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    While the common advice for winterizing outboards, sterndrives and fuel systems apply to pontoon boats, the non-traditional features of pontoon boat design call for some additional attention to get ‘em safely through the off season.

    Boating Magazine
    Photo by: Dan Armitage

    Winterize Your Pontoon Boat

    read more


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    This time of year, you can guarantee that when it comes to one question about winterizing, you’ll get more divergent answers than during a political debate.

    So I asked some of my local dealers the following question: “When you winterize a boat, do you put it away with the gas tank full or empty?”

    Boating Magazine
    Photo by: Sharkey Images

    Go Fast Blog

    read more


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    This is about the time of year when ‘tooner’s who live north of the Mason-Dixon Line put their boats to bed for the winter. If the boat has been kept in the water for the season, at a dock, mooring or on a stake, chances are the logs have accumulated a layer of algae below the waterline. Anyone who has pulled their pontoon after a season afloat and allowed that mud-infused slime to dry has experienced how exposure to the air turns the crud to concrete – and how hard it is to remove once it’s been allowed to set-up.

    Boating Magazine
    Photo by: Dan Armitage

    Pressure Washing

    read more


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    When it comes to putting the boat to bed for the season, there is such a thing as wrapping the rig up a bit TOO tight. When I was an outdoors columnist in the Florida Keys I did a story on a well-intentioned Snowbird who, to protect it from the wet summer season as it sat idle while he cooled his heels back home up north, had wrapped his recently purchased trailered boat so tightly in plastic tarps and duct tape that no air could circulate within.

    Boating Magazine
    Photo by: Dan Armitage

    Covered Pontoon

    read more


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    After pulling the pontoon out of the water for the off-season don’t forget to scrub the face of your sonar’s transducer before any scum has a chance to dry on the down-facing surface of the sending unit. A quick wipe with a rag will do it if you tackle the task while the transducer’s still wet.

    Boating Magazine
    Photo by: Boating Magazine Editor

    Pontoon Transducer

    Keeping the face of your sonar’s sending unit clean will allow you to maintain an unobstructed view below.

    read more


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  • 02/19/13--13:38: Lower Unit Wrap
  • Following the birth of our son, my wife once commented that she was in the market for a new lower unit as a result of the ordeal. The statement reminded me that a properly functioning lower unit can be as important to maintaining a relationship as it is to a boater who counts on his engine to perform on cue.

    Boating Magazine
    Photo by: Boating Magazine Editor

    Lower Unit Wrap

    If you store your outboard in the vertical position as shown, there’s no reason to wrap the lower unit in plastic during the off-season.

    read more


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    Winterizing a regular ol’ runabout is challenging enough for most owners, but when it comes to performance boats and their engines, there are a few worthwhile extra steps that should be taken.

    Starting with one of the most basic go-fast accessories, for stern-drive-powered boats equipped with switchable exhaust, make sure you run anti-freeze through the system in the open and closed position. This ensures that the water passages in the entire exhaust system gets protected against corrosion.

    Boating Magazine
    Photo by: Eric Colby

    Performance Boat Engine Compartment

    read more


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    The fall foliage colors were at their peak and we were prepared for our final trip of the season as we launched the family pontoon for an autumn “leaf peeping” weekend afloat. Our favorite college and pro football teams were playing that Saturday and Sunday, so we had packed a portable TV and all the fixings for a pair of tailgate parties aboard the pontoon. Since we intended to sleep out “on the hook” and under a full camper canvas that night, we had sleeping bags, a propane lantern and plenty of fishing tackle aboard.

    Boating Magazine
    Photo by: Dan Armitage

    Pontoon Battery

    read more


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    Winterize Your Pontoon Boat

    Dan Armitage

    While the common advice for winterizing outboards, sterndrives and fuel systems apply to pontoon boats, the non-traditional features of pontoon boat design call for some additional attention to get ‘em safely through the off season.

    For example, if you plan to leave your pontoon outside and under cover over the winter months, special care must be taken to support the cover over the broad playpen area. The vast expanse of protective fabric has the capacity to catch and collect enough rain to morph the playpen into an above-deck swimming pool unless it sheds water – or the ice and snow that may also conspire to collect over the winter season and melt into a pool conveniently surrounded and supported by the railings come spring. A collapsed boat cover that traps water not only keeps deck and furniture damp by seeping and stifling air circulation, the massive weight of all that pooled water can break railings, seats and can even cause the pontoon logs to succumb to the enormous weight, creating flat spots or outright ruptures.

