It's time to get your boat ready for a winter's rest


December 19, 1993|By GARY DIAMOND

With just a week remaining until Christmas, most upper-bay anglers have put away their fishing tackle, being content to watch football games until spring.

Although some will take time to clean and lubricate their reels, remove old line, repair leaky waders and get their gear in shape for next season, they sometimes forget to winterize their boats.

All boats, no matter whether they're powered with an outboard, inboard/outboard or inboard engine, must be winterized. This relatively inexpensive procedure insures the craft will be in good running condition when that first run of mackerel materializes off Ocean City or big schools of white perch show up near Lapidum Landing.

Those who for some reason opt not to perform this task are often the same folks you see in the spring frantically waving their arms to attract the attention of boats passing in the distance.

When your engine dies in the upper Chesapeake, it's merely an inconvenience to both you and the person who ultimately comes to your rescue. When your engine's dead and you're 20 miles from Ocean City's inlet and the water's ice cold, you're in deep trouble.

Winterizing your boat's engine isn't difficult; however, it does require the use of hand tools and a fair degree of mechanical aptitude. If you're one of those individuals that has difficultly changing a light bulb, take the boat to a reputable dealer and have them do the job for you.

"Spring is when we see the results of not having your boat winterized the previous season," said Mark Becht at Mark's Marine in Havre de Grace. "They come to us with everything from frozen pistons to cracked lower units and everyone wants their boat fixed by the next day. When it's something minor, we can usually accommodate them, but more often than not, the repairs require ordering parts from the factory and a long wait for their arrival."

Tom Hall, manager of Imperial Marine in White Marsh, said: "Most of our spring repairs come in during the first warm weekend. That's when boaters discover that their battery's dead, the engine's frozen in a solid cake of corrosion and both trailer tires are flat."

Both dealers say it's imperative to winterize before the first hard freeze. Prolonged periods of below-freezing temperatures, combined with moisture in the wrong places, is responsible for cracked lower units, an item that can cost several thousand dollars to replace.

A spark plug wrench, screwdrivers, channel lock pliers, a grease gun and a can of WD-40 are tools required to winterize most engines. In addition, you'll need to purchase a can of Armor-All, fogging oil, lower unit oil and fuel stabilizer.

If you own an outboard motor, remove the engine cover, attach the lower unit to a garden hose coupler, turn on the water and start the engine. When the motor reaches normal operating temperature, spray fogging oil directly in the carburetor intakes until a dense, white smoke comes out the exhaust, then shut the engine off immediately. The fogging oil is specially formulated to adhere to the surface of all internal, combustion chamber parts of both two- and four-cycle engines. The oil provides protection from piston freeze, eliminates corroded valves and displaces moisture that could accumulate over the winter.

Next, drain the lower-unit grease into a glass jar, paying particular attention to the lubricant's color. If the oil is relatively clear and dark, it indicates the prop and drive shaft seals are in good condition. However, if the color is light brown, thick and somewhat foamy, the seals are likely worn and must be replaced. The job requires special tools and is best left to factory-trained technicians.

If the oil's in good shape, replace it with factory-recommended lubricant. Insert the oil cartridge tip into the lower unit's drain hole and squeeze the tube until lubricant flows from the upper vent. Quickly cover the vent with your thumb, remove the tip from the drain and insert the drain screw. If properly done, you'll lose only a few drops of oil. Insert the vent screw and tighten both to factory specifications.

Insert a tube of all-purpose marine lubricant in the grease gun. Most engines are equipped with a dozen or more grease fittings that are relatively easy to locate. However, there are always a few that are difficult to find or pose other problems.

At least two fittings usually are situated beneath the outboard's engine cover. They lubricate the throttle and shift linkage. Some smaller engines might have a grease fitting that lubricates the recoil starter spring. This one can be difficult to find, and not all engines have them. If you're unsure, consult your owner's manual.

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