Category Archives: winterize boat

Maintenance Tips for Boaters Part 2: Seasonal De-Winterizing

This is a two-part boat maintenance series. Part 1 focuses on year-round boaters in warmer climates while Part 2 focuses on seasonal boaters getting ready to de-winterize and summer-ize their crafts.

For seasonal boaters up north, Spring is the perfect time to get your boat ready for summer. So, what can you do to ensure your boat is heathy for the season ahead?

For expert advice, we spoke to Liquid Fire Fishing Team Captain Mark Henderson – our TACO Marine Strategic Product Category Manager who winterizes and de-winterizes his SeaVee 390Z Center Console with Mercury 350 quad outboard engines every year.


If possible, it’s always best to completely fill your fuel tanks with non-ethanol fuel, especially when storing the boat for a several-month period of time, said Henderson. This will minimize opportunity for condensation buildup on the inside of the tanks. Ethanol-based fuel can cause numerous problems with the performance of your outboard motor.

After filling the tanks, install your favorite fuel stabilizing product, such as Sta-Bill, Starbrite, Mercury, Yamaha, etc. This will help with the phase separation in fuel. For more information about fuel stabilizers, we recommend reading “Fuel Stabilizers: Tested by BoatingLAB” in BOATING magazine.

“When using fuel stabilizer, make sure you use the proper ratio to the amount of fuel in your tanks,” said Henderson. “This will allow the product to work efficiently.”


Prior to re-launching your boat, Henderson said it’s a good idea to have your service center lubricate cables in the steering system, engines and throttles. He also recommends checking the connections between the steering system and engine and ensuring all nuts and bolts are greased.

“Paying attention to these small things keeps you from having big issues when you put the boat in the water,” he said.

Henderson encourages boaters to check steering systems for signs of corrosion, rust, leaks, pools of oil or hydraulic fluid and whether all steering components are tight and securely in place.

Additionally, Henderson said re-lubricating engine covers, seals, gaskets and other components throughout the boat is always a must during de-winterization.

“If they’re not lubricated, those seals and gaskets will stick to the surface and when you take them off, it’ll pull the surface off and you’ll have a whole new set of problems right there,” he said.


Prior to setting up for winter, Henderson said it’s best to change the lower-unit engine oil. However, if you didn’t change the oil prior to winter, then during de-winterization is your next best option.


While changing the lower-unit oil, Henderson said to check for excessive amounts of metal or water to ensure a seal inside the motor hasn’t broken. A sign of a broken seal may also be milky-looking lower-unit oil.

After replacing the lower-unit oil, Henderson said to check whether outboard motors are secured tightly to the transom bracket or integrated transom.

Lastly, Henderson said it’s always a good idea to run fresh water through the engines to ensure everything is working properly.

“You can do this stuff in your driveway at home,” he said. “Put it on a hose with muffs around the lower unit and allow the engines to start. Make sure the water pumps operate and that water is coming through the hole in the side of the engine.”


Depending on where you store your boat during winter, you may need to re-clean the deck. Henderson said to spray fresh water in places you wouldn’t normally, which helps remove any dirt, debris and remaining salt deposits.

When cleaning the deck, Henderson said to avoid using abrasive chemicals, such as bleach, which may damage the gel coat. Instead, he said to look for gelcoat-safe cleaning products that contain wax, which may also help buff the deck.

“There’s nothing like a little bit of elbow grease to keep your deck clean,” he said.

If possible, Henderson recommends using a tarp or boat cover after cleaning the boat before it goes into storage. This will help eliminate a lot of future cleaning when you’re ready to put it back in for the season.


Throughout winter, keeping your boat batteries charged is important, said Henderson. If your boat doesn’t have an onboard battery charging system that can stay plugged in throughout the storage period, you may want to consider purchasing a good charger that won’t allow your batteries to be overcharged. If you do this, your batteries will last much longer and keep your costs down from having to replace the batteries too often.

“Once you start getting down below 12 volts, it can become a real issue,” he said.

When starting the boat for the first time after winter, Henderson said it’s wise to run the engine and batteries while the boat is trailered for several minutes to check for alarms and listen for any problems.

“Make sure you check all of your operating systems on the boat, so when you get to the ramp, you don’t have any delays or delay other boaters,” he added.

For more information on how you can improve your boat’s health, check out “Maintenance Tips for Boaters Part 1: Year-Round” and subscribe to this blog.