    I use boat cover supports offered by Attwood Marine (attwoodmarine.com) to prop up my boat cover’s fabric with telescoping posts that allow me to seat them on the deck and extend the supports as needed to push the cover drum-tight from beneath. Even with such support, I make several off-season visits to my boat to make sure that weather conditions haven’t caused the posts to shift or retract.

    In regions of the country that offer significant snowfall in the off-season, pontoon boat owners come up with some creative structures to support tarps, boat covers or shrink wrap material to allow the material of choice to shed snow and ice – or support the moisture’s weight until a thaw. Several years ago I wrote a magazine article featuring Kover Klamps (koverklampframes.com) to construct a custom pontoon boat cover frames, where the system has become popular in the Great Lakes states.

    No matter where you live, if you put your pontoon rig “up” for the off-season, take care to make sure the boat’s protective cover is properly supported to thwart whatever ravages Mother Nature decides to rain down upon it.

    TIP: When winterizing your pontoon boat, make sure the boat cover is supported properly to shed water in the form of rain, ice or snow – especially over the playpen area where water can pool in a collapsed cover and cause major problems. (See photo above.)


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    Go Fast Blog

    Sharkey Images

    This time of year, you can guarantee that when it comes to one question about winterizing, you’ll get more divergent answers than during a political debate.

    So I asked some of my local dealers the following question: “When you winterize a boat, do you put it away with the gas tank full or empty?”

    MerCruiser and ValvTect Petroleum Products, which supplies the majority of “treated” gasoline to marinas in bulk, recommend that you fill your boat’s gas tank with fuel that contains an ethanol-combative treatment prior to winterizing it. Both suggest that you run the treated gas through your fuel system and engine prior to putting away the boat.

    Jerry Nessenson, president of ValvTect, said that his treated fuel will remain stabilized for up to one year.

    READ: BOATING'S GUIDE TO WINTERIZING YOUR BOAT

    Fuel needs to be treated because of ethanol that’s now added to gasoline. In what’s called “phase separation,” over time, the ethanol allows water that’s in the gasoline to separate from the fuel and sink to the bottom of the gas tank because the water is heavier. Then, because, the fuel pickup is almost always on the bottom of the tank, you’d be picking up water to suck into your engine’s combustion chamber, not fuel, which can cause problems.

    The school of thought on filling a fuel tank prior to winterization is that there won’t be any space in the reservoir for condensation to form in colder climates, such as my home in Maine. During condensation, when temperatures fluctuate, water can form inside the tank. Those who say to leave the tank lower than ¼ level say they’d rather deal with the small amount of water than results from condensation than a full tank of expired fuel.

    The results of my poll were as follows. One local marina abides by the recommendations made by the boat brands it sells and suggests to its customers that they fill their tanks. Another independent engine shop, which is where all the go-fast guys in southern Maine go for work, wants between a half and quarter tank and stabilizes the fuel as part of the winterization service. Here’s the best one. The service manager at Port Harbor Marine in South Portland, Maine, Jim Peterson, said, “Ideal is empty, but if there’s anything above almost empty, we fill them.” Get this guy a podium at the next political debate.

    SUGGESTED READING

    PERFORMANCE OUTBOARD LOWER UNITS

    PERFORMANCE BOAT DRIVING SCHOOL

    **
    **


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    Pressure Washing

    Dan Armitage

    This is about the time of year when ‘tooner’s who live north of the Mason-Dixon Line put their boats to bed for the winter. If the boat has been kept in the water for the season, at a dock, mooring or on a stake, chances are the logs have accumulated a layer of algae below the waterline. Anyone who has pulled their pontoon after a season afloat and allowed that mud-infused slime to dry has experienced how exposure to the air turns the crud to concrete – and how hard it is to remove once it’s been allowed to set-up.

    Exposed to the air, the crud on your tubes turns tough real fast.

    Veteran members of the pontoon boat-owners club that I belong to prepare for their annual October “pull-out” day by having a power washer primed and standing ready to give their logs a high-powered cleaning as soon as their boats are on blocks. They realize that minutes matter between the time the boats are pulled and the sludge starts to harden, and even time their take-outs based on when the power washer is available and ready to take on the task the moment the boat is out.

