Boat Dewinterizing Guide

8 Steps to Get Your Boat Ready for Spring

When the weather starts to warm up, our minds turn to the water. We’re ready to get the boat back out to enjoy the breeze and the sunny skies. But before the new season’s adventures can begin, we need to dewinterize our boats. If you want to tackle the project yourself, you can use this guide to walk you through the process, step-by-step. While every boat is different, and you’ll want to check your owner’s manual for any special instructions, the following steps are standard to most boats.

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Clean Your Boat, Cover, and Bimini Top

Get a fresh start by giving your boat a spring cleaning. Check for any fungus that may have grown while the boat was in storage. If you encounter any mold or mildew, you’ll want to scrub it out thoroughly and ensure you eliminate any spores that may cause problems later. A quality, breathable boat cover will prevent mold and mildew from growing, so you may want to consider purchasing one if your current cover didn’t do the job. Don’t forget to clean your boat cover and your Bimini Top as well.

Test the Battery

To avoid getting stuck with a dead battery, test the charge to make sure you’re good to go. First, fill the battery with fresh water (distilled is best). Then use a battery tester to check the charge. If it doesn’t read low, clean any rust and dirt from the terminals with a wire brush. Lithium grease can help prevent corrosion, so you may want to apply some to the posts at this point. If the battery is weak, go ahead and replace it.

Change the Engine Oil and Replace the Oil Filter

If you didn’t change your oil before storing your boat for the winter, you’ll want to do that now — and be sure the level is where it should be. Also replace the oil filter if that wasn’t done before storing. Additionally, it’s also a good idea to change your gear lube and check the power steering fluid levels.

Inspect Lines, Hoses, and Connection Clamps

Freezing temperatures can damage lines and hoses, causing them to dry out and crack. And connection clamps can loosen during weather changes, as they shrink and expand. Check all lines and hoses to make sure there are no cracks, and check the clamps to ensure all connections are tight. If anything is dried out or shows signs of deterioration, replace it.

Fill the Cooling System

If you left your cooling system with water and antifreeze in it prior to storing your boat, flush it out and then refill it. If you emptied the cooling system when you stored the boat, you don’t need to do anything else to it, other than refilling it.

Check the Distributor, Plugs, Carburetor, and Belts

Corrosion can affect a variety of parts, including the distributor and carburetor, so you’ll want to inspect these parts and make sure they haven’t been damaged. Also check your spark plugs and tighten them if needed. If your boat was winterized professionally, there may be a plastic bag over your carburetor — if so, go ahead and remove it now. Finally, check the belts for wear. Press down gently on each belt to see if it slackens. If a belt is gives way or is visibly loose, it needs to be replaced. Black particles around the pulley or machinery also indicates that a belt should be replaced.

Inspect the Safety Gear

Safety equipment expires, so check that it’s still in date. Also look for any damage that may have occurred to the safety equipment while in storage. Make sure you have a sufficient number of life jackets, and test your signaling equipment. Be sure you have all your paperwork in order as well.

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Start the Engine

At this point, you can start the engine. Walk around the boat and check for any leaks that need to be fixed, and make sure your gauges are all indicating the appropriate levels.

Test the Electrical Equipment

Even the electrical parts can deteriorate while your boat is in storage. To avoid being surprised out on the water, you’ll need to test all the electronics on the boat, including lights. If everything seems to be working properly, switch off the battery and make sure the automatic bilge pump float switch works.

You’re Ready to Go!

Although the dewinterizing process takes time, it’s not difficult. And being diligent with the process can save you from having to make costly repairs later in the season. Many boat owners actually enjoy the dewinterizing process since it gives them a chance to get reacquainted with the boat before the season officially begins.

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