them somewhere dry and freeze protected.
  11. Cover your boat with a tarp and keep it sealed (it’s important that the inside is as dry as possible before you cover it). Leave one or two small vents to prevent condensation and moisture buildup.
  12. Store your outboard engine standing up; for inboards, be sure the boat’s bow is a few inches higher than the stern.

Of course, don’t forget to check your owner’s manual!

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Stephanie Vatalaro

Stephanie Vatalaro

Stephanie Vatalaro is vice president of communications for the Recreational Boating & Fishing Foundation and its Take Me Fishing and Vamos A Pescar campaigns where she works to recruit newcomers to recreational fishing and boating and increase awareness of aquatic conservation. Stephanie grew up in the Florida Keys as the daughter of a flats fishing guide. Outside of work, you can find her fishing and boating with her family on the Potomac River in the Northern Neck of Virginia.