Winter Storage

Dear Dr. Motorhead,

The mirror-like surface of the lake is reflecting the morning sun through ghost-like images as the

mist rises from the warm waters in the cool morning air. The geese are beginning to gather and flock but a few yards from my dock. As the squirrels nervously scurry about the yard hoarding what appears to be a winter’s worth of acorns in their bulging cheeks. Fall is arriving in Minnesota. It seems like only yesterday, we were celebrating Spring’s first arrival, anticipating the long lazy days of summer. This time of year, we squander the sun-drenched autumn days with beautiful colors and long shadows. Only too soon our boats will be tucked into their storage areas awaiting Spring’s return.

My mind drifts from the splendor to the inevitable, yielding to mother nature and preparing for the winter ahead — hauling out and winterizing before the winter winds and freezing temperatures set their icy grip. As an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, I so desire to perform all the necessary winterizing tasks that insure the safe hibernation of my beautiful craft. My recent spring purchase has yet to afford me the experience and knowledge to perform such duties. Anxiety ridden, I ask, “Will my beloved runabout fall victim to the frigid winter months?“

Can you share with me your insight, wisdom and advice, to the proper wintering techniques and correct storage? I am sure you and your trusted assistant Piston must be so very busy this time of year. In addition, your backlog of letters awaiting responses must be enormous. Could you find it in your heart to rejoinder and pontificate to this timely request? If I don’t hear from you I understand. However, my only recourse if you can’t respond, would be to ship my boat to Florida for the winter. Your insight and wisdom are beyond reproach. I am at your mercy.

Prolific Pendocrast III

Dear Pro,
Yikes! Get off your knees! It’s not becoming to a gentleman of your apparent stature. I am encouraged that you have the desire not only to enjoy your beloved runabout but also maintain and preserve it as well.

Working on your own boat is not only a money saving adventure; it is also fun and rewarding. While Piston is looking up the words rejoinder and pontificate in our dictionary, I’ll take this time to answer and give understanding to your query. Get out your pad and pencil; cause here’s the skinny.
Don’t wait too long to get all this done. Winter can hit and hit hard as early as late October making your job
miserable or even impossible. You need to change the oil in your motor. Sometime in late September early October when that warm sunny day arrives, get ready to do your work. Don’t procrastinate; it will probably be the last. Go for a boat ride. This will warm up the engine oil. Warming your oil thins it out allowing you to remove the old oil with a marine oil pump. There are a number of different pumps that do the job. Buy one and enjoy it. This is one of life’s little pleasures. The old oil contains acids that are
corrosive and harmful to your engine during the many months of winter storage. Help your engine and change that oil. After the oil is changed, run your boat to the landing. This gives the new oil a chance to coat all the internal engine parts for the long winter ahead.

With your boat out of the water, add a few drops of oil to the generator and distributor oil ports. Open up the
distributor and spray WD40, or the like, into the lower part of it. This will prevent the spark advance counterweights from getting rusty and stuck.

Next, drain the engine of all its water. There are drain plugs on all engines. They all must be opened and drained completely of water. If not completed correctly, the result is a cracked block. Engine manufacturers are different, with varying locations to drain the water. If you need specific information for your particular motor, let me know I can help you with the locations. Once you have opened these drains, especially the drains located on the engine block, probe a piece of wire into the hole. Many times a strand of seaweed or a chunk of sand gets lodged in the hole and won’t let the water out. Another neat technique is to start the engine while holding a board over the exhaust pipe. This forces the exhaust gasses through the engine, thus blowing out all water and any debris from the water passages. Try it — it’s slick.

Your next task it to fog the engine. In my opinion, there is only one way to perform this task. You will need to
purchase a can of Stor-X; no other product does the job. It’s just that simple. Start your engine and set the throttle at 2000 RPM. With the flame arrestor off the carburetor, slowly pour about half the can into the carb. The mixture must get sucked into the engine and not just poured into the carburetor itself. The engine will run rough and smoke a lot. This is good. Turn off your motor and pour the remaining amount of Stor-X into the gas tank.

Make sure your battery has a good charge and disconnect the battery terminals. It’s OK to leave the battery in the boat, but only if it has a good charge.

What to do with the gas in the tank? Some say that a full tank is best. This helps prevent the possibility of corrosion. Some say an empty tank is best; fewer hazards materials in a closed storage area. In addition, the gasoline today is much less stable — octane breakdown occurs much faster today. Six months of storage leaves you with a much weaker gasoline. I prefer the empty. or near-empty. scenario. Top off the tank with fresh gas in the spring. This method has never created any problems for me. It never hurts to stick a rag in the exhaust pipe and the carburetor openings. This helps keep moisture from entering the engine through any open or partially opened engine valves.

If you do not own a storage trailer, you should. Not only does it make your job easier, the support the trailer gives your boat is very beneficial.
In conclusion, when you haul your boat earlier rather that later, you allow your boat to dry out. This is very important, especially for you who have opted to install a “West System” bottom.
Here’s hoping all of you enjoy the fall colors. My schedule is very busy these days. I have speaking engagements all over the country this time of year. I hope to be in town for the fall colors cruise.
Dr. Motorhead