10 Boat Maintenance Tips and Checks For the Winter Season

What to do before putting boat in storage for winter season

The warm boating weather and season eventually comes to an end every year. How you prepare your boat for colder weather can help you avoid unnecessary repairs. Winter boat maintenance also enables you to get back on the water faster when the temperatures get warm again.

Whether you use your boat during the winter or not, your watercraft needs specific attention to help it handle colder temperatures and winter weather. Follow these ten tips and checks to prepare your boat for the winter season!

1. Clean It Thoroughly

Before storing or using your boat through the winter, give it a thorough cleaning. Washing away spring, summer, and fall use will help protect your boat through the winter. A clean boat is also easier to prepare for the water again when winter is over.

To clean your boat thoroughly, use the right products and tools to ensure a quality cleaning job! Make sure to:

  • Clean all surfaces, including seats, hardware, trim, topsides, and the bottom side
  • Wash windscreens, sprayhoods, or bimini tops
  • Scrub or rinse onboard equipment, like life jackets, ropes, or other floatation safety devices
  • Allow everything to dry before storing

As you clean every surface, inspect your boat for blisters, cracks, holes, or other damage. Before completing your cleaning tasks, repair blemishes that could become more significant problems before taking the boat on the water again. 

2. Inspect the Propeller

Have you looked at the propeller lately? Preparing for winter is an excellent time to inspect it. 

Check for dings or bends in the propeller blades. If you see any missing pieces or minor damage, use the winter months to repair or replace the propeller. 

3. Check the Fuel System

Winter prep is an ideal time to check the fuel system for corrosion or leaks. Replace the fuel filter and inspect vent fittings, the vent hose, and clamps.

If any of these parts show deterioration or warping, it's time to replace them. For a fuel system with leaks, have a mechanic repair and double-check the system to eliminate this issue before your next boating trip. 

4. Flush the Cooling System

Use fresh, clean water to flush the boat's cooling system. This helps remove any corrosion or salt residue from the intake of lake water or seawater into the cooling system during regular use. 

You can flush salt from your engine with our De Salt solution and our Engine Flush Kit

Be sure to check the anti-freeze levels and add more if levels are low. If your boat runs with an outboard motor, drain all water from the engine before storing your boat for the winter. 

5. Change the Oil

It's tempting to save this task before your boat's first use in the spring, but you'll regret putting it off when you're anxious to get your boat back on the water. 

Letting old oil sit in your engine through the winter can damage your engine and clog the system. Before changing the oil and filter, run the engine for a few minutes. A warm engine makes it easier to drain the existing oil and flush out any sediment in the lines. 

Replace the oil with the right type for your boat's engine to complete this critical boat care and maintenance task. 

6. Inspect the Anchor

Don't forget the anchor! It can seem like this piece of equipment lasts forever, but it's a good idea to check it before putting your boat in storage for the winter. 

The anchor itself can last longer than the attached components, like the chain/rode and windlass. Take a close look at these mechanisms. Check for rust, corrosion, or fraying on the rope. 

A rusty chain can make it difficult to drop or retract your anchor. If the rope has fraying, you could drop the anchor and watch the rope break with your anchor underwater. When noticing rust or fraying, it's time to replace the chain or rope parts of the anchor mechanism.

7. Check the Bilge Pump

The bilge pump could save your life if your boat ever takes on water. We hope you've never needed to use it, but it's smart to make sure it's always in working condition—just in case you need it. 

When checking the bilge:

  • Confirm that the battery has power. Turn the switch on and off to test the battery. 
  • Turn the impeller by hand. Make sure the power is off! If it moves freely, that's a good sign.
  • Check the float switch. Debris in the bilge can prevent it from working correctly.
  • Inspect the discharger hose. Any blockage in the hose could prevent the bilge from pumping water out of your boat. 

Sometimes cleaning out the hose, removing debris, and replacing the battery is all it takes to keep the bilge pump running smoothly. If none of these efforts help, it might be time to replace the pump. 

Make sure your bilge is clean before you put away the boat.  Bilge Cleaner

8. Lubricate and Protect

With a clean, dry boat, it's time to lubricate and protect the smaller things that are critical to prolonging the life of your watercraft! 

Apply moisture-displacing lubricant to any moving metal parts. Cover latches, hinges, linkages, push-pull switches, ratchet mounts, and bow rollers. This step helps protect these critical parts from water damage and corrosion while in storage or on the water. 

9. Store Accessories

It's time to put away anything you keep on your boat that can be exposed to the winter element. Remove life jackets, ropes, sails, and electronics like GPS systems, VHF radios, or radar displays. Store these items in a dry, locked are to keep them safe through the winter and ready for use next season. 

10. Cover It

When you've completed every winter boat maintenance task, cover your boat for the winter. Use a weather-resistant covering or store your boat in a covered shed or dry dock. You will want to make sure your cover is propped up so you don't get pooling water or mess.  Our Boat Cover Poles coupled with our Boat Cover Straps are a great solution.

Never Skip Preventive Boat Maintenance

Get a jump start on your next spring boat outing by performing a thorough winter boat maintenance task list. Using the best quality cleaners, polishes, and tools helps keep your boat looking great and performing well!

Our Better Boat products are up to the task. Shop our whole range of products for boat care now.