Page Illustration

How to Prepare Your Boat for the Cold Months

Thursday, 21 September 2023

Canada’s stunning waterways and lakes offer fantastic boating opportunities during the warm months. Now that the days are getting shorter and the weather is getting colder, it’s time to protect your pleasure craft from the impending winter. Properly winterizing your boat is crucial to preventing damage and ensuring it's ready for action when the spring thaw arrives. In this guide, we'll walk you through the essential steps to prepare your boat for the cold months in Canada.

1. Inspect and Clean

Your first order of business involves thoroughly inspecting the interior and exterior of your boat for damage. This includes cracks, leaks, or any loose fittings. Doing this now will avoid any further damage over the winter and will make your life much easier when it’s time to take your boat back out. If you recently incurred damage to your boat, it’s also recommended you consult your boat insurance to see if you can file a claim.

You will then want to give it a deep cleaning. Make sure any dirt, salt, and debris are removed to prevent stains and corrosion from developing when you put your boat into storage. Once you’ve finished cleaning, dry the interior thoroughly, including the cabins and storage compartments.

2. Engine and Fuel System

Similar to your car, a healthy engine and fuel system are key to your boat's performance and require special care before putting it away for the winter. Be sure to follow these steps:

  • Change oil and filter. Fresh oil will protect your boat’s engine while it is not in use.
  • You will then need to add a fuel stabilizer to the gas tank. Consult the manufacturer's instructions on how to do this. Then, run the engine to ensure the stabilized fuel circulates throughout the system.
  • Fog the engine by spraying fogging oil into the carburetor or intake. This will protect the internal engine components from corrosion while it’s not in use.
  • Drain the engine cooling system and replace the coolant with antifreeze that is specifically designed for boat engines to prevent freezing.

3. Fuel Tank

You should then either completely empty or top up your boat’s fuel tank. Any air that travels in or out of the tank can lead to moisture developing inside, which will mix with the fuel and make it useless. Here’s how you can prevent that:

  • If possible, run the engine until the fuel level is low or empty. This is typically harder to do, but this way, you can fill it completely with new gas come spring.
  • You could also fill it up so there is no space for air to travel in or out of the tank. This is the easier method to follow.
  • Alternatively, you can remove the fuel tank and store it separately in a cool, dry place.

Whichever method you choose, adequately seal your fuel tank to prevent moisture and contaminants from entering during winter storage.

4. Battery Care

Cold temperatures can be rather tough on boat batteries, so taking the following steps will protect them from damage and keep them in good condition:

  • Remove the boat's batteries and store them in a cool, dry location. A secure place indoors is recommended as this will prevent damage from extreme cold and other unfavourable weather conditions.
  • It’s a good idea to charge the batteries from time to time so that they maintain their charge level. Be careful not to overcharge them, though.
  • Give the terminals on the battery a good clean, and then apply a corrosion inhibitor. Corrosion build-up can prevent the batteries from starting and give you more tasks to take care of in the spring.

5. Winterize Plumbing and Water Systems

While your boat is made to enjoy life on the water, any water that remains in its plumbing and systems can lead to serious issues. These tips will help avoid any headaches:

  • Drain all water from the plumbing system, including the freshwater system, toilets, and bilge pump.
  • Non-toxic antifreeze designed for boats is recommended to prevent freezing in the freshwater system.
  • Finally, take out any water filters and heaters so that the cold conditions do not cause any damage.

6. Electronics and Wiring

If your boat is decked out with electronics and gadgets, you should definitely remove them while the boat is not in use - especially if it is being stored outdoors. This involves:

  • Removing fish finders, GPS units, radios, and any other valuable equipment. Consider taking them home and storing them in a dry, temperature-controlled location.
  • It’s also not a bad idea to inspect all electrical connections and wiring for damage. If possible, repair or replace any areas that require tending to save yourself some stress in the future.

7. Interior Preparations

While the exterior and inner workings of your boat take priority, it’s also important to take care of the inside of it before storing it. This includes:

  • Removing valuables to prevent theft. If any items need to stay on your boat, keep a log of what remains on it. This way, if anything is stolen while your boat is in storage, you can file a claim to let your boat insurance provider know what is missing.
  • You should also remove any perishable items so they do not spoil onboard and open cabinets and drawers to lower the risk of mildew or mould from developing

8. Canvas and Covers

Ensuring you adequately cover your boat is a big step to take when prepping it for storage. Make sure you follow these steps when doing so:

  • Clean and thoroughly dry canvas covers, bimini tops, sails, and any other fabrics.
  • Use a high-quality cover on the boat that is designed for winter protection. Secure it so that snow or ice cannot accumulate on your boat.

9. Secure the Boat

Finding the right place to store your boat is one of the most important steps to take. Here are a few things to consider:

  • If possible, an indoor facility that is climate-controlled is ideal. This will ensure it is protected from the weather and any damage.
  • If storing it outdoors is your only option, you will want to block the boat up on sturdy supports. Cover it securely to shield it from extreme winter conditions.
  • Review your boat insurance policy to confirm what coverage you will have on your boat while it is being stored. Just because it’s not on the water, your boat can still be damaged or vandalized.

10. Regular Inspections and Documentation

It’s always wise to document the steps you’ve taken to winterize a boat and check on it periodically throughout the winter. This includes:

  • Making note of your process and any maintenance or repairs you’ve completed.
  • Inspecting the boat cover to ensure it remains securely in place.
  • Looking for any signs of damage or moisture inside the boat. Take care of these as soon as possible.

Following the proper steps to winterize a boat might be a bit of a process, but it is well worth it when it comes time to take your boat out in the summer. Not only will it make life easier, but it will also protect your pleasurecraft from any damage during the cold months. For added coverage and peace of mind, contact a BIG broker to discuss your boat insurance options or request a quote online today.

By: Devon Gribble