Lower Unit Oil Change and other End of the Year Angler Maintenance

After the majority of the tournaments wrap up, or when winter starts to set in, many boats are going to be sitting for more extended periods than usual.

While the word winterization may seem foreign to those in warmer clients and make them laugh northward, it is a reality for many boaters.

Some anglers shift their focus towards hunting in the fall, and the boat will be idle. Others take time to regroup after a long tournament season.

No matter the reason why your boat may be used less now, FLW Tour pro Bill McDonald says this time of year is a great time to make sure it is ready for the next season.

“Regardless if you are storing your boat or not, maintenance should be done, and this is the perfect time to do it,” he feels.

READ RELATED: Making Maintenance Easy with Mark Rose


This process signals a sad day when anglers in the north have to put their boats away for the winter and require some preparation to make sure the boat is ready for storage.

Many anglers winterize their outboard and fuel systems, and McDonald recommends Lucas Safeguard Ethanol Fuel Conditioner with Stabilizers as he always does, whether or not the boat is going to be sitting for an extended period.

“With the fuels, we have out there now, and how poor the quality is, we should all be adding an ethanol treatment. If your boat is going to sit for a while it is not going to run through the fuel system, and it becomes even more important,” he believes.

For those in colder climates, he recommends lowering the engine to drain it completely and to start it and quickly shut it back off while out of the water.

“That allows all of the water to blow out of the outboard. The last thing you want is to have water in the lower unit and have it freeze and crack something,” he shares. “Also, if you take a break from the winter and bring your boat south to escape the cold don’t forget to repeat the process before going home.”

Now is Lower Unit Time

After a long season, McDonald changes his lower unit oil and says it is an easy process if you want to do it yourself.

“This is something we should all be doing regardless of the season. It is cheap preventative maintenance,” he says. “While I’m doing it I also remove my prop to check for fishing line wrapped the shaft because that can do some serious damage. I check it before every tournament to be sure.”

Once he removes the prop, he also adds some Lucas Marine Grease to keep the shaft lubricated and working correctly.

Changing the lower unit is easy, and McDonald uses Lucas M8 Synthetic SAE 75W-90 Marine Gear Oil. There are several how-to videos online with different engine makes and models. Besides the oil, McDonald says you’ll need a screwdriver or Allen wrench/hex key (depending on outboard brand), a drain pan, and pump that can be found at boat supply stores.

“Once you do it, if you see white or milky colored oil it could be a sign of a problem. If you see that, make sure to get it checked out by your local marina,” he adds.

This preventative maintenance can save you some hassle when the spring fishing season kicks off.

“If you are doing your maintenance this time of year and find a serious issue, it is much easier to get your boat into the shop now because they are going to be much slower. I can guarantee you that the boat won’t fix itself sitting there,” he laughs.

READ RELATED: Step-by-Step Reel Maintenance with Ken Mah

While You are There

Once you are in the late season maintenance mode, McDonald says it is a good idea to check several other things at the same time.

“I like to check things like livewell and bilge pumps to make sure they are working and to clean my rods and reels,” he begins.

Checking the little things over now can pay huge dividends for the next season.

“Our livewells are so important, and the last thing you want to do is neglect the pumps and kill your big limit. I would make sure everything is fixed and ready to go for the tournament season,” he offers.

When it comes to rod and reel maintenance, he checks all of his guides and cleans his rod handles with a product called Super Clean that can be found just about anywhere. Besides rods and reels, he says he uses it for many things on his boat and truck.

“It makes your cork and Winn Grip rods look brand new,” he says.

For his reels, he likes the Lucas Oil Reel Oil for its effectiveness and ease of use. “It’s easy to sit down and clean a few while you are watching a football game or TV,” says the Indiana pro.

Nobody is going to say they love doing maintenance work, but we can all agree that it can prevent problems down the road. Bill McDonald advises taking advantage of the slower fishing time to get ready for the next season.