How to Clean Your Boat Before Winter Comes

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Winter isn’t nice to boats. In fact, it can be downright crummy. For those in warm climates, autumn and winter can mean difficult weather and chilly, rainy days. For those in cold climates—well, winter means ditching the boat altogether.

But no matter where you live, cleaning your boat before winter comes is of paramount importance. It will help prepare your boat for storage in the cold-weather climates and help ensure good performance in warmer climates. As long as you take the proper steps, you should be able to head into spring with full confidence in the beauty and quality of your boat. The bad news? The time for those proper steps is now.

1. Wash thoroughly.

It’s winter, after all. If you’re in the north, that means this is the last time you’re going to see your boat until as late as April or May of next year. Give it a good and proper washing with proper boat cleaner – and don’t forget the bilge, either. Get the topsides, the bottom, the deck—everything you can think of cleaning. And as annoying as it may be, this is the time for checking out problems in the fiberglass and doing some sealing.

2. Wax thoroughly.

We never forget about waxing here at Boatlife, and we hope that you don’t, either. LifeWax is a great product for sealing off your boat’s newly-cleaned exterior from all of the nastiness that winter will bring. A good, thorough waxing will help your boat stay protected from changes in temperature if you’re in a cold-weather state and will help keep your boat looking shiny and new if you’re in a climate of perpetual summer. Either way, it never hurts to wax.

3. Prepare your systems for cold temperatures.

If your boat is going to spend any amount of time in freezing temperatures, it’s time to flush the raw water cooling systems with fresh water to remove salt, dirt, and the like. If your winters get really cold, you’ll also want to think about using anti-freeze in your cooling system. Any outboard motors should be cleaned/flushed with fresh water and subsequently drained dry. This will protect your motor and the rest of your boat’s cooling systems even when the temperature drops to uncomfortably cold levels.

4. Fill up.

As it is with cars, so with boats: it’s a good idea to keep your fuel filled in your boat which avoids condensation developing in your fuel systems during storage for the winter. If you have a fuel filter, change it; if not, think about getting one. You can also add a “marine fuel stabilizer” to make sure that your fuel remains, well, stable during its time stored away. If you live in a warmer climate, you can skip most of these steps, though it doesn’t hurt to keep plenty of fuel in the motor.

It doesn’t take much to properly prepare a boat for winter; it only requires taking a few key and thorough steps to ensure that it’s clean, dry, and ready for freezing temperatures. When spring rolls around, you’ll be rewarded with a clean, healthy boat.

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