It's time to pull in the docks, rafts, lifts, and boats for another season. But there is more to it than just taking boats out of the water. Winterizing a boat and motor is the most important maintenance a boat owner can perform to help ensure safe boating next spring. Whether you choose to do it yourself or have your marina or storage facility do it for you, winterizing is the best way to prepare your boat for the season to come. Regardless of where your boat is stored (inside or outside), much care is needed to protect your boat engine. This autumn, when the leaves start turning brilliant colors, remember to follow these best management practices for environmentally friendly boat winterization: Boat Hauling and Cleaning: Remove all visible aquatic plants and animals from your boat, motor, trailer and other equipment before leaving the access area. Sewage holding tanks should be emptied before winter storage so find your nearest pump-out facility. Check the Division of Watercraft’s interactive Boating Access map for more information. Use non-toxic, phosphate free, biodegradable cleaning products to clean your boat. If your boat needs to be pressure washed, locate a Clean Marina with a wash pad designed to prevent contaminants from entering the water. If a wash pad is not available in your area, please use a tarp under your boat to capture any paint chips or debris. Empty bilge water for winter storage to reduce the chance of a spill and to ensure that the bilge pump is not harmed by ice. Use an absorbent pad/cushion in the bilge to capture all oily waste, then have your marina pump out the clean water. Always expel bilge water away from storm drains and bodies of water. Fuel and Oil: Winterizing a boat’s motor and outdrive creates a lot of waste oils. Use absorbent pads to catch drips or small spills during maintenance. Use small containers of oil and other hazardous cleaners. Carefully collect these fluids for your marina or municipal oil recycling program. Never dispose of them in the trash, on the ground, down the drain or down a storm drain. Use the proper amount of fuel stabilizers to fill fuel tanks. If left untreated over the winter, gasoline can cause disintegration of fiberglass fuel tanks, gumming up of fuel lines and piston and valve failure. Water: Drain all engine cooling systems and drinking water systems as much as possible, and then use non-toxic propylene glycol, “marine” antifreeze, to fill each system. This will ensure that engine blocks and plumbing do not freeze and crack over the winter months. Shrink Wrap: Find a Clean Marina or business with a shrink wrap recycling program for both fall and spring. Installing shrink wrap in the fall generates waste material and left over scraps which must be separated and clean from ropes, tie-downs, zippers and vents. General Steps to Winterization of Powerboats Fill the fuel tanks and add the appropriate amount of stabilizer. Run the engine long enough to get treated gas into the fuel line and engine. Left untreated over the winter, gasoline deteriorates into varnish and gum, making starting difficult. Flush the cooling system. (Flushing kits are available from boat dealers.) Also remove block plugs and drain all the water from inboard and inboard outdrive engines. This cleans out accumulated sediment and rust flakes. Pump in anti-freeze to avoid trapped ice pockets. Use an environmentally safe product to avoid contaminating the marine environment. Fog the engine with oil to prevent rust. Available in bulk or aerosol cans, fogging oil is formulated to stick to the cylinders and not slide down the walls. Follow the instructions that come with the product making sure to spray some of the oil into the cylinders through the sparkplug holes once the engine has cooled down. Check the spark plugs and replace them as necessary. Replace the oil and oil filter on inboard and inboard outdrive engines. Be sure to dispose of the used oil at an authorized recycling center. Change the lower unit gearcase lubricant on outboards and inboard/outdrive engines. Even a little water trapped in the gearcase can cause damage, especially if allowed to freeze. Check the props for nicks. Even slight damage can hinder performance. Worse yet, blade damage can cause vibration, damaging other engine parts and the drive system. Some damaged props can be repaired by marine dealers for a fraction of the cost of a new one. Store outboards in an upright position. Consider having the water pump impeller replaced every two or three years. The rubber legs can get stiff, reducing water circulation, or they may break off, eliminating coolant flow completely. Spray a moisture displacing lubricant such as a silicone product onto electrical terminals and the fuse panel. Read the label to make sure the spray is safe for use on electrical components. Inspect steering systems, including tiller steering friction fittings on outboards. Tighten them if they're loose. Clean the backfire flame arrester on inboard engines with carburetor cleaner. Clean boats inside and out and cover when stored, even indoors. Allow for air circulation under the cover to prevent mildew. Drain water from the bilges and leave the transom drain plug out. It's a good idea to place a reminder note in a conspicuous place to avoid embarrassment at the boat ramp next spring. Hang life jackets up where they can air out. Examine trailer tires and grease the wheel bearings, replacing them as necessary. Check bulbs and electrical contacts on the plugs as well as sockets where the bulbs screw in. Spray contacts with a moisture displacing lubricant and wrap electrical tape around the plugs to keep them dry. Put the trailer on blocks and remove the tires to prolong rubber life and hinder boat thieves. Check the owners manual for tips that are particular to your own brand of boat, engine and trailer. For boaters who aren't comfortable doing their own maintenance, all the procedures may be performed by a qualified marine technician at your local boat dealer. Taking a little time in the fall to get your boat and motor ready for winter means that you can be one of the first boaters out on the water next spring.