Winterize Your Boat

PA Fish & Boat Commission

Harrisburg, PA – Now that the recreational boating season is over and the cold weather is approaching, the PA Fish & Boat Commission is reminding boaters to take the time to properly winterize their boats. Boat winterization is essential to maintaining the life and longevity of a boat. Regardless of whether a boat is stored inside or outside, there are several important things that have to be done to prepare a boat for winter storage:

  • Fill the fuel tanks and add the appropriate amount of stabilizer. Run the engine long enough to get the treated gas into the fuel line and engine. Most fuel now contains ethanol and if your fuel is left untreated over the winter it will deteriorate and cause engine problems.
  • Flush the cooling system and drain all the water from inboard and I/O engines.
  • Fog the engine with oil to prevent rust. Check the spark plugs and replace them as necessary.
  • Replace the oil and oil filter on inboard and I/O engines. Be sure to dispose of the used oil at an authorized recycling center.
  • Change the lower unit gearcase lubricant on outboards and I/O engines. Even a little water trapped in the gearcase can cause damage, especially if allowed to freeze.
  • Check the props for nicks. Even slight damage can hinder performance and cause vibration, damaging other engine parts and the drive system. Some damaged props can be repaired by marine dealers for a fraction of the cost of a new one.
  • Store outboard engines in an upright position. Consider having the water pump impeller replaced every two or three years. The rubber legs can get stiff, reducing water circulation, or they may break off, eliminating coolant flow completely.
  • Spray a moisture displacing lubricant such as a silicone product onto electrical terminals and the fuse panel. Read the label to make sure the spray is safe for use on electrical components.
  • Inspect steering systems, including tiller steering friction fittings on outboard engines.
  • Clean the backfire flame arrester on inboard and I/O engines with carburetor cleaner.
  • Clean boats and cover when stored, even if boat will be indoors. Allow for air circulation under the cover to prevent mildew.
  • Drain water from the bilges and leave the transom drain plug out.
  • Hang life jackets up where they can air out.
  • Examine trailer tires and grease the wheel bearings, replacing them as necessary. Check bulbs and electrical contacts on the plugs as well as sockets where the bulbs screw in.
  • Check the owner’s manual for instructions that are particular to your own boat, engine and trailer.

Quality maintenance will increase the life span of your boat and investment. Proper winterization will keep your boat in top operating condition and make the transition from winter storage to an enjoyable summer on the water much easier and less expensive.

The mission of the Fish and Boat Commission is to protect, conserve, and enhance the Commonwealth’s aquatic resources and provide fishing and boating opportunities. For more information about fishing and boating in Pennsylvania, please visit our website at

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