Boat Storage Checklist for Fall and Winter Months

A boat getting stored

Finding the right spot to store your boat this winter goes a long way toward keeping it ready to launch the following spring. But boat preparation is just as important as boat storage. Before you place your vessel in drydock for the winter, consider taking the following steps.

Preparing Your Boat for Storage

Cleaning the Boat

It doesn’t matter what kind of boat you own, winterizing your watercraft is absolutely key toward making sure it stays sea or lake-worthy down the line. Your boat needs (and deserves) a deep clean.

Tie off the steering wheel and remove all gear — including fishing rods, tackle boxes, and life jackets — from the boat. Clear out lockers and storage compartments. If your seats are made of vinyl, spray them with a mildew spray. Deep clean carpets, floors, and any appliances you may have.

Finally, power wash your boat’s hull and check for any cracks or damage. Power washing the hull can help get rid of any build-up. Once any dings or cracks are repaired, go ahead and seal it with wax.

Winterize the Boat Plumbing and Freshwater System

Depending on the size of your boat, you might have actual plumbing for sinks or showers. These systems require winterizing to ensure they don’t freeze in the winter. Take the following steps:

  • Purchase antifreeze that is specially formulated for freshwater systems.
  • Drain any excess water from lines and tanks. Open up fixtures.
  • Take the primary hose feed and put it in a bucket of antifreeze.
  • Turn on all faucets and showers until antifreeze comes out.
  • Reattach the freshwater tank hose.

Damage from frozen water in the lines can be an expensive fix, so make sure not to skip any of these steps. 

Winterize the Motor

Boat engines are highly susceptible to corrosion, fuel deterioration, and freezing temperatures. The process for winterizing inboard and outboard motors is different, so make sure you follow the right instructions.

For inboard motors, change the oil while the engine is still warm. Remove its raw-water intake line and place it in antifreeze. Run the engine until antifreeze has passed through the system. Flush with cooling water. The final step is to remove the oil and change the filter, then replace oil. Check for leaks.

Outboard motors require changing the lower-unit oil. Any water left in the engine causes serious damage if the temperature drops, so don’t skip this step. When you flush the cooling system, keep the engine tilted downward. You may need to change fuel or air filters, so go ahead and do that at this time. If the boat is being stored for months, use fogging oil on the engine.

Winterize the Sterndrive

Your boat’s sterndrive helps power the motor and move the boat through water. It sits just outside the hull and, like the rest of the boat, must be thoroughly winterized. The steps to sterndrive maintenance are as follows:

  • Inspect it for cracks and marine pests, such as barnacles. Make any necessary repairs.
  • Drain any residual water left inside the drive.
  • Run antifreeze and rust inhibitors through raw-water systems. Keep running until you see antifreeze in the exhaust.
  • For outdoor storage, open the cockpit drains. Close all thru-hulls and seacocks.
  • Check propeller shaft for damage, and make sure bilge pumps work.
  • Clean the lower unit with soap and water.
  • Make sure fluid levels in the steering pumps are okay. Lubricate all fittings.
  • Plug any exhaust ports. This will help protect against pests, snow, water, and other damage.

Preparing the Boat for Storage

We’re not done yet. Taking care of the fuel and battery are the final two steps in protecting your boat’s inner workings.

Treat the Fuel Line

Proper boat storage means making sure your fuel line stays free of damage. Depending on what kind of boat you own, the manufacturer might suggest draining the fuel tank. Others suggest filling it up. Add stabilizer and change any fuel filters and water separators.

Remove the Battery

Your boat’s battery cannot be left plugged in. Disconnect it from the boat and put it on a trickle charger to keep it charged.

Use the right cover.

The final step in boat preparation is to choose the right cover. Luckily, you have options. Canvas covers are among the most durable options, but they cost more. Plastic covers are cheap, but they don’t fit all boats and need to be replaced after a few years. The most expensive option, pre-fitted covers, usually come in all sizes and can be made to fit your particular boat.

Don’t skip the cover, however, especially if you plan on storing your boat outside.

Finding Boat Storage

Searching for the right kind of boat storage can make a huge difference in your boat’s condition, but it largely depends on where you live. Some popular boat storage options include the following.

Indoor Boat Storage Options

The most basic boat storage option for people with a garage is to park a car outside and move the boat indoors. This is a cost-effective option, but it may not be great if you hate defrosting your car each morning.

Some people choose to store their boats in stacked warehouse compartments called dry-stacked storage. It protects your boat from the elements. This is common in coastal areas that see plenty of snow.

An indoor storage unit is also an excellent choice for boat storage. Self storage facilities often offer units with plenty of space for a boat and the rest of your fishing gear.

Outdoor Boat Storage Options

In some areas, it may not be necessary to store your boat indoors. Outdoor storage is an option. Many storage facilities offer parking for boats and trailers, and some of these spaces are even covered. Because storage facilities have fencing, it can provide a secure space to store your boat.

For coastal areas, marina slips and boat lifts can keep your boat outdoors and ready to go. These are best used in warmer regions where the risk of temperature drops is minimal.

Save space and store your boat with Universal Storage Group.

No matter where or how you plan on storing your boat, saving space in your garage or driveway makes the most sense. Universal Storage Group manages several facilities that offer convenient indoor and outdoor storage for boats and other vehicles.

To learn more about our storage options, visit a facility near you or contact us today with your boat storage questions.

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