Winterizing Your Rig

By RIVER RAT - November 1, 2001
For many of you the fishing and boating season has come to a close. Many of us are waiting for that" Indian Summer" weather, for a few warm days on the water before we finally decide to put the rig away. When you make that final decision, there are some things that you need to do so you can avoid problems in the spring. If you follow this general guideline, I think you'll be on your way to good start come springtime. I'll take you through the steps I take. And I hope you will follow them as well.

The first thing I do is to put enough Stabil in my gas tank and then I fill up the tank. On the bottle of Stabil it will tell you how much to add so you have the correct mixture. I then head for home and put the garden hose into the flush out port and turn on the water, and start the engine. If your engine is not newer, you will need to get a pair of EARS to use to flush out your engine and supplies water to your engine while running it. You can purchase these ears at any marine dealer such as Heckels, or Amherst Marine, they both have websites and will answer any questions you may have as well.

I run the engine long enough to get the Stabil into the fuel system, and injectors and or the carburetors if that is what you have. I usually run mine 3-5 minutes. While your doing this, if you have a carburetor engine you need to FOG your engine at this time, as it will save you some time by doing it now. In your owners manual it will tell you what to do and how long to do it. I won't try to tell you how I do mine, as it may not pertain to your engine so it is best to look in your owner's manual for instructions. The new Technology motors require you to go to your dealer to have this done correctly, and you have a huge investment in your motor, so take it to them to have it done right.

After that is done, I check all the fuel lines and clamps for any signs of wear and to make sure there are no fuel leaks of any kind. I also check and clean the fuel filter and water separator. I also spray WD-40 on anything under the engine cover that my corrode. I also put a small amount of grease on the flywheel teeth and on the hinge cover latch. I then will pull the spark plugs and check and clean them and if need be, install new ones. While the spark plugs are out, I spray WD40 into the cylinders, and reinstall the spark plugs. I also look at the linkages, and cables, and grease them if they need it.

Next I will drain the lower unit in an oil pan by taking out the bottom plug first, then the top plug and let it drain until it stops. I check for the presence of any water in the oil, as this will tell me if I have a bad seal or gasket in the lower unit. When it is time to refill the lower unit, I use a pump, it just screws right into your lower unit, and works much better than trying to hold the oil bottle tight, and squeezing the oil out and having it run all over the place. You will know it is full when the oil starts to run out the top hole. When this happens put the top plug in and remove the pump hose, and screw in the plug for the lower unit. Wipe off any oil on the lower unit.

Next I will grease any fittings on the motor, and wipe off excess grease. I check the fluid level in the power trim and tilt unit. If it is low, add to the fill line. I also take the prop off, check the splines, and put a light coating of grease on the spline before putting the prop back on. Make sure you check your prop for nicks and cracks. If it needs fixing now is the time to get it done. If you find you need a prop, I want to suggest a Comprop. If you have never tried one or heard of one then you need to contact me, or check out there web site, as this is the only prop I will run. Its added protection for my lower unit. You'll be amazed at the Boat Manufactures that put this prop on as OEM. Next check mounting bolts, and any of your electronic cables such as your locators and speed/temp cables to make sure they are connected securely to the boat. I will also take out the drain plug and clean any water intake filters for the live wells, and reinstall. Make sure you blow out your live well drains, and bilge pump line, as water left in a line can freeze and you will have a real problem come fishing season. Next I will pull the wheel bearings, and the seals from the hubs. Before you reinstall the bearings, put in new seals in the hubs, don't reuse the seals your just asking for trouble, and seals are not expensive.

Next I will clean the bearings with a recommended solvent NEVER USE GASOLINE FOR A CLEANING SOLVENT! And dry them off and inspect them for wear. I also look at the spindles to check for wear and pitting. If pitting has started, you can use emery cloth to take out the pits and smooth the surface. If I see any amount of wear I replace the bearings and the races at the same time. Never put new bearings in and use the old races. Next I repack the bearings. I bought a bearing packer a long time ago at an auto supply store, and I don't miss the mess of hand packing them. Adjust the bearings as to the manufactures specs. And reinstall your bearing buddies if you use them. If you don't have them I suggest you get some, as this is the best way to put grease in your hub for bearing protection and to keep the water out. Make sure you don't over fill the hubs with grease as the hubs will run hot, you don't want that, and you don't want to pop the rear bearing seal either. Just fill it until the spring-loaded surface comes to the front of the hub and a small amount of grease comes out. After you use your rig next spring, check your hubs again as I'm sure you will need to add some more grease. Next check your winch rope or strap to make sure it is in good shape. Put a small amount of grease on the gear teeth, don't gob it on; just a small amount is all that is needed. Put a small amount of grease on the tongue hitch mount as well. Check your rollers if you have them and make sure they are all in good condition. If you find a crack in one replace it!

