Winter Boat Maintenance Tips
In the Pacific Northwest, few boat dealers can match the reputation of Nixon’s Marine. They have been a go-to source for bass and walleye anglers throughout the region and have recently consolidated locations to one central location in Pasco, Wash.
They offer new Triton, Skeeter, and Ranger bass boats and service all of the major outboard brands. Matt Martin has been with Nixon’s for six years and offered some boat maintenance tips for boaters who are faced with the cold winter months quickly approaching.
Many boaters have been switching to four-stroke outboards, and instead of continually adding outboard oil, they are now servicing them by changing out the oil.
“With the popularity of the Yamaha SHO and the new Mercury ProXS, we are seeing more and more guys with four-strokes. We recommend changing out the oil every year, and winter is a great time to do it,” said Martin, who is factory certified by boat outboard brands.
The same is true of lower unit oils, for both two and four-strokes.
“It is a good idea to change out the oil in the lower unit, and it can also detect if there is an issue with the seals. It is better to find it now before the freezing temps start,” he said. “It is preventative maintenance, plus you will be ready to go when spring comes.”
Martin and the Nixon’s team recommend draining the fuel system at the end of the year, if possible. They also offer this service if a customer is unable to do it.
If that’s not an option, filling it full and adding a stabilizer will suffice.
“This prevents any moisture from getting into the fuel system. Several products on the market will stabilize the fuel,” said Martin. “Quickcare has fuel stabilizer built into the additives, so if you run it all year; you are already ahead of the curve.”
Fuel Water Separator
This part does just what it sounds like, and Martin said it is another thing that should be done annually, while things are slower.
“This time of year, we are not as busy fixing boats that had problems during a tournament or all of the recreational boats. It is something that can be done so you are ready for spring, or for the DIY guy, it is something they can do themselves,” he said.
Battery Maintenance and Storage
Taking good care of your batteries is something that is often overlooked, and Martin said that proper during the winter months is vital to ensuring they last as long as possible.
“Most bass anglers have big money wrapped up in their batteries, and if you encounter cold temperatures, there are some things you should do to protect them,” he said. “If you are storing the boat in a cold area, it may be best to remove them from the boat and store them somewhere warm and keep them on a trickle charge.”
If that is not possible or too much work to disconnect all of the wires to the terminals, Martin said a “smart charger” is a good option. Many of the new multiple bank chargers fit into this category and have a maintenance mode that keeps them charged, but safe while plugged in.
“If the batteries are a lead-acid version, you should also check the electrolyte levels because a battery can dry out and lead to an out-of-pocket expense. And, always use de-ionized water,” shared Martin. “Some of the newer boats have an isolator switch that allows you to turn off power to the electronics, and that is great. Another thing to do is to make sure there is ventilation to the compartment because that can lead to flammable gasses when stored for a long period.”
The water inside of livewells and anywhere else inside of the boat can cause real problems if it freezes. As a result, Martin reminds us to make sure to do everything you can to prevent this.
“Empty your livewells, remove the drain plug and cover your prop if the boat is stored outside. You don’t want the water to get inside the exhaust cover and freeze,” he said. “Some of the outboards have strainers or screens inside of them, and those can also get clogged. That can leave residual water that can freeze inside of the engine. We can inspect those for you and make sure you are good.”
Boat Covers and Trailer
Keeping a boat covered is one thing, but Martin said doubling up the cover is even better if your boat is taking a winter nap in the elements.
“Adding a tarp on top of your cover helps to stop excess moisture from getting inside. It can prevent mold or even moss from growing inside of the boat,” said Martin.
When it comes to your trailer, Martin said winter is also an excellent time to inspect the wheel bearings and to check the brake system for any water contamination to prevent issues down the road.
Matt Martin and the entire team at Nixon’s Marine are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to boats, outboards, and getting them to perform their best. There is a reason that so many bass anglers in the region go to Pasco for their boating needs.