After a fun boating season, our Sea Ray 390 has been hauled on-shore for winter storage. Winterization:
We have a 1986 Sea Ray 390 Express Cruiser; great family boat. Here in Ohio, we must take the boat out of the water and winterize it each October. For me, ‘winterize’ comes down to:
- Winterize fuel
- Winterize both motors (454 Mercruisers (7.4L)) and their sea strainers
- Winterize the Westerbeke generator and its sea strainer
- Winterize forward and aft air conditioners, and ac cooling lines
- Winterize water system (hot and cold water)
- Winterize hot water tank
- Winterize toilet
- Winterize waste holding tank
- Clean and prep interior
In this blog post, let’s talk about winterizing the fuel and motors: How to winterize the 454s.
Before beginning, let me mention one more detail. My motors pull water from Lake Erie for cooling. I do not have a closed cooling system (no radiators or anything like that on the motors).
Last Fishing Trip of October
- Fuel Stabilizer
Winterizing begins a couple of weeks before the actual boat pull-out. As part of my winterizing, I add fuel stabilizer to my fuel tanks. I try to do this on my final fishing trip of the year. I add the recommended amount of stabilizer to each tank, and then go fishing. This way, I can be sure that stabelized-fuel is in the tanks, and in the fuel lines and carbs of the motors.
After the boat has been hoisted out of the water, and is on its boat jacks, that’s when the work really begins. I work on one motor at a time.
- Remove flame arrestor
Before warming up the motors be sure to remove the flame arrestor on top of the carb. A single 3/8″ nut holds mine. You want unimpeded access to the carb throats. And have a can of fogging oil ready. I like the spray types, but the liquid pour cans work fine too. I’ll talk about fogging a bit later.
- Warm up motors
I make sure the motors are warmed up. Usually, they are fairly warm because I drive the boat over to the hoist for pull-out. However, by the time the boat is actually pulled out, and the bottom pressure washed, the engines have cooled quite a bit. So, I need to warm them up. Why? The engines must be warm to ensure the thermostat on the motor is open and coolant can flow freely to all parts of the motor.
- 5 gallon bucket and a garden hose
So, how to warm up motors while on boat jacks in a parking lot? You need to provide water to the motors so they can warm up, but not overheat. I go into the bilge and disconnect the water intake hose at the sea cock (for me, this involves loosening a couple of clamps and twisting the hose to remove it from the seacock — sometimes a lot of twisting to get it to release from the metal of the sea cock). Then I place the end of the intake hose into a 5 gallon bucket. Finally, I drag up a garden hose, and put it in the bucket so I can feed a constant flow of water into the bucket.
- Start the motor
I work on one motor at a time. With the garden hose flowing, I start the motor and let it warm up (about 5-8 minutes). The motor impeller should suck water out of the bucket and keep the motor from overheating. Yes, I start the motor with the boat on boat jacks. If the yard did their job correctly, then there’s nothing to worry about (the boat isn’t going to tip over or fall off of the jacks).
- Stop water and add anti-freeze
Once the motor is warmed up, I keep the motor running, and with a deft slight of hand, I turn off the water from the garden hose (I have a hose attachment at the end that I can twist to stop the flow), and simultaneously start pouring gallons of anti-freeze into the bucket. I have found that 4-5 gallons of anti-freeze is sufficient. The motor sucks up the antifreeze and it goes through all the parts of the motor. It also goes through the sea strainer. Of course, the motor just spits it out the exhaust. I thought about recapturing it, but I just let it go. This takes about 1-2 minutes … the motor sucks up the anti-freeze quickly so have all your gallons open and ready to pour.
- Impeller not working?
If your motor does not suck up the water/anti-freeze, then you’ve got a broken impeller. You must fix this. But that’s another post.
- Fog the motor
Remember that can of fogging oil. Now is when to use it. The motor is still running, and it’s pretty much winterized (full of anti-freeze). You have poured your final gallon of anti-freeze into the bucket. At this point, with the motor still running, I spray as much fogging oil down the throat of the carburator as I can. Often this kills the motor … which is good. If the motor doesn’t shut down after 5-10 seconds of fogging, turn it off. During the fogging, my bucket often runs dry, but that’s no big deal … a motor can run without water for a couple of minutes if need be. However, keep it under 10 seconds. Why push it?
- Reattach the flame arrestor
The motor should now be off. So, put the flame arrestor back on the carburator.
- Draing the motor
What happens next is debatable. Some folks leave the anti-freeze in the motor. I don’t. On each side of the 454s, there are motor-block-drain-plugs. Open them up (counter clock wise) until you get a good draining flow. Don’t remove the drain cocks, just open them. Check the color of the flowing liguid, it should be the color of your anti-freeze (though it may be diluted a bit). If I don’t get a good flow, I poke up the drain plugs with a zip tie. Sometime crap collects at the drain plug and inhibits the draining fluid. It takes my motors 5-10 minutes to completely drain out.
- Re-tighten the drain plugs
Don’t forget the re-tighten the drain plugs once all the fluid has drained from the motor. There are drain plugs all over the motor. If they can open easily, go ahead and open, drain and close these too. But be sure to get the block drain plugs (as described above), these are the most important. I’ve noticed that once the block has drained, the other plugs hardly drain any fluid at all.
- Clean up
Of course, all that fluid from the motors just drains into the bilge, so I use a wet-vac to clean it up.
- Reattach intake hose
Reattach the intake cooling hose onto the sea cock and tigbten the clamps. If your sea strainer is transparent, you should see anti-freeze in there. That’s good.
Finally, I use a little motor oil in a rag and wipe down parts of my motor (just to clean it up and put a little oil on it for rust protection). Not much, just a slight sheen.
Repeat the same procedure on both motors and your motors are good to go for the winter. As I said, I drain my motors. Some folks suggest it’s better to leave a motor full of antifreeze, as that inhibits rust. But I figure a motor with no fluid in it is better. No fluid, no freezing, no block cracks. I doubt that the engine block drain plugs remove every ounze of fluid, but I’m quite certain that it removes the vast majority of it.
When I’m being really good, I have already changed the oil for the motor (do this prior to pulling the boat from the water).
I’ve been doing this procedure for 15 years and I’ve never lost a motor to the ravages of our cold Ohio winters yet. Next time I visit my boat, I’ll get some pictures