    This is no task for an electric power-washer; a gas-fired model offering at least 2500 psi of water power is required to remove a season’s worth of muck. If you can’t justify the $250-plus price tag for a new power-washer (Sears has a Craftsman 2500 psi model on sale now for $258 at sears.com), consider splitting the cost with a fellow boater or two and share the rig. They come in just as handy in the spring when it’ll be time to clean the decks of a winter’s worth of grime and are great for removing mold, cleaning carpet and flooring and performing other topside clean-up duties through the season.

    READ: BOATING'S GUIDE TO WINTERIZING YOUR BOAT


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    Covered Pontoon

    Dan Armitage

    When it comes to putting the boat to bed for the season, there is such a thing as wrapping the rig up a bit TOO tight. When I was an outdoors columnist in the Florida Keys I did a story on a well-intentioned Snowbird who, to protect it from the wet summer season as it sat idle while he cooled his heels back home up north, had wrapped his recently purchased trailered boat so tightly in plastic tarps and duct tape that no air could circulate within. Six months later, when the gentleman arrived back in the Keys in the fall and unwrapped his prize possession, he found a garden of mold had formed and flourished in the greenhouse he had built. Every vinyl surface was flush with green fur, the carpeting was black with mold, there were mushrooms sprouting from the rotting wood trim and the cuddy cabin smelled like a swamp at low tide. The boat was a complete loss, and all he was able to salvage was the outboard motor and the trailer.

    No matter what the season or latitude, when covering your pontoon boat between uses it is important to allow air to circulate to eliminate moisture buildup. Some boaters go overboard trying to secure their craft too snugly against the threat of rain or snow or critters that they overlook the threat of dampness to their rig, and regret the results they find upon unwrapping.

    Use boat covers with air vents or leave space between the cover and the fastening surface to allow air access where it can circulate. The same goes for under-seat compartments and lockers underneath the boat cover, the tops, lid and hatches for which should be left ajar to allow some air to flow to minimize moisture build-up and curb the growth of mold and mildew.

    **ABOVE: **Boat covers equipped with vents allow air to circulate and eliminate moisture buildup under the restrictive wraps.

    SUGGESTED READING:

    _BOATING_ MAGAZINE'S GUIDE TO WINTERIZING YOUR BOAT


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    Pontoon Transducer

    Keeping the face of your sonar’s sending unit clean will allow you to maintain an unobstructed view below.

    After pulling the pontoon out of the water for the off-season don’t forget to scrub the face of your sonar’s transducer before any scum has a chance to dry on the down-facing surface of the sending unit. A quick wipe with a rag will do it if you tackle the task while the transducer’s still wet.

    A build-up of scum and algae won’t hurt the plastic face of the sending unit but can affect the sensor’s performance next season. To remove dried-on crud, mild soap and water and a natural bristle brush will do the trick, and although it may take a few minutes more, using the soft touch cleaning approach will eliminate the risk of scoring the surface with harsh chemicals or wire bristles – which can affect your all-important eye into the waters below next season.


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  • 02/19/13--13:38: Lower Unit Wrap
  • Lower Unit Wrap

    If you store your outboard in the vertical position as shown, there’s no reason to wrap the lower unit in plastic during the off-season.

    Following the birth of our son, my wife once commented that she was in the market for a new lower unit as a result of the ordeal. The statement reminded me that a properly functioning lower unit can be as important to maintaining a relationship as it is to a boater who counts on his engine to perform on cue.

    If the outboard or sterndrive that powers your pontoon boat is expected to remain idle over the course of an off-season, it’s important that it be prepped and protected to allow it to weather the winter and fire-up come spring. That putting-to-bed process is fodder for a fall blog, but during my recent mid-winter check on my pontoon boat, which is stored on foam blocks in the yard of my local lake’s pontoon boat owners club, I noted something new. Several members’ (outboard…) lower units, including the prop, were encased in garbage bags, which were snugly duct-taped or bungee-corded just below the cowling.

    Pondering the possible reasons for protecting the lower unit in such a manner, I placed a quick call to Boating contributor, outboard expert and good friend John Tiger. Tiger lives on Lake George, NY, a latitude that – like mine – forces a frigid off-season off the water for boaters each winter. I figured he might know why someone might encase their engine’s lower unit in Glad Wrap.

