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How To Properly Store Your Outboard-Powered Boat Over The Winter

Boaters usually don't look forward to winter because that means the end to their warm weather fun on the water. However, when it comes time to put your boat away for the winter, you should understand what steps to take to prepare it for storage. Even small boats with outboard motors require that you take care of several things before putting them away. It's well worth taking the time to do it right, or you may be sorely disappointed when you are ready to take it out on the water in the spring if your motor doesn't start or metal parts are rusting. Here is what needs to be done to properly get a boat ready for storage:

Cover your boat

Your boat should always be covered completely in storage to keep out moisture and to prevent animals from taking shelter during the coldest periods. Use a cover made for your boat, if possible, because they tend to fit more exactly. If your boat is going to be stored in an enclosed area such as a self storage center, find a cover that can "breathe" to protect your boat's seats and other soft components from building up excessive mildew. Regardless of cover type, make sure that all ropes and lines are pulled tight and appropriately knotted to prevent the cover from falling off during high winds.

Remove electronics

If your boat has a fish finder, radio, GPS unit, or any other electronic component, remove those items from the boat, and store them in a safe location at home. Leaving these items on a boat stored over the winter can be risky due to potential theft. Also, remove any batteries from the boat, especially lead-acid batteries; these can burst in freezing temperatures, and they also require a consistent charge to keep them from failing. To keep your batteries in tip-top condition over the winter, either charge them a few days each month with a standard battery charger, or use a float charger that can be left attached at all times.

Drain and remove the fuel tank

After the outboard motor has been flushed thoroughly, the fuel tank should be emptied completely. Use a siphon to remove all fuel from the tank, or expend it by running the engine until it is all gone. If your tank is readily removable from the boat, it's best to take it out completely; while you're at it, remove rubber fuel lines to keep them from cracking when the temperature drops. Keep your boat's fuel tank stored in a dry location with the cap tightly screwed on to prevent water from intruding. Seal up fuel line nozzles with petroleum jelly, as well, to keep out water. 

Clean the boat

Thoroughly cleaning your boat before putting it away for the winter will protect the hull, motor and other components. Wash your hull with a boat-safe detergent and water, and wipe the exterior of all metal components, including the outboard motor, with a cloth and penetrating oil. The thin layer of oil will protect these surfaces from rust and corrosion.

Also, be sure to remove trash from your boat; check all compartments and storage areas for anything that should be discarded. If your boat has a live well, flush it with fresh water from a garden hose. Adding a teaspoon of household bleach to the well before flushing will help eliminate any bacterial or fungal growth that may cause odors. 

Flush the motor

Ideally, you should flush your outboard engine following manufacturer's directions each time you bring your boat back in from the water. However, when you are ready to put your boat in storage  for the winter, you need to give it one last extended flush to remove any debris inside the motor's cooling system. If you operate your boat in salt water, this becomes a vitally important step to take; you don't want residual salt to create rust and corrosion inside the motor.