If you live in a place where it rains throughout the Fall and Winter, and can’t take your bass boat out, it is a good idea to winterize it before you put it away for the season. Doing this will keep your boat from having issues the first time you start it in the spring when you are ready to take it out for the first time, and will make any repairs you might need less costly.
After you are finished winterizing it, you need to make sure you DON’T Use it unless you take all the necessary steps to get it ready, no matter how much sun you might see in the winter. If you think you can take it out one time, and not have to prep it, you are going to be in for a nasty headache. Once your boat is winterized, it is is best to leave it set until you are ready for the new season.
Here are 10 easy steps to get your boat ready to be put into storage, or covered in your yard for the winter. Once you are done with them, your boat will be winterized and ready to sit for a long period of time, with no use, and not have any issues come spring time.
1. Remove All The Gear
The very first thing you are going to want to do is take EVERYTHING that is not bolted down out of your boat and set it aside for cleaning. Here are some of the things that you may come across:
- Life Jackets: These retain water, so you are going to want to get them out and dry them off, and hang them up for the winter. Anywhere in your garage will work as long as they are going to be safe and dry.
- Oars: Take out both of your oars and stand them up in your garage for the winter.
- Fish Finder: It is a good idea to disconnect you fish finder panel, and put it some place safe where it wont get knocked around. Fish finders are expensive, and most all of them come with quick disconnects. You do not need to take the cable off that is attached to your boat.
- Rope: Any extra rope you have tucked away should come out, especially if you have used it on an anchor because it will cause mold or mildew.
- Anchor: Take your anchor out, inspect it and dry it off and put it up somewhere that it wont get dinged around during the winter.
- First Aid Kits and Flares: Any sort of medical kits, or safety kits should be take out so moisture doesn’t get in, and can be put up, or used around the house during the winter. Even though you have a cover on your boat, it doesnt mean moisture wont get in.
- Towels: If you have any extra rags or towels laying around, take them out and wash them up and store them away. If you don’t want to wash them in your washer, you can always take them to a laundry mat.
- Fishing Tackle: Remove all your tackle boxes, and tackle and put them up in your garage, or storage shed. This is a good time to put all your gear in order again, and you may get a chance to use it if the weather permits. Just because you cannot take your boat out, doesn’t mean you cant still go fishing. Once you winterize your boat, you are not going to want to be getting in and out of it for tackle.
- Batteries: Take any batteries you have out of the boat, and set them in your garage or some place safe. If you are worried about them going dead, or use them for something else, you can keep them on a trickle charger that costs around 50 bucks.
Even the smallest of things that sit in a rainy damp environment can become corroded or oxidized and wreak havoc on the interior of your boat. Rope and life jackets absorb water, so you don’t want anything sitting like that which can cause mold or mildew. If you already have mildew or mold on your boat carpet or interior, find a product that kills it, and clean it up before it gets in storage.
2. Check The Inside
Once you get everything out of your boat and stowed away for the winter, you are going to want to get inside and do a very thorough check for anything that might need attention before you put it away. Here are some things you want to look for:
- Rips and Tears and Cracks: Check for any rips or tears in your upholstery. Since all of your gear is out, it will be a much easier fix than when your boat is loaded for the year. Fixing any rips or tears early will save you from having to do a huge upholstery job in the long run. if it gets cold and there are tears, it will break down the foam padding and break off pieces of the seat material.
- Carpet Issues: Check your carpet for any rips or tears and replace it, or get it fixed. Most of the time your boat will be okay as long as you have snagged it on something. Make sure if you replace the carpet, you get marine rated and not your average indoor carpet.
- Fuel or Oil Stains: Look for any stains that may have leaked onto your upholstery or carpet from fuel or oil, and get them treated as much as you can. A bottle of spot remover will keep your interior looking great for years, and will be much easier to tackle with an empty boat.
- Broken Gauges or Wiring: Before you put your boat away, check all the wiring connections, gauges, and lights before you pull the batteries. Since your boat is empty, you will have a lot more room to work, and fixing anything electrical will save you lots of money. Don’t let moisture get into your wiring, or it will short something out.
- Broken Parts and Latches: Look for any screws, bolts, or latches that may have rattled loose while towing or driving your boat. Vibrations can really tear your boat up, so fix them as soon as you see them, or it will get a lot worse. One loose screw can turn into three loose screws extremely fast if you don’t take care of them.
- Mold: I hate the smell of mildew, and mold can actually cause you to be very ill, so when your boat is empty, always look for black spots, or the moldy mildew smell. There are lots of cleaners out there that will remove and clean this, and I think its a good idea to clean your carpets once a year anyway to keep it looking good. Everyone spills sodas or food, or fish parts on their boat, so keep your boat looking new as long as you can!
This is a very good time to really take a closer look at the inside of your boat for any issues that may have come up while unloading, fishing, or loading your boat. Even towing your boat over bumpy roads can loosen or strip things that you might not even notice until all of your gear is out. If you can afford to fix it, I would suggest doing it, but if you have to wait, at least make a list of everything you need to do before you take it out next year, and save up for the most needed repairs.
3. Walk The Hull
This step is VERY important because it is going to be the difference between your boat floating and sinking. When you hit something with your boat, or pull it up onto the trailer wrong, lots of things can happen to the hull. Take this time to do a thorough walk around, and look for these things:
- Cracks: Look for any cracks in your fiberglass and have them looked at right away. If you catch them early enough, it may not even require professional help, but always ask first. If you have an aluminum boat, ALWAYS get a crack checked out.
