Winter is right around the corner, which means it’s time for boat owners to place their vessels in storage until boating weather returns. Boat winterizing is essential for protecting its many exposed, sensitive components from corrosion and other damage and can help you make the most of your investment by reducing the need for unexpected repairs and part replacements. Here’s what you can do to get your boat ready for the cold months to come.


Empty all water.

Water can corrode your boat's mechanical components and lead to serious damage if it's kept in storage too long. To prevent this problem, drain any remaining water from the engine, bilge, ballast tanks, hoses, and water-reliant onboard systems such as showers, toilets, air conditioners and heaters. You can hasten the draining process by angling the bow if possible. After draining, leave all drain plugs and seals out to relieve pressure on the now-empty tanks and hoses, and use some non-toxic non-alcohol antifreeze in the bilge.  Good quality antifreeze also contains corrosion inhibitors to lubricate bilge pumps.

Winterize the engine.

Your boat's engine is one of its most important components and requires care to be ready for safe storage. Draining doesn't necessarily remove all water. And the proper antifreeze helps lubricate impellers and other components. Even if it’s not in use, your battery will continue to generate an electrical charge, slowly draining it while your vessel is in storage. To keep it functional, especially if you have electronics with memory, keep the battery on a charger.  If you remove your battery and place it in a cool, dark area, not directly on concrete, plug it into a trickle charger.  Change the oil and filter, and check or change the lower unit lube if it's an outboard or stern drive.  You don't want to find out you have water intrusion after it's frozen. You also should fill your fuel tank and add a marine quality fuel stabilizer to prevent phase separation and condensation on the interior walls of the tank, leading to water in the fuel next spring.  If at all possible, add the stabilizer while you can still run your engine, so the entire system is stabilized, not just the fuel in the tank.  Use oil stabilizer if you're changing your oil to keep the new oil fresh.  If you're changing oil in the spring, oil stabilizer reduces contamination of the new oil that will mix with residual old oil remaining after draining.  For more detailed layup information, see Harbortown Marine's Helpful Hints page at


Leave it exposed.

boat winterizing

Whether you choose to place your boat in storage or keep it in the open, the watercraft is vulnerable to damaging debris and moisture. If you intend to store outdoors, use a tarp or have it shrinkwrapped to keep out weather and other contaminants. If you're using a tarp, use a cover support system to prevent water from pooling.  If the tarp has gaps where wind can catch, use add-on tarp snaps to secure the cover in areas where there isn't a grommet.

Use the wrong antifreeze.

Antifreeze is an essential part of layup and will help protect your watercraft from cold temperatures. Be sure the chemical formula is non-toxic and does not contain alcohol, even if the label SAYS it's for RV's and Boats.  Alcohol-laced antifreeze is less expensive, but it will cost more later with the damage it does to impellers, hoses, diaphragms, etc.  And you don't want to pollute waterways and injure local wildlife. Make sure you remember to winterize anything at risk of freezing, such as air conditioners, heaters, toilets, showers, freshwater, livewell, and bilge pumps.

To find the supplies you need to winterize your boat, turn to Harbortown Marine in Vermilion, OH. As a leading local supplier of marine maintenance equipment for 28 years, they have the experience and extensive inventory you need to prepare your boat for the winter and ensure that it’s ready for use as soon as spring returns. Call (440) 967-8072 to speak with a helpful staff member, and visit their website to view their full list of shrinkwrapping and winterizing products and services, as well as their Helpful Hints.