    “It’s an attempt to keep water out,” answered Tiger. “If an engine stored out in the elements is tilted up in the off season, at enough of an angle enough to allow rainwater or snow melt to accumulate in the exhaust hub, it could find its way into the gear-case housing, freeze and expand, and cause damage.”

    He added that some boaters bag their lower units – as well as their power-heads – when in storage to help keep “bugs and critters” at bay and, in the case of the lower units, to keep the propeller out of the sight and therefore, hopefully, out of the mind of potential thieves.

    Tiger added that if you store your outboard or sterndrive tilted vertically, so that no water can accumulate in the exhaust hub, there’s really no reason to encase it’s southernmost unit in plastic.

    Suggested Reading
    Winterize A Sterndrive
    The Complete Guide To Winterizing Your Boat


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    Performance Boat Engine Compartment

    Eric Colby

    Winterizing a regular ol’ runabout is challenging enough for most owners, but when it comes to performance boats and their engines, there are a few worthwhile extra steps that should be taken.

    Starting with one of the most basic go-fast accessories, for stern-drive-powered boats equipped with switchable exhaust, make sure you run anti-freeze through the system in the open and closed position. This ensures that the water passages in the entire exhaust system gets protected against corrosion.

    Speaking of exhaust, if your engines are equipped with stainless-steel headers, drain them thoroughly before putting away your boat for its long winter nap. Most systems have drain plus. If you can’t find the ones on your engine, contact the header manufacturer and don’t over-tighten the drain plug when re-installing it.

    If your engine has a supercharger, then it more than likely has an intercooler that has its own water pickup. Back flush the intercooler with anti-freeze just like you would your boat’s engine to protect the inside of the unit from corrosion. You wouldn’t want to find out next spring when your superchargers are running too hot that the water passages in your intercooler are clogged.

    When it comes to high-performance lower units on outboards or stern drives like the Mercury SportMaster model, make sure you have the right garden-hose attachment to provide adequate water pressure when flushing out the unit after running in saltwater or for winterization purposes. These drives have water pickups on the bottom of the lower unit’s bullet instead of above it on conventional drives. You don’t want to burn up an impeller in your high-performance lower unit because you used the same ear muffs that you’d use on your old boat’s Alpha One drive.

    Just remember you owning a high-performance boat means giving that extra effort when maintaining it and winterizing it.

    SUGGESTED READING

    WINTERIZING A STERN DRIVE

    WINTERIZING BATTERY TIPS

    WINTERIZING FRESHWATER COOLED ENGINES

    **
    **


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    Pontoon Battery

    Dan Armitage

    The fall foliage colors were at their peak and we were prepared for our final trip of the season as we launched the family pontoon for an autumn “leaf peeping” weekend afloat. Our favorite college and pro football teams were playing that Saturday and Sunday, so we had packed a portable TV and all the fixings for a pair of tailgate parties aboard the pontoon. Since we intended to sleep out “on the hook” and under a full camper canvas that night, we had sleeping bags, a propane lantern and plenty of fishing tackle aboard.

    It was a crisp Saturday morning after a full week of below-average temperatures, and thin panes of ice lingered in the shadows around the launch ramp as we got an early start. I realized it was going to be a short trip when I turned the key to fire the outboard. There was just enough juice in the starting battery to turn the motor over a half dozen times before it groaned and gave up. I knew better than to try again and without a back-up I was dead in the water. A close look at the battery’s scratch-off purchase date sticker showed that I had already benefited from an extra couple of months of power beyond cell’s 24 month life expectancy, and figured I had finally punched through the battery’s juice envelope.

    THE 20 BEST PONTOON BOATS

    We decided to make the best of the situation and left the boat tied to the deserted dock as we enjoyed a traditional pre-game tailgate party around the trailer in the parking lot. As kickoff time approached, the sun had been overhead for a couple of hours and warmed things up significantly. When I returned to the rig and gave the key a token turn before loading the boat back onto the trailer, the “expired” battery fired that engine like it was brand new!

    The weekend was saved and we enjoyed a wonderful autumn cruise before putting the rig away for the season, but not before leaving a note to myself that I needed to buy a new battery before breaking it out for the start of the next.

