Wily About Winterization

Well, it’s that time of year again for many boaters. Time to shut things down for the season and get that outboard winterized. To help facilitate the thankless task, we’ve asked Grid Michal to provide an “A to Z Guide to Engine Winterization.”

A: Awl. Every fall you need to change the awl … engine awl, gear awl. Very important. [Ed note: For those of you above the Mason-Dixon Line, Grid is referencing oil here.]

B: Bulb(s), primer. If they’ve been affected by UV damage and are leaving a mess all over your hands, change ’em. Brillo pads. Use them to scour the battery cable ends and battery posts.

C: Charge the batteries; clean the battery connection. Tie-strap the NEG wires separately from the POS cables. If you remove them, make certain the automatic bilge pump wires are still connected (if the boat isn’t on a trailer, drain plug removed). If you have multiple batteries, make sure all the NEG cables are included in your tie-strapping. If you live in really cold climes, take the batteries into a cool, but not freezing, ventilated area. Checklist. Make a list such as this to help guide you.

D: Dielectric grease. Winterizing is a great time to disassemble all the electrical connections you are able to, clean them and reassemble them with dielectric grease. If you change spark plugs, put a dab on the tips before sliding the plug boot back on.

E: Ethanol fuel. If you use ethanol and don’t stabilize it, I promise your engine will help boost my IRA next year. Adding stabilizer to the fuel and not running the engine until the stabilizer is thoroughly in the system is like not treating it at all. If you have a drainable water separator, drain it and check for water. Make sure the drain screw is properly tightened afterward.

F: Fogging oil. This task is a definite “Do” for two-strokes to put ’em to sleep for the winter. When the engine’s been running on treated fuel long enough to get it in the system, and the flusher has been working long enough to get the thermostats open, shoot a good stream of fogging oil into the air induction area until the engine dies. Shut the ignition off. Unless you know how to make oil stay up in the cylinders, don’t bother removing the plugs and adding oil. The fogging process has protected everything from the crank bearings to the piston crown.

G: Grease everything! A caveat here, though: Too much isn’t necessarily better. Too much grease on the steering ram can cause hydraulic steering lock. If your engine has tilt zerk fittings, but not one apportioned for the steering, remove the zerk fitting closest to where the steering ram exits the steering tube. Using a drill bit smaller than the threaded hole, drill through the engine’s pivot into the steering tube. Reinsert the zerk. Now you have made a grease point for the steering ram as well as the tilt.

H: Helm, steering. If the hydraulic steering is getting sloppy on your boat, now’s the time to find the leaks and repair them. Most often it’s the seals at the system back at the engine, caused by Z-arms that don’t swivel due to lack of lubrication. If the mechanical steering system is getting stiff, trust me, it won’t loosen up by itself over the winter. It’s time to remove the ram from the tilt tube, grind the rust from the tube, lightly grease the ram and reinstall it. Trying to force the steering wheel to turn invariably results in broken gears in the helm, a trashed cable and extraordinary expense … not to mention you still have to clean out the steering tube!

I: Ignition. Locate every ground connection for every ignition component. Today’s engines need copious amounts of air to feed the newer induction systems. If it’s salt air, rest assured the electrical grounds have become corroded. Separating and cleaning them — and their base — then using dielectric grease for reassembly will make a world of difference in the engine’s starting, throttle response and economy.

J: Junk. Why are you saving that old water-pump impeller? How about last year’s spark plugs? Pitch ’em. They’re junk.

K: Key and kill (safety) lanyard. Remove them from the ignition and put them someplace safe but accessible. If you’re as old as I am, put them in a place that will be as easy to remember next year as it is today.

L: Linkages — throttle and shift, at the engine. If they have grease points, grease them. If they don’t, spray a coating of fogging oil on them.

M: Marine radio, marine GPS/fishfinder. If the units are connected to accessory (ACC) dash switches, make sure the units function before you turn the switches off. Then unplug them, remove them and keep them in a warm, dry place over the winter. Smear some dielectric grease on the plug ends remaining with the boat so they’re unaffected by the weather.

N: New water separator filter; new on-engine fuel filter. There’s very little emotional difference between your engine drinking dirty fuel and you drinking dirty water.

O: Adding a small amount of TC-W3 oil to the fuel remnants in your (treated) fuel tank will help keep things such as the high-pressure pump and the injector innards lightly lubricated over the winter.

P: Propeller. Remove the nut, washer, prop, prop stopper and get rid of any fishing line. Grease the prop shaft, examine the prop for any discrepancies, reinstall it with a new lock nut or cotter pin.

Q: Query. If you don’t know, ask a reliable source. This might not include a friend, or Google.

R: Remote control cables. Check for casing cracks. These can get bad in a hurry, so it’s a great time to change them over the winter.

S: SeaFoam. It’s like a mechanic in a can. Stabilizer, cleaner. I can’t say enough about it, but don’t spill it on you or your clothing.

T: Tires. Jack your boat trailer off the ground, properly inflate the tires and block the whole shebang up far enough to eliminate pressure on one spot on the tires. Grease the wheel bearing, and spin the wheels to listen for ugly sounds.

U: Under the engine cover. Put moth balls strategically around the powerhead in order to discourage mud daubers. Be especially vigilant in the spring for nests near the timing belt, if your engine has one.

V: Verify you’ve been following the checklist by putting a “tic” mark by each item as you complete it.

W: Wax the engine cover. Most are black nowadays, very susceptible to UV rays, and need some protection from the sun, something not like a cover, which draws mud daubers.

X: Excitement. You’re almost done!

Y: Yuengling. Since you’re almost done, treat yourself to a magnificent beer — and damn the calories.

Z: Congratulations! You should now be ready for zero problems come springtime launch.