Winterize boat RBFF

10 Tips for Winterizing Your Boat

The holiday season is most certainly here, as temperatures are plummeting across the country (even in the “bastion of boating” states in the South and West), and if you haven’t already winterized your boat, you’d better get to it! It’s a simple but essential part of boat ownership that may affect your boat’s performance, and will likely save you time, effort and money come spring. Of course, making sure your boat is protected by reevaluating your insurance coverage each year is a good idea. In addition, regardless of whether you’re new to boating or a seasoned pro, starting with a good checklist is key.

Consider these 10 tips to successfully winterize your boat:

  • Flush the engine with fresh water. For inboard motors or stern drives, do a final flush with anti-freeze (not typically necessary for outboards).
  • Fill the tank with gas (less space limits the possibility of condensation, and condensation may lead to oxidation and corrosion, which could lead to larger issues), and add some fuel stabilizer. Run the motor for five minutes to mix the stabilizer. Then, shut off the fuel valve (for outboards, simply disconnect the fuel hose), and run the remaining fuel out of the engine.
  • Apply fogging oil on the carburetor while it is warm to the touch. Also, remove spark plugs and spray fogging oil through the spark plug holes inside spark plug cylinders.

  • Replace your fuel filter, and wipe any excess grease and grime off the engine.
  • Once you pull the boat out of the water, hand-wash the hull, and apply a wax coat on fiberglass hulls (to protect against winter grime); doing this by hand also allows you to inspect for any imperfections, dings or cracks that need immediate attention (before the freeze).
  • Completely drain your bilge.
  • Visually inspect your propeller.
  • Clean and dry the interior of your boat to remove all grit and debris. You may also consider doing this again in the spring to prepare your boat for the water. For boats with vinyl seats, treat the vinyl with a protectant.
  • Remove your battery and other electronics (like sonar), and store them somewhere dry and freeze-protected.
  • Cover your boat with a tarp and keep it sealed. It’s important that the inside is as dry as possible before you cover it. Leave one or two small vents to prevent condensation and moisture buildup.

Remember to consult your owner’s manual for manufacturer’s recommendations for additional boat winterizing tips.

Stephanie Vatalaro, Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation
Stephanie Vatalaro is the Director of Communications for the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of boating and fishing participation and aquatic resource stewardship. is the RBFF's key digital destination for individuals to learn, plan and equip for a day on the water.