I recently called my go-to boat mechanic, Bill Manuszak at Ed’s Marine Service, for some advice on what a boater should do in cold weather. Here are his tips:
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Q: What should folks who winterize their boats and then store them until spring consider?
“Put a gas stabilizer in the tank which will keep the gas from going bad. Disconnect the main battery leads, keeping the pole corrosion down, while also preventing any voltage ‘leaks’ from accessories that might slowly drain the battery.
“Taking out your drain plug is another smart precaution when storing, to prevent any water from accumulating in the bilge. This is especially important for I/O engines where the starter unit sits below the engine in the bilge. If the water buildup that’s trapped in the bilge can get high enough to cover the starter unit, it will usually lead to a starter failure from corrosion. Taking the drain plug out also prevents any water from causing humidity and moisture inside the boat (especially when it’s covered) that can lead to mold and corrosion problems. Freeze damage is the other problem caused by sitting water in a boat. FYI, Donna Manuszak told me that insurance policies rarely cover freeze damage anymore.
“Many boaters store their unit outside in winter and some do a poor job of making sure the cover is set up correctly. A good tenting structure and tight, strong fasteners to let it all run off is key; any low places will become small ponds or worse after a hard rain. I’ve visited outside boat storages after a big storm and have been amazed to see the number of boats that have ripped or waterlogged tarps.”
Q: What’s the correct way to warm up your outboard engine in colder weather?
“Anglers with outboards typically think that they will be OK if they just let the engine idle for a few minutes. In most cases, this is only warming up the water in the engine and that thermostat hasn’t let the cold lake water into the engine yet. When they take off quickly and get to a higher RPM the engine heats up quickly and gets very hot, and that’s when the thermostat finally opens up and pours cold water onto the now superheated piston sleeves. This causes them to shrink while the hot, expanded piston continues to try to move faster within a now contracted and restricted sleeve! There is a catastrophic failure in the cylinder known as a cold seize.”
I explained that I knew this and that I went out slowly and then I gradually brought my boat up to speed. Bill stopped me and told me that I shouldn’t do that!
“The right way to get your engine warmed up is to let your boat get warmed up a little then just go out and pop it right up on plane – don’t come up slowly – than back off to around 3,000 rpm. This keeps your boat from getting hot very quickly from working so hard as it lugs along while slowly coming up to plane. This phase is where the engine is actually working as hard as it ever will, and it gets hot very quickly lugging along. Getting your boat right up on plane and then backing down to 3,000 rpm and staying there for a couple minutes is about the lightest load the engine ever has on it, which also keeps the internal temps as low as possible. So when the thermostat opens up the piston and sleeve temperatures are not superheated and so the cold water doesn’t cause shrinkage and cylinder failure.”
We’re getting rain and the fish are biting. Going to be a great 2019.
Never give up!