October 27, 2014

Winterizing your boat: tips for safely storing your watercraft this winter

winterizing your boat

Winterization and Storage

Unfortunately, for most of us in Canada, we’re nearing the end of boating season. Gone are the days of weekends on the lake, sailing the coast or casting and trolling at sundown. Read our tips for winterizing your boat this winter.

Winterizing your boat starts with research 

Not sure where to start? We recommend beginning the process by flipping through the owner’s manual for your boat. The manufacturer is sure to have detailed recommendations on how to winterize your boat that are specific to the make and model of your craft. If this is your first time winterizing a boat on your own, there is no doubt that you’ll have a few questions throughout the process. Talk to a friend who’s been through the process and search for advice online for your type of boat/engine set-up. You can also look to your local marine dealer to help you by winterizing your boat for you. If you’re going to do it yourself, start by making a checklist of exactly what you’ll need and get things organized from the start!

Get scrubbing before the snow

Before you do anything, you’ll want to start with a bucket of warm water, a rag and a good cleaner. We recommend an environmentally friendly marine detergent or algae remover such as one of these.

Start by cleaning the hull of your craft. After you’re done there, empty any excess water from the bilge and give it a good scrub as well. You’ll want to also give your boat a scrub at the end of the winterization process to clean off any excess grease, oil or lubrication that’s used during the process.  Although not a glamorous job, we promise you’ll be thankful come springtime when you pull the cover off your boat and you’re greeted with a shiny boat ready to hit the water!

Winterizing your engine

The winterization process you’ll need to follow depends on whether your boat is equipped with a Stern drive, Inboard or Outboard engine. Depending what your boat is equipped with will change how you tackle winterizing your engine. Handy resources like this or this can help you understand the step-by-step process.

Fuel up your boat for the winter

This may seem odd, but you’ll want to fill the tank before putting your boat away in storage. Fill your fuel tank to avoid a build up of condensation over the winter months and add a fuel stabilizer by following the instructions on the product. It’s also important to change the fuel filter.

Pay attention to your boat’s bilge

The next step is ensuring that the bilge in your boat is emptied and cleaned. Use a stiff brush to scrub the bilge with hot water and soap and be sure to spray it with a moisture displacing lubricant. You’ll want to add antifreeze to prevent any water from freezing over the winter.

Drain and pump before the winter

You’ll want to drain the fresh water system and the hot water heater of your boat before putting it away for storage. You’ll also want to pump out the holding tank of your boat at an approved facility. Read this for details on how to do both!

Consider the interior

One of the last things you’ll want to do when winterizing your boat is clean and check over the interior of your boat. This means removing everything from inside and giving it a good clean. It’s a good idea to consider installing a dehumidifier to keep your boat dry and mildew free throughout the winter months.

Off-Season boat maintenance

If you’ve had little issues with a sputtering motor or your bilge pump not working this past season, get repairs done now! With it being the off-season, you won’t be competing with other boaters and chances are you’ll have the issue resolved much faster than if you were to take it in before long weekend in the summer. By taking care of anything that needs to be repaired, replaced or upgraded, you’ll have everything running smoothly to make spring start up problems minimal or hopefully non-existent.


As you work through these steps, remember that you have two options for storing your boat; inside or outside. A climate controlled, dry boat storage area is a great option – but is more costly and you’ll need to ensure you choose a reputable facility that’s high and dry, and free of vermin. Your other option is to store outdoors by shrink-wrapping your boat. Shrink wrapping services are cost-effective and readily available through your local marine dealer. Just keep in mind that the lower portion of your hull will be exposed to the elements (possibly increasing the change of oxidization and colour fade on fiberglass boats) and shrink-wrap creates environmental waste when the wrap is removed in the spring.

Do you have any other tips for winterizing your boat? When do you plan to winterize your boat?


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