11 Important Steps For De-Winterizing Boats (For Beginners)

In Boatingby Shelby Sullivan

De-winterizing your boat is an important process for any boat owner. Almost as important as winterizing your boat!

If you’ve properly taken care of your boat before the winter, de-winterizing it should be pretty easy to do! However, there are still many important steps and things to consider when de-winterizing your boat.

Here are 11 Important Steps for De-Winterizing this Spring!

1. Start that Battery!

The battery life for a boat is roughly five years. It is important, then, to make sure that your battery held up well during the winter months.

Start by refilling the battery with fresh, distilled water and check the charge with a battery tester. If the battery still holds a strong charge you’ll be in great shape!

If not, you may want to get it checked out, or possibly even get a new battery altogether, which isn’t cheap.

If you’re in good shape, then what you’ll want to do next is use a small wire brush to scrub the battery clean of dirt or rust; anything really that can build up in there. Make sure you remove the wires from the charge posts first!

Finally, coat those posts with lithium grease to protect them further from harm. Then, carefully reattach any wires or cables that were removed.

All done!

2. Check for Worn Belts

Any worn-down belts in the boat are going to need to be replaced. That’s that. There’s no reason to take a chance on a worn-out belt. Many of them can be quickly worn down during the off-seasons, and therefore need a manual check during de-winterization.

How do you check for this? Good question!

A belt on your boat should not have a lot of “give”, meaning, that if you press down on it or give it any pressure, it should hold tight.

Additionally, soot buildup on pulleys or beltlines is a bad thing. Any soot-worn belts need to be replaced immediately to prevent further wear or even breakage.

Don’t ignore these, and keep your eyes peeled for any issues that may arise!

3.  Inspect the Cooling System for a Needed Refill

When you store your boat for the winter or off-season, you would have flushed out the cooling system before storing the boat. Now that you’re opening your boat back up for the warmer seasons, its time to fill that back up!

Using equal parts water and anti-freeze, fill your cooling system and then check all the hoses. You definitely want to keep an eye out for cracks, tears, wearing or leakage.

If you left your coolant in the cooling system during the winter change that out for new coolant!

4. Test and Check on Your Electronics!

Every switch, knob, button, and meter needs to be tested and checked before you even think about sailing away on your boat after de-winterization. You don’t want to be stuck out on the open ocean or in the middle of a lake and have something go wrong!

Flip every switch on the helm and in the cabins. Don’t skip a single one! Everything is connected by the same electrical system, so keep an eye out for any circuit or area of the boat that may not be working.

Finally, now that the battery is up and running again, turn it off and make sure the automatic bilge pump is working. You don’t want to miss that very important step!

Make sure to check your user’s manual for any other electrical tips or sections that you need to be aware of or keep an eye on.

5. Inspect All Fuel Lines and Refill Levels

Colder weather can be very difficult on your boat’s hoses lines for fuel and power. You need to be sure that you are doing a thorough and detailed inspection of these fuel lines and their hoses.

Is your fuel filter clean and clear? If it is, great! If not, get it replaced. Also, as we mentioned earlier, you’ll want to make sure all levels are filled to their appropriate amount, to prevent a loss of fuel or coolant when out on the water.

Not only could this cause you to break down, but the wear and tear on these systems will cost a lot of money in the future if not treated properly the first time!

6. Check on the Distributor and Spark Plugs

Cleaning the distributor on your boat is very important. When a distributor is neglected, it can corrode and become completely useless. Instead, you’ll want to remove the distributor cap and make sure it is nice and clean.

When you are done with that, make sure all spark plugs are fastened where they are supposed to be and latched on tight.

7. Watch out for Animal Hibernation

Many people don’t consider the idea that critturs such as rodents, insects, and arachnids may want to take shelter in their warm, covered boats.

Mice, in particular, have been known to gnaw into seating and make a warm nest there in the winter months. Don’t let this be you!

Make sure you NEVER have food left in the boat over the off-season to prevent rodent infestation. Also, check all nooks and crannies for any bugs or spiders that may have taken refuge in your boat.

If you do find some unwanted critturs, try using humane or non-toxic chemicals or traps that will remove them from your boat and send them on their way. Then be sure to…

8. Clean, Clean, Clean!

Especially if critturs have taken to living in your boat in the off-season, you’ll want to clean that boat thoroughly before you let your friends, family, and pets onto your vessel.

One major, but overlooked, aspect of de-winterizing your boat is checking for mold.

Boats get wet. That’s standard. But that also means that mold and mildew can buildup on boats and vessels very easily if left unchecked. Make sure you are removing or replacing any mold or mildewy areas of your boat.

Vacuum all storage spaces and seating, and while you’re at it, give the carpeting or wood on the bottom of your boat a good scrub.

