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Top Winterizing Tips
“Fogging” means applying lubricating oil to cylinders and pistons while the engine is running. This can be sprayed in via carburetors or air intakes, or a special mixture can be supplied to the engine via a portable tank connected to the fuel line.
Winterization is a necessary evil of boat ownership, combining an annual health checkup and insurance for an easy start to next spring’s boating.
Paying a boatyard might lighten your wallet between $150 and $1,000, or even more depending on what type of boat and how many engines you have.
You can do it yourself with hand tools, an afternoon’s time and some pretty inexpensive supplies. You’ll need a place to work, with running water and adequate ventilation. You’ll also want a service manual, perhaps a helper, and the following tips and techniques.
Winterization starts with prepping the fuel supply long before the day you haul out for the winter. The engine’s fuel supply should be treated for storage during the last week or so of your boat’s in-water use. In so doing, you ensure that properly “stabilized” fuel has been run through the tank, feed lines and engines prior to laying the boat up for months.
I suggest products such as Star brite’s Star Tron marine fuel treatment (starbrite.com) or Gold Eagle’s Sta-Bil treatment (goldeagle.com/brands/stabil). Engine manufacturers also sell fuel treatment, typically available from the dealer. The questionable and inconsistent quality of today’s unleaded fuels makes this step necessary to prevent fuel from phase-separating over time and leaving fuel injectors or carburetors gummed up with stale, varnished fuel. I like to “overmedicate” the fuel that’s in the tank; I typically double the dosage that the bottle’s instructions call for. I’ve been doing this for more than 25 years with excellent results.
As for the fuel level in the tanks, there are many opinions on this. The ideal situation would be to empty the tanks as much as possible and get all the fuel out of the system — including the engine’s fuel lines and carburetors/fuel injectors. However, this is not always practical to do — it’s difficult to get all the fuel out and also winterize the engine at the same time.
The next best solution is to keep the tanks nearly full to reduce the potential for condensation in the tanks. Just be sure the fuel in the tank, lines, filters and engine is all treated well; this requires running the engine until the treated fuel thoroughly circulates inside — typically at least 30 minutes at idle speeds, considerably less if you can run the engine at higher speeds. That’s why I suggest planning to run winter-stabilized fuel during your last few trips. If you do so, make sure to top off the tanks with a smidge more fuel and treat that too.
If you run a boat powered by a two-stroke outboard, consider adding a fuel decarbonizing treatment to the fuel supply (in addition to the aforementioned fuel conditioner) before winter shutdown and storage. These additives are powerful agents for removing built-up carbon from cylinder heads and piston tops and sides, and from piston rings and ring grooves. This helps boost compression back to near-original specification levels on older engines and can reduce the chance of ring sticking — a death knell for an older two-stroke. A sticking piston ring won’t transfer combustion heat to the engine cylinder walls as designed, and the piston can heat up, expand and “grow” in size under load, causing expensive engine failure if gone unchecked. Sea Foam is an excellent aftermarket decarbonizing agent (seafoamsales.com) that I have used; you can also buy the original manufacturer’s decarbonizing additives directly from the local dealer of your particular brand of marine engine.
It needs stating that there are many aftermarket “no-name special” additives available. These are to be avoided. Stick to the recommendations made here, defaulting to the additives and sprays sold by your local certified outboard dealer when there is any doubt.