Winter is a time when we all need to pay special attention to our outboards and to our boats.
Most folks usually think little about maintenance to the boat motor. Guys, that big boat motor, if left unattended over the winter, can blow on the next spring if you don’t do a few basic maintenance procedures. And remember, the boat that is well attended from season to season will bring top dollar come trade in time. So I’ve decided to help out and blog up some maintenance info for boats and boat motors.
It begins with the last time the boat was on the lake or just before the boat is stored for the winter.
1. Dry Out Your Boat
Using the trailer jack, jack up the front of the boat as high as it will get it and still be safe. Trim the outboard up. Open all the storage compartments and empty the contents. This will allow the boat to dry, which is very important. All the residual water in the drainage pipes that run the length of the boat can drain. The water lines to the live wells and any other bilge lines can drain. Remove the drain plug, and store it someplace you will remember. Let the boat remain like this for at least one or two dry, warm days under some sort of roofed area. For example your garageor inside a barn.
2. Lube and Wax Your Boat
Next, bring the boat back to level in a few days, and lower the outboard so it is absolutely vertical. Leave it in that position until you see no more water draining out of the prop exhaust area. Remove both drain plugs to the lower unit and let it drain completely -- about two hours will do it. There is no need to put new lower unit lube in now. Either way works. Wipe down the boat motor with a light wax or light oil to sort of waterproof the finish. Wipe down the whole boat with a liquid wax; a buddy of mine uses Lemon Pledge. The whole boat is sprayed down and polished, and it works pretty good.
3. Prepare Your Boat Motor Fuel Line
Remove the cowling and let it air for four or five hours. Remove the plugs and install new ones. Make sure they are gapped correctly (most come preset). Turn the engine over a couple of times until it fires. This will dry the cylinders out and at the same time push fresh fuel into the fuel lines. Disconnect your fuel line from the tanks. Make sure the tanks are topped off and have a fuel additive that soaks up moisture. There are several on the market; it makes no difference what brand, though I prefer the Mercury brand. Your Mercury dealer can assist you with this. Check the batteries for correct fluid, and disconnect them, giving them a full charging. Store them indoors if you wish, but they will be just fine if left in the boat.
TIP: If your outboard was not performing well at the end of the season, this is the time to put it in the shop while the maintenance shops are not so busy. The experienced repairmen can spend more time on it, and when spring shows up, all will be set to go. Don’t wait for spring, when the dealer is swamped with de-winterizations and “get my boat ready” jobs, plus the “I bought this old boat from a buddy, can ya git it to run?” jobs! You just gotta love it!
TIP: No matter what is wrong with your boat -- outboard motor, trolling motor, prop, trailer -- take your boat to a certified boat mechanic, not a shade-tree mechanic running some jakeneck shop open on Saturdays and Sundays and Thursday nights. Get your equipment worked on by someone who has been trained in a school to work on marine craft and accessories. It may cost a little bit more, but in the long run, it will be worth the extra dollars to know that a skilled technician did the work … not Mr. Green Jeans.
4. When Winter has Passed
Do a lower unit lube, wheel-bearing lube (if required), charge those batteries to full, check your power trim fluid, steering cable lubricated and tightened, check all pumps and make sure they are all in working order, and the last piece of business … find that drain plug you took out three months ago! Gotta have that thing!
Last, but not least, when you reassemble the power cables and related items, check all the connections to make sure the nuts are tightened really good. Most breakdowns are the fault of a loose connection.
Do all these things each and every year, and the boat in the garage will be a long-time friend with few down days.
And to be a good dad, invite that child of yours to come and help keep the boat slick and shiny. Kids love helping on projects like this. Wives do, too, if they get to drive the boat!