As summer starts winding down and the weather starts getting cooler, it’s time to think about how to get your pontoon boat ready for the off-season. There are some important steps that every boat owner should take to ensure that your pontoon boat is in tip-top shape come spring: read on in this guide to find out more.
1. Pull Pontoon out of the Water
While it’s an option for some locations, it’s not always recommended to leave a pontoon boat in the water all winter. Pulling it out can be a task left up to a professional, depending on your storage situation for the season, or you can do it yourself if you have your own pontoon boat trailer.
2. Clean Pontoon Boat
Keeping your pontoon boat clean throughout the summer can be tough, but luckily, winter prep is the perfect time to get it done. Plus, you will prevent potential damage, as leaving your boat’s surfaces dirty throughout the winter can cause permanent damage. This doesn’t just apply to your pontoon boat’s hull – you’ll want to clean up the inside of the boat as well.
Cleaning Pontoon Interior
Start with the surfaces of your pontoon boat’s interior, making sure they get nice and clean. Be careful and let everything dry before storing, as various materials – carpet, teak, vinyl, and more – can breed mildew, especially when your pontoon boat is covered with minimal ventilation. Then, remove the miscellaneous pieces of equipment stored on your boat, such as flotation devices, lines, fishing equipment. This includes electronics, as being out in cold temperatures can be harmful to those products.
Cleaning Pontoon Boat Exterior
Water, as fun as it is to spend time on, is an excellent breeding ground for grime that you don’t want to have on your boat’s exterior. The best time to get it off is now, when you’re storing it for winter, rather than in the spring when the boat has been sitting for months. Any dust, bacterial buildup, or even barnacles or marine growth should be removed. And once you have it clean, you may want to apply a polish to create a protective barrier against rust or dirt accumulation over the winter. These steps may be difficult for you to perform, but there are many experts who would be more than happy to help you out.
3. Fill Gas Tank
It is the commonly held belief that you are supposed to fill your gas tank to 95 percent to limit the amount of air in the tank that can introduce moisture into the fuel through condensation and lead to harm from freezing temperatures. Water in your gas tank is something to be avoided to prevent freeze damage. A full tank may not always be necessary depending on your boat and the prescribed fuel – instead, some people allow the tank to get to almost empty and refill with fresh gas in the spring. In order to decide, do some research based on your fuel type and your boat. Always go with what your boat’s manufacturer recommends. Whichever you choose, take care to include a fuel stabilizer in your preparation. These keep gas from going bad by bonding with the gasoline to prevent evaporation or the formation of sticky resins. Spoiled gas would make for an unpleasant start to next season, and using stabilizer is a simple and easy step to avoid that.
4. Winterize Pontoon Motor
Just like your gas tank, keeping remaining water out of your pontoon boat’s motor is absolutely vital. If the air temperature falls below freezing more than two days in a row, the resulting harm to your engine could be severe. Fortunately, preparing your engine involves a few easy steps.
Flush Any Water from Engine
A primary culprit for residual water in an engine is the cooling system, so flushing it with fresh water is a great start. With an outboard motor, you should do this in a tilted down position so the water can fully drain. To remove water from other areas, change your oil and filters.
Depending on the motor you are running, the manufacturer may recommend replacing the engine’s coolant with antifreeze. Once you’ve drained the coolant, run your antifreeze through the system until you’re positive that it’s gone through the whole engine and all of its internal passages.
Fog the Boat Motor
If you don’t plan on running your boat’s motor periodically throughout the winter, it’s a good idea to spray fogging oil in the engine’s workings. Dormant engines can get corroded and damaged, and fogging oil will form a thin film along the engine’s metal components that will act as a protective coating against this.
5. Cover Pontoon Boat for Winter
No matter where you intend to store your boat, you need to choose a cover. The goal is to protect it from the harsh weather elements, be it ice and snow or just cooler temperatures and high winds. Your options will include plastic shrink wrap, tarps and fitted covers. Plastic is cheap, but they can be hard to fit over your boat and can be vulnerable to wind shifts, while canvas offers similar protection but with a longer lifespan and less susceptibility to movement overtime. Finally, many boats manufacturers offer pre-fitted covers that are designed to perfectly protect your boat. These can be more expensive, but they will fit the best and last the longest. If your boat will be stored indoors, a less well-fitted cover will likely be fine, but if it will be exposed to the elements, a more well-adjusted cover might be a good choice.
6. Store Pontoon Boat
Finally, you have to decide where your boat will spend the season. The primary options are on your property, either indoors or out, or a storage facility. When it comes to either your home or a garage of some kind, it’s worth considering cost, location, security and transportation. Some boat owners prefer not to have to transport their boat, especially if they don’t own a trailer, but still want to keep their boat at home. Some boaters don’t want to deal with any of the hassle, and some want to keep the whole process under their control. Whichever you are, pick the best option that will leave you happy come springtime and the next boating season.
To learn more, check out this selection of tritoons and pontoons, as well as this “find and compare” tool.