- Dents And Chips: Lets face it, every boat owner has hit something, it is inevitable, so look for any really bad dents or chips in the paint or fiberglass, and get them looked at if they are deep enough to worry you.
- Tearing: If you have a fiberglass boat, look for any tearing and get it looked at right away. Tearing is usually very easy to spot, and should be repaired asap.
- Fading: Look for any fading from the sun on you paint, and make sure nothing worse is happening underneath.
If you find anything that looks like it could have compromised the hull in anyway, please call your insurance company or take it to a dealer to have looked at. Issues like these, especially in the body of your boat will only get worse, and can lead to serious boating trouble when you do take it out again. Because winter can have warm days, things can expand and contract, which turns small problems into very serious problems.
4. Kick The Tires
Tires are what keep your boat on the road going from point A to point B, so take a very close look at your tires and make sure they are still in good shape. Look for these common items that mean you need to get your tires replaced:
- Cracks: Look for any cracking on the sidewall from the sun. If your boat sits in the sun all summer, cracking can occur and will leak air, or cause the tread to separate from the tire.
- Tearing And Wires: When tires get old, the tread will start to wear out and tear away from the tire. If you see any steel stick out from the “belt”, get your tire replaced because it can shred off causing an accident, or wrapping itself up around your axel.
- Tread depth: Look at how much tread is on the actual tire, and use a gauge to test how much you have left. If you have no tread on your tire left, it will be a good idea to replace your tire before it blows out.
- Bulges Or Ballooning: Look on the side wall of your tire for any bubbles or ballooning that may have occurred. If you see a perfect round bubble, it usually means there is a defect in the tire and you need to get it looked at or replaced.
If your tires look in good shape, make sure they are aired up before you put the boat away. Tires can be very expensive so you want to make sure the proper air pressure is in them, or they could go flat, and the rim could cut into your tire causing you to have to replace it. If you don’t check your tires often, you could have a blow out on the road and could possible cause an accident, so please make this a top priority.
5. Jack It Up
If you don’t have a jack, its a pretty good idea to go spend a few bucks on one that can lift up your boat trailer so you can check the axels. Jack up your boat and spin the tires and look for anything leaking. If you hear a grinding noise at all, it could be a sign of a warn out wheel bearing, and may need replacing, so you want to check and make sure the wheels spin freely.
6. Motor Prep
The motor prepping is one of the most important things to check because it is what keeps the boat moving. Do these simple things to get your motor ready for sitting all winter long:
- Fill the Tanks: Fill the tanks up as much as possible so that no moisture from the rain or ice gets into your gas tank causing firing issues.
- Add Stabilizer: Add fuel stabilizer so that your gas doesn’t turn into varnish by the end of winter. run the motor for a few minutes after adding stabilizer to it so all the gas lines are okay.
- Check The Oil: Make sure all oil is full and there is no room for moisture to get in.
- Check The Spark Plugs: It is a good idea to remove the spark plugs and spray fogging oil into the cylinders, but you will probably need to replace them after running the motor in the spring for the first time.
Doing these few things will make sure now moisture gets into your motor, and will make sure that nothing rusts when it rains. If your boat may see weather, it will be a good idea to make sure this stuff is done.
7. Check That Prop
Check the prop for any dings or gouges in it, and if there are, take it off, and see a boat dealer. Sometimes propellors can be fixed depending on what they are made of, and chips can be ground down. Having chips or dings in your prop can cause your boat to shudder horribly making it almost impossible to drive, and could cause damage to you and the boat.
8. Wash And Wax
Once you have cleaned the inside and checked the outside for any major problems, it is a good idea to give your boat a nice bath and wax job. Washing your boat off will get all the slime and dirt off of it, and will keep the paint looking fresh, while a wax job will keep your clear coat strong, and will help avoid any paint fading during its use.
9. Grease And Lubricate… EVERYTHING
Just like a car, your boat needs to be greased and lubed as well. There is a lot of moving parts on a boat, so while its emptied and the motor is being looked at, grease and lube anything that moves. This will keep things like hydraulics and steering smooth, and will keep the dirt out. It is recommended that you grease your wheels and possible even wheel bearings if you hear grinding.
10. Cover Up
Covering your boat for the winter is very important, so you need to make sure you buy the proper cover for your boat. There are a lot of local and online resources for this, but it is extremely important that it is a perfect snug fit. You don’t want high winds to loosen your boat cover allowing dirt, rain, or snow inside your boat. If you see something flapping in the wind, make sure you get it corrected fast.
Wheel covers are also a very good idea because even though it may be cold, there will be sunny days during the winter that will still eat away at your tires. Tire covers cost a lot less than brand new tires, and will keep your tires from cracking.
Winterizing your boat is a great idea if you are not going to use it for the winter, and usually takes about a day from start to finish depending on if you need extra repairs and your motivation. Checking everything doesnt take a very long time, but make sure you are paying close attention to detail, or you might overlook something that needs to get fixed, or replaced. This is the time to make sure your boat is ready for the next season and to make sure that anything happend during the season gets looked at, and taken care of. If you follow these simple steps, your boat will be ready for winter AND the next spring season when you take the cover off for your first fishing trip.