    Experience and research since that incident have combined to make me a bit more battery savvy. For example, in addition to being past its prime, the reasons my battery failed to start the outboard at the beginning of that brisk autumn were threefold: before the sun had a chance to warm things up, the oil in the engine was still thick with the chill, making cranking efforts more difficult. The cold also kept the gasoline from vaporizing – and firing --as easily as the fuel did once conditions warmed up. And, finally, the battery itself was not fully charged from the previous weekend, which had also been frigid and had hampered the cell’s charging efficiency from the outboard.

    CHECK YOUR WINTER STORAGE SETUP

    I’ve also learned that the best way to extend a battery’s life expectancy is to offer the proper off-season care. That includes:

    -Disconnecting terminal connections to eliminate any electrical loads

    -Cleaning corrosion off the terminals and cable connections

    -If the battery has removable vent caps, removing and filling each cell to the proper level

    -Fully charging the battery before storing it

    -Charging the battery at regular intervals during the off-season

    For extended periods of non-use, you can leave the battery on the boat or move it to an inside location such as a garage or basement for storage; just make sure there is plenty of ventilation and the battery will not be exposed to excessive heat. As long as you keep the battery charged, using a trickle or automatic charger, even sub-freezing temperatures will do it no harm. I find that keeping the battery in a visible and accessible location in my garage helps remind me – and makes it convenient -- to keep it juiced during the off-season.

    TOP WINTERIZING TIPS


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    You’ve kept your marine diesel mains and generators running well all season, and now the grip of winter is near. But your work isn’t done. To make sure these engines perform well next season, take these six important steps to properly winterize your diesel systems before giving them a long winter’s rest.

    1. Fuel Management
    Unless properly treated, diesel — especially the newer bio-diesel and low-sulfur fuels — can grow stale and prone to bacteria and fungal infestations while in storage, resulting in sludge and sediment that can plug filters, create starting problems and damage engines. Also, an empty fuel tank invites condensation, and over time this results in water collecting in the bottom of the tank, posing a serious problem for diesel engines. To help prevent any of these maladies, fill up before long-term storage. Then treat the fresh fuel with a diesel biocide/stabilizer such as ValvTect BioGuard Plus 6 ($24.99/32 ounces, defender.com). After treating the fuel, install new primary and secondary fuel filters, and then bleed the fuel lines to eliminate any air pockets.

    2. Fresh Oil
    Used diesel engine oil contains acids and other contaminants that can eat away at metals over the winter. So ditch the old oil now. To change the oil, run the engine for a few minutes to warm up the oil. If the boat has been hauled, you’ll need the proper motor flushers for the engines (or plumb the intake pumps) to supply cooling water from a garden hose. Installing a Groco SSC engine flush kit ($96.77, jamestowndistributors.com) makes this job easy. Then shut down and drain or pump out the old oil. Change the oil filter and fill the crankcase with fresh oil (per the manufacturer’s specifications). Also change the oil for the transmissions at this time.

    3. Good Drainage
    Open all drain plugs to purge the raw-water cooling systems. Plug locations vary by manufacturer, so check your manuals. Use a stiff wire to clear any sediment from drains. Also, bump the ignition to turn over each engine (without starting it) to clear water from the pumps. If your boat stays afloat all winter, you can drain the systems by first closing the seacocks for the raw-water inlets, then removing the inlet hoses and intake-pump covers, as well as all drain plugs. After clearing the raw-water systems, replace all of the drain plugs. If you removed the intake-pump covers, give each impeller a light coat of Vaseline and replace the covers.

    4. Freeze Prevention
    To avoid freeze damage and fight corrosion over winter, plumb the motor flushers or intake pumps to draw rust-inhibiting propylene-glycol antifreeze such as West Marine Pure Oceans minus 50 degrees F ($5.99/gallon, westmarine​.com) from a bucket or tank, and run each engine until the solution exits the exhaust. Not only does this displace any standing water and coat the water jackets and heat exchanger with a corrosion inhibitor, but at the same time it distributes inside the engine and transmission a coat of the fresh, clean oil that you put in earlier to help prevent internal rust during storage.

    Once the diesel is off, immediately shut down the supply of antifreeze to prevent siphoning liquid into the combustion chambers and hydro-locking the engine. Because antifreeze can swell some rubber materials, replace the intake-pump impellers next spring as part of your recommissioning process. If your boat has closed cooling, check the recommended maintenance schedule to see if you need to change the antifreeze in these systems as well. This is typically at 1,000 hours, but check the level regardless.

