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Minnesota Lake

Techniques & Advice, The Lowdown

How to: Winterizing an outboard engine

October 7, 2011
Outboard Engines

What an amazing stretch of weather for October in Minnesota, makes it hard to even think about the cold weather looming. But, at some day in the near future the wind will begin to blow and the lakes will begin to ice and we will have to have the boats ready for winter.

And while many of us here in northern Minnesota are canoe-centric, there is a great number of people throwing canoe packs in fishing boats and using outboards to chase fish around the lakes. Let me run down the process to winterize a two-stroke outboard engine.  Leave the four-stroke I/O’s for the pros.

  1. Add SeaFoam and/or StaBil to the last tank of gas for the year. This will protect the fuel system and the remainder of the gas for the winter.
  2. Pull the fuel line and drain the carburetor at the public access before you pull the boat out of the water. This will keep old gas from gumming up the fuel pump and carburetor.
  3. Get the engine straight up and down at the ramp or back at the garage while winterizing. This drains any water that may be holding in the cooling system or lower unit.
  4. Pull the hull plug and all the plugs from live wells and bait wells in the boat. More than once I have seen a boat that not only still has the hull plugs in, but also has full live wells. If that were to freeze it would really do some damage. More importantly, it is now illegal to trailer a boat in Minnesota without removing the live-well or hull plug. If you are stopped, and the officer finds you in violation you may pay some hefty fines.
  5. Drain the lower unit of gear lube. I do this as I accomplish the following tasks to give it some time to drain.
  6. Remove the spark plugs and induce fogging oil into the cylinders. I know this may seem like overkill on an engine that mixes gas and oil, but the fogging oil is heavy and will inhibit rust in the cylinders. With the plugs back in roll the engine over once to spread the fogging oil.
  7. Disconnect and charge the battery. Use a small zip strip to tie together the positive cables and negative cables. If you have a warm, dry basement put it there, but a full charge will help it get through the cold weather.
  8. Put new gear lube in the lower unit. I like to use a pump to induce the lube into the lower vent hole; you must fill it up from the bottom. When full you will see it start to peek out the upper vent hole. Put the upper vent plug back in first, MAKE SURE THE VENT PLUGS HAVE THE LITTLE TEFLON GASKETS, now remove the pump from the lower vent hole and HUSTLE the lower plug back in.
  9. Store your boat in a safe place, and prepare for the snow load if outside.
If you have a better way or a different way of winterizing you outboard, feel free to leave me a comment. I am always looking for new ways to improve my method.
Now get ready for ice fishing!