How to Winterize a Boat: 3 Essential Steps to Prep Your Boat

Last Updated on December 4, 2019 by Diana Rodriguez-Zaba

There aren’t many shorelines where you can launch your boat against the breathtaking backdrop of a world-famous skyline. If our Chicago winters weren’t so cold, you’d be out on Lake Michigan year-round. Still, you have to get ready when hard freezes are just around the corner.

As well as you know how to winterize a boat, are you sure you’re not missing any important details?

Some folks leave the mechanics to a marina and let one of the area’s boat cleaning services take care of detailing. If you’re a DIY boat owner, we offer this overview as a handy guide for securing everything ahead of the first freeze.

Your Essential Boat Winterization Checklist

You stay tuned in to Chicago weather. You understand how important it is to protect your investment and get the boat ready for our bitter cold. As well as you know how to winterize a boat, it always helps to have a quick reference available. Our guide organizes winterizing watercraft into three essential steps: checking, cleaning and storing.

1. Mind the Mechanics

Before you get started, launch the boat for a final run with an eye and ear out for any last-minute problems. If everything’s in top shape, it’s time to prep engines and mechanical systems for cold weather. The job can get messy, so get it out of the way before you tackle cleanup and head for storage.

• Begin by changing out engine oil, replacing filters and draining the cooling system.

• If it’s a closed system, fill it with a mixture of water and antifreeze.

• Add antifreeze to the head after you’ve pumped out holding tanks.

• Drain and refill fuel tanks, and be sure to add a stabilizer to the gasoline.

• Drain water heaters, shower sumps and any areas where water can pool.

• Disconnect batteries, and clean terminals with an anti-corrosion solution.

2. Detail From Bow to Stern

Cleaning is a big project, but it’s a chore that belongs on every boat winterization checklist. You want your faithful watercraft to cruise into next spring looking and smelling its best. If the job seems like too much, you can hire a professional cleaning service to take care of the details.

• Mop, clean and dry bilges to discourage mold and mildew growth.

• Repeat with live wells, fish holds, lockers, drawers and storage areas.

• Wash interior and exterior surfaces with an eye out for dings and scratches.

• Clean out the galley, and be sure to double-check the fridge.

• Inspect under, behind and over everything, and don’t forget closets and drawers.

Power Tip: Place moisture absorbers throughout the boat to hold winter dampness at bay during the off-season.

3. Store Until Spring

Unless you’re part of Chicago’s icebreaking regatta, it’s best to get your craft out of the water during our coldest months. How to winterize a boat in storage depends on how much you’ve already done. Most storage facilities recommend taking care of maintenance and cleaning before parking the boat in a unit.

• If you opt for outdoor storage, be sure to protect the boat with a good cover.

• For indoor storage, remove all covers, and open hatches to promote air circulation.

• A climate-controlled unit is your boat’s best protection against freezing weather.

• Make a note of contact information and dates for renewing insurance and tags.

Power Tip: Securely cover your boat for the haul from dock to storage. This keeps road debris and overhead birds from undoing your cleanup work.

The Advantages of Professional Boat Cleaning

Winter sneaks up on you. Your schedule never slows down. These are just a few reasons for leaving seasonal boat cleaning to professionals. When you decide to let someone else do the heavy work, you enjoy extra advantages.

• A professional commercial cleaning company revitalizes carpets, fabric, leather, wood and chrome.

• Bathrooms, galleys and storage are shined and sanitized.

• Pressure washing takes care of flooring, decks and walkways.

• Industry certified technicians make sure every corner and crevice is clean.

When professionals take care of the details, you know your boat can weather winter storage. A clean craft doesn’t attract insects or rodents, and it doesn’t sprout mold or mildew. Best of all, your boat looks and smells like new when you’re ready to launch into warm weather.

Boat Detailing Pays Off

Whether you’re babying a runabout or pampering a cabin cruiser, boat detailing pays off with a craft that stores well through cold weather and performs beautifully come spring. If you have favorite boat winterizing tips, share them with us through our Comments Section.

As an extension of our residential work, ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba offers winter boat cleaning services across Chicago and the suburbs. We know life here in the city keeps you busy, so let us know if you need help getting ready for winter. When the weather turns cold, you can turn to us. We’re always here for you year-round.