Time to winterize your boat or are you still fishing?

If you are up North and starting the process of winterizing your boat, don’t forget to pull off the prop and inspect it. Starting out the spring with a poor functioning engine caused by unforeseen fishing line wound around the prop is less than an ideal start to the boating season. If you live in the South and continue to sport fish, every time is a good time to check the prop for tangled fishing line. This short video clip from Ship Shape TV shows a quick and easy way to remove fishing line and inspect the prop.

Winter ice and snow storm Jonas causing many issues for boaters!

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Winter Storm Jonas: Snowfall rates of 1 to 3 inches per hour in Washington, D.C. and New York City areas. The combination of winter storm strong winds and heavy snow will continue to create life-threatening whiteout conditions for anyone attempting to travel this weekend, as well as wide-spread record coastal flooding.

Winter storm Jonas and your boatCheck your boat after it’s safe to travel again. You might inspect your boat for these three potential issues: 1. Possible 50 to 70mph winds could blow off or whip snow up under a boat’s protective coverings, 2. Accumulation of ice and snow creates weight issues for boat wraps and coverings, 3. Coastal flooding from storm surges combined with a full moon this weekend will make tides higher than usual.Jonas Storm snow and ice on a boat Snow-Boat


Dealing with Ethanol Blended Fuels when Winterizing Your Boat

There is potential engine damage from the ethanol blend in your boat’s gasoline tank when winterizing your boat for the season! 

Add stabilizer or empty your gas tank during storageWhen  gasoline containing ethanol is stored for just three months, it can potentially damage marine engines.  Ethanol is present in most  fuels, and when your boat sits for more than 90 days, “phase separation” of the ethanol and gasoline occurs. According to Fuel Testers, “Phase separation occurs in E10 gas when only 3.8 teaspoons of water per gallon of fuel is absorbed. Moisture from humid air can easily be absorbed into E10 fuel.”  This leaves a corrosive water-soaked ethanol mixture at the bottom of the gas tank. Ethanol is also a solvent, degreaser, cleanser and antifreeze – and absorbs 50 times more water than non-alchohol gas.

According to a BoatU.S. survey; “Half of the respondents reported that they had to replace or repair their boat engine or fuel system parts due to suspected ethanol-related damage.” The average cost for those repairs was $1,000.

90-DaysThe nitty-gritty: Ethanol alcohol fuel blends have a shelf life of about 90-100 days under ideal environmental conditions. Gasoline without ethanol has a shelf life of many years, where as the shelf life of E10 is lower due to ethanol’s ability to attract and absorb water. Petroleum does not blend with water, that is why it floats on the surface when there is a spill. Alcohol by nature attracts, absorbs and blends with water – and it’s those water absorbing properties that make ethanol gas most problematic and difficult to manage. Engines that have a vented fuel system in humid regions of the country have the greatest risk for E10 water contamination.

Common symptoms of excess water in your gas: Inability to start the engine, stalling, hesitation, vapor lock or fuel starvation. Additionally you might find premature rusting and corrosion of engine parts.

Image courtesy of Quick-Check.

Here’s a few things you can do: 1. Put a drop of food coloring in a clear bottle of your fuel. If water is present the drop of food coloring will dissolve and turn the fuel the same color as the food coloring. In pure gasoline, the drop goes to the bottom and rolls around as little globules. If you want the comfort of a more calibrated test, there is a product called Quick-Check, it’s an indicator solutions to confirm if your tank is ethanol and water free, (see image above).   2. Install a water separator filter of 10-12 microns and check and replace the filter often.  3. The best method is to just remove and discard the fuel, (this could be expensive), and if you have less than a 1/2 tank of gas remaining we suggest you fill up with very high-octane and quickly run the gas through the tank. When empty make sure the tank walls are clean. 4. Use gas additives with caution. Yes, there are “water removal” additives on the market, but most contain strong solvents and alcohol. Fuel-Testers recommends using a petroleum-based fuel stabilizer, such as Gas Shok, Stabil or Startron.

Ethanol boat fuelFor E10 fuel remaining in small portable gas tanks (and not pre-mixed with 2-stroke engine oil – and if it’s the right octane for your car) – just pour it into your car’s gas tank so it’s used up quickly. Store your boat’s gas tanks either full with non-ethanol gas, a petroleum-based stabilizer when ethanol is present, or drain the tanks completely.

What is your experience with E10 fuel? Please comment below, we want to know …