Should I change the oil in my boat before or after winter storage?

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As the days start to grow shorter and the leaves begin to fall, unfortunately it is time to take my boat out of the water and prepare it for wintering. Every boat or watercraft owner dreads the end of the boating season because it entails a host of tasks necessary just to have to put it away until the onset of the winter thaw. A crucial step that gives rise to many questions is whether to change the engine oil and oil filter before storage or after the long winter nap.

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Most engine manufacturers recommend changing the engine oil every 50 to 100 hours. This applies to both gasoline and diesel engines. Many people will debate it, saying they haven’t put in as many hours of it during the season. Or, they’ll wonder why it should be changed just to let it sit with fresh oil? Let’s see why it is recommended to change it before storing it.

Modern oils do not wear out like their predecessors, but they accumulate dirt, combustion residues and acid. Allowing any of these to settle on the moving parts of your engine over the winter is a bad idea.

Almost every owner’s manual recommends changing the oil at the end of the season to lubricate and coat the engine with a fresh oil that contains rust inhibitors, which will help extend engine life. While the oil filter works hard all season, changing the oil is the only way to remove residual acids and moisture left in the crankcase. Leaving old oil in the engine over the winter can damage bearings and other vital engine parts. A fall oil change also removes any water before it can separate from the oil, freeze, and / or cause corrosion.

To do the job properly, run the engine long enough to warm it up, which helps loosen contaminants and distribute them throughout the oil. Always install a new filter and don’t forget a new gasket either.

Preventive maintenance is the key to a long engine life. To best protect an engine’s interior surfaces during winterization, start it and always run it for a few minutes after an oil change – this circulates new oil over the engine’s rolling surfaces. It is also important to always use a high quality oil that meets or exceeds the specifications recommended by the engine manufacturer. Changing the oil in your boat is essential for it to function properly so that you can sail safely, smoothly and enjoy those wonderful summer days more when they return!


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