Riege: Boat storage for the winter

Published 9:20 pm Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Fishing boats often take their worst beating during the storage season, when slow time and harsh weather have the chance to gang up on boat, motor and trailer. Winter does not damage all boats, only those that have been put away improperly.

Boats need protection from elements. It’s best to store them over winter in an enclosed place a garage, barn or shed preferably where they won’t be subjected to variations in temperature or at least temperature extremes.

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Boat covers provide an extra measure of protection, whether the boat is stored indoors or outside. Beware, however, of relying on just a boat cover to protect your boat. Too often water will pool on top of these covers, and the heavy, constant weight of the water will literally bend a hull.

Almost everyone knows to elevate the trailer tongue and remove the drain plug, so that water can exit the boat. They should also recognize how easily leaf debris or ice can foil this drainage system. Only an overhead shelter can provide sure protection against water buildup, and it prevents the mold damage frequently caused by a close fitting cover.

Lubrication is best accomplished with a warm engine. With the lower unit in the water, take off the cowling, start the motor and disconnect the gas line. As the fuel remaining in the carburetor burns up, squirt oil directly into the carburetor intake. In a few seconds, the outboard will start gasping and smoking. Shut it off quickly. At this point a nice coat of protective oil covers the interior of the cylinders and crankcase.

The power head can also be lubricated after the motor is out of the water. Remove the motor’s spark plugs and inject a bit of same oil, into each cylinder. Turn the motor over a few times, and then replace the spark plugs.

The gears of an outboard’s lower unit are bathed in heavy oil, which should be changed annually. Before draining the lubricant, check for water contamination of the lower unit by loosening just the lower gear case plug. If water trickles out before the lubricant starts to seep, your seals are probably bad. Either take the motor to a repair shop or replace them yourself.

Check your propeller. If the blades are nicked, worn or bent back, your motor will not operate at its peak power of fuel efficiency. Unless they are badly worn or damaged, propellers can be made like new at a repair shop. Ask you outboard dealer for details.

If you use your boat a lot in the summer time and have constantly trailered to and from the lake that would mean that winter could lead to rusty bearings. Protect against future highway breakdowns by proper trailer wheel maintenance each fall. Take out the bearings, clean, inspect and repack them using fresh grease. Keep trailer bearings from developing flat spots over the winter by blocking the axles or rolling the trailer a few inches backward or forward every month or so.

It’s a good strategy to empty your boat and store all your equipment indoors. Especially make sure to bring in cushions and boat seats; if you don’t mice and other animals may use the stuffing from them for food or nests. Bring in your fishing tackle too, so you can clean and organize it, a nice project for a winter’s nights.