Metal shelters or garages are likely the best way to store your boat, motorcycle, and other recreational toys during the winter. However, just parking your boat inside may not provide it with all the protection it needs from the harshness of Old Man Winter. Cold, dry air can cause interior upholstery to crack, while moist air can wreak havoc on electronics and promote the growth of mold and mildew. Allowing gas to sit and degrade in your fuel tank for up to six months can seriously inhibit the performance of your engine.
While metal shelters and garages may protect your vessel from the chilling winds and precipitation of winter, the proper maintenance and upkeep of your boat is incredibly important and does not start and end with closing the garage door. If you want to get the most out of your boat once the weather warms up again, take the time now to protect your investment. Waiting until after winter will only harm your boat, and your wallet – repairs can become much more expensive at the start of spring when every other boat owner is doing the same seasonal maintenance.
We decided to promote maintenance tips for the upcoming winter so that your boat will be seaworthy at the first sign of spring:
- The accumulation and expansion of ice and snow can split open hatches and window tracks, causing leaks. Even if you store your boat inside a metal shelter or garage, it is still wise to invest in a boat cover to protect your interior and vital electronic components. To prevent the growth of mold and mildew, choose a cover that promotes air flow to decrease the chances of trapped moisture causing problems down the road.
- Check the hull for any stress cracks or blisters in the gelcoat. Stress cracks can indicate structural damage, and should be looked at by a professional if serious. If there are any blisters that need attention, they should be punctured, drained, dried, and patched. An epoxy-based filler made for this purpose is available.
- If your hull is aluminum, use a rubber mallet to slowly and carefully bang out any dents.
- Scrape off any barnacles or other hitch hikers. Use sandpaper to remove the residue from these unwanted guests, and pressure wash the hull to clean off any dirt or sea scum. While it may take extra time, waxing the hull now will make this job a lot easier come next winter. This creates an acrylic shield over the hull to prevent dirt and grime from penetrating, allowing it to be hosed off easily.
Interior and Electronics
- Again, choosing a quality boat cover that promotes air flow is critical in protecting the interior during harsh winter weather. Consider using mildew sprays or chemical dehumidifiers to combat and prevent the accumulation of moisture and mold. There are also vinyl cleaners and protectants available that can prevent your vinyl from drying out and cracking.
- Moisture can also wreak havoc on your electronics systems. To be safe, it is wise to remove any electronics you can and store them in a safer environment during the winter. This is the best opportunity you may have to perform sparsely done cleaning and maintenance tasks. Spray exposed electrical connections with a moisture-displacing lubricant. You could also thoroughly clean all other parts of your boat interior for maximum protection – clean the trim and glass and vacuum, wash, and scrub the decks and carpets.
- The biggest dangers that a boat engine faces during the winter are freezing, corrosion, and fuel degradation. There are many tasks associated with engine maintenance prior to long-term storage, and this gives you an opportunity to give your boat a full tune-up so that it will be ready for the water at the first sign of spring.
- Pull the engine cover and check for problems like frayed or loose wires, connections, or clamps. Check the condition of all hoses and replace those that are worn or show cracks and other damage. Check the condition of the belts and if necessary, adjust their tension. Touch up any paint nicks to prevent corrosion. Run the engine up to temperature and change the oil and filter.
- Flush the engine with fresh water. Idle the engine while flushing, making sure it doesn’t overheat, until the water flushes clean. Store the engine vertically to make sure all water drains completely. Even a small amount of water left in the engine can freeze and cause costly damage. Inboards and sterndrives require refilling with propylene glycol antifreeze to prevent small ice pockets from forming, which can crack the block.
- Gasoline degrades in storage, and this process can begin in as little as two weeks, with the fuel’s octane rating decreasing in the process. Add fuel stabilizer to the tank and idle the engine for 10 to 20 minutes to distribute stabilizer throughout the system.
- Protecting engine internals from rust and corrosion is vital for the performance of your boat. Remove the engine flame arrestor and spray fogging oil down the carburetor with the engine running. Shut off the fuel supply (with the fuel valve or by pinching off the fuel line) to burn up the remaining fuel in the carb/fuel injection system. When the engine stops, pull the spark plugs and squirt some fogging oil into the cylinders. Rotate the engine a few times and reinstall the plugs. You can also disable the ignition and crank the engine while spraying fogging oil down the carburetor.
- Fogging oil is sticky and can gum up an injector if used on a fuel-injected engine. To be on the safe side, you can use two-cycle oil instead of fogging oil.
- On four-cycle engines, you should remove the carb drain plug to extract all of the fuel. The main jets on these types of engines are so small that even a tiny amount of fuel left in the carb can gum them up.
- Next, remove the propeller and check the condition of the prop, hub, and splines. To avoid water pump failure next season, it is a good idea to change the water pump impeller now.
- Drain the gear case lube and be on the lookout for a milky color. This indicates that there is water in the oil. Be aware of any metal chips or shavings, which can be caused by gears grinding.
While this may seem like a lot of work, you would probably want the same attention and time spent on your boat if you paid to take it to the shop. Taking care of your boat before storing it away for the long winter can save you money and headaches down the road, increase the longevity of your boat, and allow for a quick and easy launch come spring. Plus, aside from being the perfect building for store your boat, one of our metal shelters makes the ideal workshop. Performing these essential tune-up operations in your own garage saves you money and helps foster an intimate and strengthened knowledge of the condition of specific mechanical systems on your boat.
Metal Shelters from Elephant
With so many options available based on the size and building type that you’re looking for, our metal shelters and garages can be sized to fit most boats and other recreational vehicles. Forget about the marina or other offsite storage – when it comes to protecting your investments, call us first to get the best building for your money.