9. Check the Propeller(s)

While you’ve got the boat out of the water, let’s see how the propeller is doing, shall we?

Only in transit and when stored off-shore is your propeller out of the water. Now is a good time to check for dents, rust or any loose or damaged parts. You’ll also want to make sure that everything is in great shape, and that nothing has been stuck or tangled in the propeller, such as fishing wire or weeds.

If for some reason, you find that the propeller is damaged, you may want to think about getting parts replaced, or perhaps the whole motor depending on the damage.

10. Polish and Wax

Many boat owners take a lot of pride, time and money and put them into their boats. They work very hard to keep them looking fantastic all year round. If you’re one of those, you may want to polish and wax your boat.

Supporting your boat in every way will keep you from having to repair or replace the whole thing later in its lifetime. Boats are expensive, so even the littlest things can keep them going for years! Save yourself some stress and money, and polish your boat!

Use a power washer on a light setting to get any dirt or mildew off your boat that may have built up over the off-season. Once that is done and dried, apply cleaner, buff and apply products such as Shark Hide to keep it fresh and taken care of!

11. How’s The Trailer?

Just like your boat, the trailer is one of the most important things you’ll be working with all summer. You want to make sure your tires, attachments, and wires are all up to standard code.

Pump air into your tires immediately, and if one is flat or damaged, its time to replace it. You don’t want that falling apart on the road.

It is legally required to have working turn signals on your boat’s trailer. Make sure all wires are working, and ask a family member or friend to keep an eye on them while you test your signals and brakes. After those cold winter months, don’t be surprised if you have to replace a bulb.

Things to Consider Regarding the Engine

One of the most important things about your engine is making sure you give it an oil change. With springtime finally here, you’ll want to make sure that your engine is getting a fresh start. That means checking your oil levels and changing it accordingly. You’ll also want to keep an eye on your oil filter, too, and make sure that you are keeping your engine clean with an oil additive.

Your engine is one of the most important parts of your boat and needs to be treated first. It is paramount that you consider your engine, all your fuel lines, and your levels as soon as you start de-winterizing your vessel.

Other things to consider:

  • Power Steering Fluid Levels
  • Visible Cracks or Wearing in Fuel Lines
  • How are your Coolant Levels?
  • Is there Leaking below the Engine Area?

Specific Circumstances for Pontoon Boats

One of the greatest parts of a pontoon boat is the luxury that they can provide. Most pontoons will come with a lot of amenities, such as speaker sound systems, storage spaces, vinyl, canvas, and accessories.

When opening your pontoon boat back up for the warmer seasons, you’ll want to make sure that there aren’t any tears, leaks, breakage or missing pieces of your boat.

Undercarriage and Leakage

The undercarriage of your pontoon boat is very important, most of all the aluminum or steel floats beneath the boat are going to need your attention.

Check absolutely everything for any dents, cracks or possible leaks. You’ll also want to make sure nothing was damaged during transit of your boat, and if there are, attend to them immediately.

Polishing Metal

Everyone knows that metal can rust. When you de-winterize your pontoon boat, make sure to keep an eye on your railings, metal, aluminum and steel parts of your pontoon boat.

When left unpolished or untreated, the metal of a pontoon boat can easily rust away or become damaged or weak. Since the buoyancy of a pontoon boat relies heavily on the metal tubes beneath them, you want to make this part a priority.

Storage Spaces

You want to make sure you open everything up, including all your storage spaces, nooks, and crannies. Storage spaces should be vacuumed out and re-stocked with all the supplies and emergency gear you may need. Any carpeting can be washed or cleaned as well.

Many animals or insects can get lost in your storage spaces. Don’t let yourself be surprised on a trip to the lake when you go to get your life jacket and are met with a family of rodents or spiders.

Make sure all these areas are clean!

Vinyl and Canvas

For example, many critters like to get into pontoon boats during the winter and will sometimes tear or burrow into seats or vinyl. Similarly, the canvas can be torn by major storms and weather events or can be filled with nesting insects.

You also want to make sure that you are preventing moisture and mold from forming on your canvas, which can be devastating for your health and the health of your pontoon boat.

If you do find that there are tears, rips or damage to vinyl or canvas, you’ll want to either repair or replace those before you start your next season, and make sure to discover the cause of those damages. That way, you’ll be better prepared for your next winterization!

Final Touches

Keeping your boat up to date is a lot of work, so take a lot of pride into it and have fun! Once you’ve got all the nitty-gritty work done, you can start adding all the fun stuff!

Water skis, fishing equipment, and boogie-boards are all going into those squeaky-clean storage spaces! Turn on those rewired speakers and start playing your favorite music. Stock up on sunscreen and first aid kits, as well as coolers with drinks and snacks!

Add a fresh fire extinguisher for safety, and you’re ready to go!

What are you waiting for?