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Lower Unit Wrap

A mid-winter check reveals another way to protect lower units.

February 20, 2013

Lower Unit Wrap

If you store your outboard in the vertical position as shown, there’s no reason to wrap the lower unit in plastic during the off-season.

Following the birth of our son, my wife once commented that she was in the market for a new lower unit as a result of the ordeal. The statement reminded me that a properly functioning lower unit can be as important to maintaining a relationship as it is to a boater who counts on his engine to perform on cue.

If the outboard or sterndrive that powers your pontoon boat is expected to remain idle over the course of an off-season, it’s important that it be prepped and protected to allow it to weather the winter and fire-up come spring. That putting-to-bed process is fodder for a fall blog, but during my recent mid-winter check on my pontoon boat, which is stored on foam blocks in the yard of my local lake’s pontoon boat owners club, I noted something new. Several members’ (outboard…) lower units, including the prop, were encased in garbage bags, which were snugly duct-taped or bungee-corded just below the cowling.

Pondering the possible reasons for protecting the lower unit in such a manner, I placed a quick call to Boating contributor, outboard expert and good friend John Tiger. Tiger lives on Lake George, NY, a latitude that – like mine – forces a frigid off-season off the water for boaters each winter. I figured he might know why someone might encase their engine’s lower unit in Glad Wrap.

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“It’s an attempt to keep water out,” answered Tiger. “If an engine stored out in the elements is tilted up in the off season, at enough of an angle enough to allow rainwater or snow melt to accumulate in the exhaust hub, it could find its way into the gear-case housing, freeze and expand, and cause damage.”

He added that some boaters bag their lower units – as well as their power-heads – when in storage to help keep “bugs and critters” at bay and, in the case of the lower units, to keep the propeller out of the sight and therefore, hopefully, out of the mind of potential thieves.

Tiger added that if you store your outboard or sterndrive tilted vertically, so that no water can accumulate in the exhaust hub, there’s really no reason to encase it’s southernmost unit in plastic.

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Suggested Reading
Winterize A Sterndrive
The Complete Guide To Winterizing Your Boat

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