Okay, so the lubrication part is over with. Lower the motor to the run position for storage this will drain out any water left in it. Next I wash and wax the boat and trailer. I recommend a Marine wax, as it is designed to give you more protection than an auto type car wax can. I vacuum out the inside of the boat, including the live well, and I leave the live well covers open, and I Clean the windshield with warm soap and water. I then use this product from" Innovative Polishing Systems". This stuff removes all the scratches from your polycarbonate windshield. I do mean" ALL" the scratches! It works on regular glass as well; it is a product you really need to get, as it is so versatile, just go to ipsglass.com, and order this product. If you're like me you have tried to get those scratches out, and this product will do just that. It works great on jell-coat as well. Check it out! I also store the windshield in an old flannel sheet; this keeps it in great shape for the spring. I also use a vinyl cleaner on my seats and dash, and I remove the locators and store them in a dry place. I also wipe down my trolling motors with WD40 and make sure they are unplugged. I check all my antennas and either fold them down or push them down and out of the way. This pretty much takes care of the inside except for the batteries.

Next I remove the batteries. If you have not done so yet, get some cable ties and make your wiring neat and out of the way. If you have not labeled them yet I would do so before you remove them so you know where the wires go. You don't want to wait until spring and try to figure out what wire goes where. Do it now and save some fuses. On the topic of batteries, there are some important things to talk about. New batteries are very expensive, and you want to take care of them. I used to replace my batteries every year and if I was lucky I might have gotten 2 yrs. Out of them. This was very costly, to me. One day while guiding, a client told me about a product called Thermoil. Well I got to tell you, I was skeptical about putting anything in my batteries. Over the years I have spent some money on products billed as the real thing for improving battery life. Well, I got to tell you this stuff really works. My client knew what he was talking about. This product is called Thermoil and you can go to their website and look them up if you don't have a dealer in your area. It REALLY does work and now I can get 4 years out of my batteries, and that saves me money, and I like that. It is money well invested believe me, plus it is" Guaranteed or your money back." We have the batteries out and charged so where do I store them? The old myth that you can't put them on a concrete floor is just that! A MYTH! The new type batteries can be placed anywhere they're not subject to high temperatures or freezing. I have found out that you do not need to have a trickle charger on them either. If you check and charge them once every other month this is enough charging, and I know this to be true. You want to make sure your battery posts are clean and put a light coat of dielectric grease on them. I mark a day on my calendar to charge the batteries, and that is the only time I will charge them.

So now we are ready to put the cover on the boat, but before you do this I recommend that you go to your boat dealer and get what is called mold and mildew bags, and put them in your boat. This will solve your problem of smell and extra cleaning in the spring. Make sure your cover is not torn and in good shape and that it has a snug fit .If you store it outdoors, I suggest you find a dealer that will shrink wrap it, I know Heckels Marine does this, and it is worth the cost to have it done if it stays outside. Well that covers your winterizing! Now it's a waiting game counting the days until the ice goes out. If you have any questions on anything in this article you can e-mail me at either RiverRat@Fish-Wisconsin.com or River_Rat_54494@yahoo.com. I'd like also to thank my friends at Crestliner Boats, Magic products, Lake-link.com, Fish-Wisconsin.com, Fishtheriver.com, Hummingbird locators, Harriet's Family Restaurant in Wis.Rapids. Heckels marine, Amherst Marine. And others who have helped me along the way.

Author RIVER RAT
RIVER RAT
River Rat has been fishing the Petenwell Flowage for over 40 years and owns Gone Fishing Guide Service and enjoys primarily fishing for walleyes but is well educated on many other species. He is also a Field Editor for Lake-Link.com as well as other sites and is very knowledgeable on the history and fishing tactics of the Petenwell Flowage and Wisconsin River.