Owning a pontoon boat (party barge) is all about large family gatherings in the spring and summer months. But, when winter comes around, it’s all about taking care of your investment and ensuring it lasts a long time.
To properly winterize a pontoon boat, it needs to be thoroughly cleaned (inside and out), the gas stabilized, the coolant drained and refilled, all of the valves turned off, and the batteries pulled.
Some things are more important than others. Effectively winterizing your pontoon boat requires a degree of time and elbow grease. You should do it the right way each year to maximize the longevity of the craft and its good preventative maintenance as well.
How to Winterize a Pontoon Boat – Step by Step
It’s not just about cleaning your pontoon boat. It’s also important that you have a good place to store it or, at the very least, have something to cover it with. While sitting out in the sun won’t necessarily hurt it, the harsh UV will eventually fade the paint.
1. Clean the outside
Anytime you want to do something the right way, starting on the outside and working your way in is always a good way to begin. Once winter sets in, all the dirt, grime, and barnacles (if those clingy little creatures apply) will harden themselves to the hull.
Scrub it down like you would wash your car, then rinse it and start again if need be. The goal is to get it as close to the way it was when you first bought it.
2. Clean the interior
The general rule of thumb is that if it didn’t come with the pontoon boat, it shouldn’t be on board through the winter. Haul off all your trash, any extra materials, furniture, lawn chairs, skis, inner tubes, fishing stuff, life vests, and electronic equipment, like fish finders.
If you have carpet in your pontoon, give it a good carpet cleaning just like you would in your own home. Scrub the remaining surfaces in the interior and shine up all the chrome.
3. Prep the engine
Your pontoon boat should have come with an owner’s manual for your engine, including general maintenance procedures, along with a full guide on winterizing the engine. You should follow it to a T. This usually entails removing the spark plugs before you spray fogging oil, then replacing them when you’re finished.
The most important thing is putting the fuel stabilizer in the gas tank. You should completely fill the gas tank and add a fuel stabilizer before you let your pontoon settle in for the winter. You can always change the oil and oil filter. It’s not entirely necessary, but it’s certainly helpful.
4. Lubricate your Grease Fittings
The grease fittings are typically located around the steering column of the pontoon boat. Once you find them, you should grease them up very well. The lubricant you apply will have to last throughout the winter.
Be sure to use a premium marine lubricant, like AtomLube All-Purpose or Quicksilver Marine Grease with Teflon.
Drain the coolant from your engine and replace it with a 50/50 combination of antifreeze and water. When you pick out an antifreeze for the job, stick with the propylene variation and none other, since it’s better for the water.
6. Remove the battery and cover the boat
The battery is a bit more involved than the rest of the boat. While the boat sits through the winter, the battery needs to come off and go somewhere dry and cool. However, you won’t just leave it there all winter.
You should fully charge the battery before you disconnect it. At least once a week, you need to charge the battery and keep it topped off until it’s time to install it again once the winter is over.
It’s important to cover your pontoon up. If you can dry dock it somewhere out of the sun, such as a large garage or a large, outdoor shed, that would be even better. If you have no options for storing it, you need to cover it up with a fitted cover or shrink-wrap it.
Shrink-wrapping a pontoon can be done at home, but it isn’t the easiest job in the world, and it requires specialized tools to accomplish.
If you enjoy your pontoon boat and want to get the most out of it, winterizing it is a natural progression through every winter season. Sure, it’s a pain in the rear end, especially if you don’t have a lot of extra time on your hands.
However, boats are known for being high maintenance, especially engines. It only makes sense to focus on preventative maintenance now, rather than spending ridiculous amounts on repairs later down the road.
Besides, once you do it the first time, the next winter that rolls around will be even easier, since you’ll know what’s coming, and maybe you’ll come up with some additional winterization options of your own.
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