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Brad Laabs: Winterize to avoid headaches next spring

We have reached the time of the open water season were many anglers have already winterized their boats or are getting ready to do so. The easiest route to take to make sure you have a trouble free season is to take your boat to one of the local marine shops and have them winterize for you. The cost can be well worth the investment instead of paying to try to get your boat running right again in the spring.

Many do it yourselfer’s will winterize their own boats and save a few dollars. Those that don’t do anything and expect the boat and motor to run for them in the spring are setting themselves up for frustration.

The following are a few things you can do on your own that are easy and will help you stay trouble free. Clean all battery connections and make sure all batteries in the boat are fully charged. Some anglers remove the batteries and put them inside and reinstall them in the spring. I don’t know that this makes much difference for extending the life of the battery. What will help, is charging them again each month of the off season to make sure they stay fully charged. Most marine batteries will give you about three years of dependable service. If you get more life out of them than that, you are doing well. My batteries get heavy use and many recharges. I can count on two good seasons out of my batteries.

Take graphs, GPS, cameras, flashlights, out of the boat and take them inside. Clean out compartments, including livewells and baitwells. A forgotten minnow in a drained livewell left all winter can make for a terrible surprise in the spring when opening the compartment!

For boats with remote tanks, disconnect your gas line, and with either muffs on, or the motor or in the lake, run the gas out of the motor. Use the leftover gas for something else, and start with fresh gas in the tank in the spring.

For carbureted motors, fogging the motor can be a great trouble saver. If you have an onboard tank, filling with gas can reduce the buildup of condensation and moisture in the tank. Moisture in a fuel system can create bad problems for motors that desire to run well.  You will need to add a fuel stabilizer to prevent gas breakdown. Non oxygenated gas is higher octane and breaks down less than regular gas, and the few extra bucks spent here can be saved by reducing marine mechanic work to clean fuel system in the spring.

Make sure the lower unit oil is drained and replaced. If you notice any water in the lower unit (it would be milky colored instead of oil colored) or metal filings (they may be on the bottom drain screw), you already have a problem and you will need to address the issue before running your boat next spring.

To prevent trailer problems, make sure all the lights are working and repack the wheel bearings before storing away for the season.

For those anglers like me, that don’t winterize your boat because you continue to use it almost every month as you know you will be traveling to open water situations, it is still wise to prepare for cold water trouble-free outings. Keep gas in the gas tank 3/4 full or more and still use a fuel additive to keep gas fresh. Keep batteries charged. When done fishing, make sure everything is drained as freezing water can be an enemy. I change my lower unit oil and my four stroke motor oil in the late fall and then change it again in the spring. Repacking bearings in the fall and again in the spring is always a good idea for those that do some mid-winter traveling with the boat.

We will still have a couple more weeks of open water to enjoy in our area, so if you can, get out and take advantage. If you aren’t going to be able to enjoy the open water anymore this season, get your boat winterized so you can be friends again in the spring.

(Laabs runs Brad Laabs’ Guide Service in Detroit Lakes.)