Winterizing your outboards to keep things running

Published 6:49pm Thursday, December 6, 2012

Being winterized is something my boat has never experienced.

Its owner loves to fish too much in the winter. But most folks do let their boat rest in the winter months. And a little precaution can be well worth your efforts.

I asked Charlie Bramlett, a local boat repair man with many years of experience for some tips on what to do to keep your outboard safe in the cold of winter.

The thing he probably stressed the most was putting ethanol Stabil in your gas tanks. Put in the recommended amount according to the label, then run your motor a few minutes to be sure any gas not Stabil treated is out of your fuel lines and carburetors. Never run your engine out of water unless you have a motor flusher and a turned on water hose properly attached to your water intake. Your water pump can burn out very quickly without water.

The next step is one I had not heard of until now. He sprays fogging oil into the carbs or intake while the engine is running until the engine “chokes down.” This coats and protects the cylinders and carburetors from corrosion. You may or may not need a new set of spark plugs when you take your boat out of storage after using fogging oil, but it’s a step Bramlett recommends.

Check your lower unit oil to see if it has any signs of water. The oil will look milky white if it has water. If so, drain and replace the lower unit oil to prevent damage from freezing. It’s a good idea to change it anyway and now is as good a time as any.

Bramlett also said to leave your engine trimmed down to prevent water from collecting in the exhaust outlet around your prop. Water that stands and freezes in the lower unit can cause some real damage. While you are there, remove the prop and check to see if there is any fishing line etc. around the hub. This can cause damage to seals and end up costing you.

Disconnecting your batteries is a good idea too. Critters can chew wires and cause a short, electrical equipment can accidentally get left on, and children may try to crank you engine for you.

If you have an OMC engine with a VRO pump, unhook the line from VRO pump to prevent oil from seeping into your carburetors and gumming them up.

Bramlett said that inboards are a whole different creature and it’s safest to take it to someone who knows what they are doing to winterize them.

These steps are an “ounce of prevention.” It’s easy to put things like this off, but the sooner the better if you plan on storing your boat. And if you are considering the few bucks you can save by not winterizing your boat, just go to a dealership and check the prices of a new engine, or ask their hourly rates for service, it may put things into right perspective.

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