    5. A Jump on Spring
    While you can wait until spring, now is a good time to check zincs, belts and electrical connections, as well as the O-rings on fuel fills. Also inspect the physical connections at the transom and along the exhaust outlets — lots of water flows through here! Replace, repair and service anything that looks suspect or worn, and you’ll have that much less to do next spring.

    6. All Sealed Up
    Seal the exhaust outlets on the hull and air filters on the engine with heavy plastic and duct tape. This prevents moist air from finding its way into the combustion chambers via open exhaust or intake valves while your diesels are enjoying some well-deserved downtime.

    Get more winterizing tips for marine diesel and gas engines at boatingmag.com/winterizing.


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  • 10/14/13--05:33: Top Winterizing Tips
  • Winterization is a necessary evil of boat ownership, combining an annual health checkup and insurance for an easy start to next spring’s boating.

    Paying a boatyard might lighten your wallet between $150 and $1,000, or even more depending on what type of boat and how many engines you have.

    You can do it yourself with hand tools, an afternoon’s time and some pretty inexpensive supplies. You’ll need a place to work, with running water and adequate ventilation. You’ll also want a service manual, perhaps a helper, and the following tips and techniques.

    Winterization starts with prepping the fuel supply long before the day you haul out for the winter. The engine’s fuel supply should be treated for storage during the last week or so of your boat’s in-water use. In so doing, you ensure that properly “stabilized” fuel has been run through the tank, feed lines and engines prior to laying the boat up for months.

    I suggest products such as Star brite’s Star Tron marine fuel treatment (starbrite​.com) or Gold Eagle’s Sta-Bil treatment (goldeagle​.com/brands/stabil). Engine manufacturers also sell fuel treatment, typically available from the dealer. The questionable and inconsistent quality of today’s unleaded fuels makes this step necessary to prevent fuel from phase-separating over time and leaving fuel injectors or carburetors gummed up with stale, varnished fuel. I like to “overmedicate” the fuel that’s in the tank; I typically double the dosage that the bottle’s instructions call for. I’ve been doing this for more than 25 years with excellent results.

    As for the fuel level in the tanks, there are many opinions on this. The ideal situation would be to empty the tanks as much as possible and get all the fuel out of the system — including the engine’s fuel lines and carburetors/fuel injectors. However, this is not always practical to do — it’s difficult to get all the fuel out and also winterize the engine at the same time.

    The next best solution is to keep the tanks nearly full to reduce the potential for condensation in the tanks. Just be sure the fuel in the tank, lines, filters and engine is all treated well; this requires running the engine until the treated fuel thoroughly circulates inside — typically at least 30 minutes at idle speeds, considerably less if you can run the engine at higher speeds. That’s why I suggest planning to run winter-stabilized fuel during your last few trips. If you do so, make sure to top off the tanks with a smidge more fuel and treat that too.

    If you run a boat powered by a two-stroke outboard, consider adding a fuel decarbonizing treatment to the fuel supply (in addition to the aforementioned fuel conditioner) before winter shutdown and storage. These additives are powerful agents for removing built-up carbon from cylinder heads and piston tops and sides, and from piston rings and ring grooves. This helps boost compression back to near-original specification levels on older engines and can reduce the chance of ring sticking — a death knell for an older two-stroke. A sticking piston ring won’t transfer combustion heat to the engine cylinder walls as designed, and the piston can heat up, expand and “grow” in size under load, causing expensive engine failure if gone unchecked. Sea Foam is an excellent aftermarket decarbonizing agent (seafoamsales​.com) that I have used; you can also buy the original manufacturer’s decarbonizing additives directly from the local dealer of your particular brand of marine engine.

    It needs stating that there are many aftermarket “no-name special” additives available. These are to be avoided. Stick to the recommendations made here, defaulting to the additives and sprays sold by your local certified outboard dealer when there is any doubt.

    Flush and Drain
    Flushing the engine’s cooling system with fresh, clean water is usually done at the same time as running the engine to distribute the fuel conditioner and fog the engine. Again, the savvy winterizer thinks ahead: The engine needs to be hot for the oil change, so that is done first, before flushing and finally fogging and filling with antifreeze.

