Dewinterizing a Boat

Note: Keep in mind that this list is in no way exhaustive. Be sure to check your instruction manual or reach out to the manufacturer for model-specific instructions to dewinterize your boat.

Ah, the opening day of boating season! It's one of the best times of the year and we don't blame you for being excited. But just like the steps you take to winterize your boat for storage, there are a few that must be taken to dewinterize it when spring and summer come again. So, we've put together a high-level checklist for how to dewinterize a boat to get your watercraft ready for boating season.

You do everything you can to store and protect your prized watercraft each winter. But despite your best efforts, hoses crack and critters nest over the winter months. Things happen, and it's OK! In addition to regular seasonal maintenance, you'll want to thoroughly inspect your watercraft for wear and tear, replacing and repairing boat accessories as needed prior to taking it out on the water. Keep reading for a 10-step dewinterizing guide that will help ensure that your watercraft is seaworthy and prepped, primed and ready to go!

1. Remove Cover and Inspect for Critters

Cover on Boat

If you've taken the proper steps to secure your boat for winter storage, this step should be pretty painless. But things do happen and sometimes, even with the most diligent of preventative measures, critters and rodents find a way onto your boat. Carefully remove your boat cover, rolling it back slowly to check for nests or animals. Look for anything suspicious like scratches, chew marks or scat. If you see signs of any unwanted visitors, it may be time to invest in a new or better boat cover and utilize some nontoxic pest repellent.

2. Clean All Fabric and Carpeting

Docked Boats

Next, you'll want to use your boat vacuum and corresponding vacuum accessories to remove any leaves, dust or debris that might have crept up under your boat cover. Use the attachment to get into any crevices and cracks. Then, thoroughly vacuum all fabric and carpeting, including cushions, vinyl and Bimini tops. This is also a smart time to check for cracks or tears in upholstery and benches. Seat covers are a great option, as they protect your vinyl seating from harmful mildew and UV rays.

3. Check the Battery

Plugging into Boat Battery

Part of spring boat maintenance is checking and cleaning the boat battery. You'll want to clean your battery's terminals well, removing any grime, dirt or rust using a small wire brush. You'll also want to check the terminals for any corrosion, coating the posts with lithium grease to protect from any further damage. Then, you can reconnect your battery cables if you disconnected them for the winter. This is the time to make sure your battery is full of fresh, distilled water, if necessary. Once everything is in place, use a battery tester to make sure the battery holds a strong charge and is ready to go.

4. Test the Electronics

Boat Compass

Next, test every attached electronic component on your boat — this includes all switches, knobs and control panels. If you have any electronics that were removed for the winter and need to be attached and tested, now is also the time to do this. Removable electronics can include, but are not limited to, navigational devices, depth finders, GPS systems, lighting and speakers. Once the battery is running and all of your electronics are operating properly, turn the boat off and see if the automatic bilge pump float switch is working.

5. Check the Engine and Propellers


Start by checking the engine and propellers for any dents or possible damage. Then check your belts. Apply just a little bit of pressure and you'll be able to feel if they've lost slack over the winter. If your engine appears to have black soot, it may be time to invest in a new belt. While you may be able to hold out until next boating season, it's always better to repair or replace sooner rather than later.

6. Change the Engine Oil

Boat Engine

Before taking your watercraft out for boating season, get an oil change, using the right additives when replacing the oil filter. This will help keep your boat's engine from corroding or rusting over time and ensure that the fuel lines don't crack over the winter due to dry, cold temperatures.

7. Fill the Cooling System

Boat Cooling System

When winterizing your boat, you need to completely empty your cooling system to prevent freezing. If you didn't flush your cooling system last fall, now's the time to flush and drain it. When dewinterizing a boat, you'll obviously need to refill your cooling system and antifreeze in order to operate it. At this point, you should also check your hoses for cracks or any wear and tear that may lead to damage down the road. Once everything is refilled, you can reconnect the wires of your spark plugs.

8. Inspect the Gas Tank and Fuel Lines

Filling Gas Tank

Unfortunately, gas tank and fuel lines have a tendency to develop rust over the winter. But if you properly filled the tank prior to storing it for the offseason, you'll be in better shape come spring and avoid the headache of corrosion. Inspect gas tank and fuel lines for cracks and replace as needed. You'll also want to change the fuel filter at this time.

9. Prepare the Safety Gear

Row Life Jackets

While this step takes but a moment, it has the potential to save lives — the importance can't be understated. Look at all of your safety gear, fire extinguishers, smoke detectors and First-Aid kids, making sure nothing is expired or visibly damaged. If they are, ensure that you have adequate replacements prior to going out on the water. It's also vital to make sure that you have enough flotation devices for everyone on your boat. Lastly, test all lights and signaling equipment, including flares, whistles and horns.

10. Clean, Polish & Wax

Polishing Boat

The last step of dewinterizing a boat is cleaning, polishing and waxing the exterior. Even simple maintenance can prolong the lifespan of your boat and strengthen the structural integrity of the moldings. You'll want to use a power washer to remove any dirt and mildew that may have accumulated. Once your boat is clean and dry, you can do your wax job to make sure she's nice and polished.

Start boating season off the right way by planning ahead and dewinterizing your watercraft properly. Don't conduct this checklist the day of your outing. You'll want to inspect and prep your boat well ahead of time, otherwise you might find yourself unprepared and disappointed by a cancelled trip.

Conduct Spring Boat Maintenance the Right Way With the Help of Boat & RV Accessories

At Boat & RV Accessories, we want to help you get out on the water faster, enjoying nature or time spent with friends and family. That's why we carry a massive selection of boat accessories and parts to help you in dewinterizing a boat for the season, including covers, propellers, lighting and so much more. Need help prepping your craft for opening day of boating season? Contact us today!

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