    When flushing, adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions. Flushing the engine, especially before a long layup, is crucial to its long-term survival — notably if you run it in salty, brackish, silty or otherwise dirty water.

    When done, all water should be drained from the engine and drive to reduce the chance of freeze damage. Outboards can be drained simply by trimming them to the full-down, running position. Allow all the water to drain from the power head through the propeller and/or exhaust outlets. Sterndrives should also be stored trimmed down, though it’s prudent to remove the drive to check the bellows, gaskets and other gear, in which case it’s best to store the drive inside.

    Newer sterndrives and inboards have three or four block drain plugs; here is where a service manual is almost a must. Your engine may have block drains, exhaust manifold drains, power steering cooler drains, oil cooler drains and/or fuel canister drains. Be sure to remove them all or freeze damage could occur.

    Older sterndrives and inboards typically have brass drains in the lower crankcase and also in the bottoms of the exhaust manifolds. Often, these can get clogged with rust flakes and debris from the cooling passages. A small wire or a pipe cleaner must be run up inside these drains to loosen any debris to allow water to drain. Don’t stop probing them until you are sure all the water has drained.

    Regarding inboards and sterndrives with closed-loop freshwater cooling systems: Drain and change the coolant because, over time, coolant will lose its anti-corrosion properties.

    For the raw-water cooling circuit, if yours has a freshwater flush connector, use it. If not, close the intake seacock and disconnect the hose on the outlet side of the raw-water pump. Disconnect the cooling-water discharge hose from the exhaust manifold or riser. Next, run fresh water into the discharge hose to back-flush raw-water passages and rinse out salt deposits. Make sure all the water drains out.

    To prevent corrosion and freezing from exposed metal or any residual water in the engine block of a raw-water-cooled engine or the heat exchanger of a fresh-water-cooled engine, take the following general steps, using your service manual as the final guide. Reconnect the water-pump outlet hose. Pour a 50/50 mix of propylene glycol antifreeze into the disconnected discharge hose until the hose is full. Allow the mixture to remain inside the block for several minutes. Open all raw-water drain plugs and drain the engine. This treatment leaves behind a layer of corrosion protection on the internal surfaces and keeps water that might be left inside the engine from freezing.

    Remove the raw-water pump’s impeller. Antifreeze swells some rubbers, so rinse the extracted impeller as a precaution. Some boaters grease the impeller and reinstall it. This is fine, but I like to leave it out until spring so the vanes don’t take a set.

    Lubrication
    Engine oil, drive gear lube and transmission fluid should be drained and refilled. This is vitally important, because if there is water or other contaminants present, they must be flushed out. Any water that remains in the gear case, for example, will sit on steel shafts and bearings over the winter, coating them with rust. Your first trip out of port in the spring would likely give you a nasty and expensive surprise.

    You’ll want to run the engine to warm the lubricants before draining, making them flow easier and also getting any contaminants into suspension so that they drain. Be sure to change the oil filter when you change the oil. You should also change the fuel filter. If your engine lacks a water-separating fuel filter, now is the perfect opportunity to install one.

    Fogging
    Call it “fogging,” “smoking” or “pickling,” the process of coating your engine’s internals with oil is an important winterizing task. While there are those who maintain that one need not fog a marine engine that has had stabilized fuel run through it, I believe in a proper fogging job. The engine should be “fogged” with a storage lubricant after it has been run awhile on the fuel mixture. This protects the bearings, seals and rotating surfaces with a thin film of protective lubricant, which helps keep rust and corrosion away. This can be done with the engine running; the fogging oil is squirted into the carburetors or fuel-injection system air intakes in such a way that it “floods” the engine with oil until it begins to smoke heavily. Continue fogging it until it stalls. Be very careful to not lose the little red straw on the spray bottle. An engine that ingests this hard plastic can sustain damage.

    You can also apply fogging oil with the engine shut down, if you like, and if you have had stabilized fuel run through the engine. The spark plugs are removed and the oil is sprayed into each cylinder in turn. The flywheel is rotated manually or the kill-switch lanyard is pulled and the key switch energized to turn the engine over without allowing it to start. This helps to distribute the fogging oil throughout.

    Winterization is a methodical process that keeps DIY boaters in better touch with their engines and their systems.


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    10 winterizing details that may haunt you later.


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