We’ve all heard the storing batteries on concrete myth before. Some of us refuse to store a car or boat battery on concrete because our mechanic or trusted friend said it will drain the battery. Turns out this myth had some truth in it but is no longer relevant with today’s battery construction.
Early Batteries were constructed from wooden crates holding glass encased cells. When the wood was subject to moisture or temperature changes it would warp and break the glass cells causing the acid to leak out and the battery to fail. You would have definitely wanted to keep one of these batteries off of the floor and in a cool dry place.
Next Generation Batteries
The next generation of batteries were Nickle-Iron batteries that were encased in steel and covered with a rubber coating. These batteries were susceptible to discharge when placed on the ground due to the rubber coating breaking down, absorbing moisture from the ground and allowing current to flow through the pores of the rubber membrane. These batteries were not meant to be stored on the concrete or on the ground.
Current Day Batteries
Batteries made today are contained in a hard plastic case that is impervious to moisture and actually will benefit from the relatively stable temperature of a concrete floor. New batteries can be damaged by extreme temperature changes and should be kept in a relatively cool environment when storing them.
What Damages Modern Batteries
- Dirt and dust can become carbonized, creating electrical conduction which drains the battery. Combat this by using a clean rag to clean wipe off the tops of the battery.
- Self-discharge occurs over time with lead-acid batteries. Reactions within the plates happen as the battery ages creating a leak. The warmer the air surrounding the battery the faster the rate of discharge. Keeping the air around stored batteries cool will help slow the rate of self-discharge.
- While cold temperatures are rarely the cause of battery malfunctions, a battery that is at a low state of charged and exposed to freezing temperatures can freeze causing the case to crack. Keeping your battery fully charged during the winter months is an easy way to prevent this from happening.
- Knowing the shelf life of your battery can help a lot as well. A car battery stored in a cool and dry place can last a few years if you keep it topped off with a trickle charger.
Today’s batteries are well insulated and no longer take on water that can cause discharging or leaking. That being said, there are clearly right ways and wrong ways when it comes to battery storage. Keeping your batteries clean, dry and understanding their shelf life can make a big difference in preserving their longevity and the quality of their performance. So go ahead and leave that battery on the cool dry floor of your garage. Kinda great, right?
In order to winterize your sterndrive inboard-outboard boat you will begin by filling the fuel tank then treating with a fuel treatment like Star Tron, Star Brite Ez-Store / Ez-Start or Stabil marine fuel treatment. Many experts agree that new ethanol gas blends “suck” water vapor from any air in the fuel tank. By filling the tank completely you remove most of the air and water vapor from the tank. Also treating the fuel prevents the gas from gumming up the fuel lines and carburetor over time. This is a great time to replace any fuel filters you may have. This step will help ensure a smooth running engine for your spring commissioning!
Next you will want to flush the engine and bring it up to operating temperature and add antifreeze to the cooling system. You will need a set of engine flush muffs, a winterizing kit or a 5 gallon bucket with a bulkhead / spigot installed and short hose or garden hose to attach to the muffs. You will also need a can of fogging oil if you have a carbureted engine. See our post on making your own winterization bucket.
It is very important to bring the engine up to operating temperature while flushing! Otherwise antifreeze will not fill the block and result in freeze damage to the engine block!
Start by attaching the muffs over the inlet holes on the bottom of the sterndrive and attaching the garden hose. Remove the spark arrestor from the carburetor and set it in a safe location. Turn on the garden hose and verify good water flow to the outdrive. Once you have verified water is going to the outdrive start the engine and allow it to reach operating temperature. This is the temperature that the thermostat opens and allows water to circulate through the engine block. You may notice while watching the temperature gauge at the helm that the needle starts dropping, this is when the thermostat opens and lets cooler water circulate. Once the engine is at operational temperature disconnect the garden hose from the muffs and connect your winterizing kit or 5 gallon bucket to the muffs. Fill the kit or Bucket with marine antifreeze, place it higher than the engine, turn on the valve to let the antifreeze flow to the muffs and start the engine. You should see the antifreeze being “sucked” out of the container and through the cooling system. After seeing antifreeze coming out of the boats exhaust system for 20-30 seconds you can begin to fog the carburetor. To fog the engine spay the fogging oil directly into the carburetor until the engine bogs down and stops. (some high horse power engines will not stop and will sputter and miss instead.) Fuel injected engines typically do not need to be fogged. In either case check your owners manual to see specific instructions. Replace the spark arrestor.
I recommend using marine antifreeze that is rated for -100 degrees F and has anti corrosion protection. Some people like to use a cheaper antifreeze that has -50 or -25 degree protection but regardless of how you fill and flush the engine there is always a possibility of a water pocket in the cooling system that will dilute the antifreeze you put into the engine. By using -100 degree antifreeze you are protecting yourself from minor dilution.
We will continue the winterization process in part 2 discussing how to change the engine oil and what tools are needed.
In the first part of this post we’ve talked about flushing the engine, filling with antifreeze and fogging the engine. You didn’t think it ended there did you?! We still have a few more items to take care of to make sure your boat is shipshape for the upcoming winter.
While the engine is still warm, it’s a great time to change the engine oil and filter. You will need a way to remove the oil from the engine, new oil and filter. Tools needed will be an oil filter wrench and an oil extractor. You can use either a manual extractor like this one or a 12 volt pump extractor such as this jabsco pump.
Follow the instructions that come with the oil extractor to remove all of the oil from the engine. Typically this involves inserting the correct size tube down the dipstick tube connecting it to the extractor and pumping it a few times to create a vacuum to remove all of the oil. The manual extractors will normally have markings along the sides to show how many quarts of oil have been removed. If your oil filter is remotely mounted i.e it’s upside down on top of the engine or off to the side wrap a towel around the base of it to catch any oil that will leak out of it before removing it and poke a small hole in the top of the filter to allow the oil in the filter to drain while the extractor is sucking the oil out of the engine. Once all of the oil is removed you can remove the extractor tube and the oil filter taking care not to spill any oil on top of or under the engine.
Replace the engine oil with the correct weight oil, check your owners manual or the engine manufactures website for the correct oil specifications. Most mercruisers will be happy with mercruiser 25W40 oil. Mercruiser also has a synthetic version of the 25W40 if you prefer synthetic oil. As always check your manual to confirm you are using the correct oil.
Replace the oil filter with a new one lubing the gasket on the filter with oil and hand tightening the filter into place.
In part 3 of how to winterize your stern drive boat we will talk about changing the outdrive oil and inspecting the outdrive.
In the first and second posts we discussed flushing the engine, winterizing the engine with antifreeze, treating the fuel for winter storage and fogging the engine. This post will talk about servicing the outdrive, checking and changing the outdrive oil in a mercruiser alpha 1 outdrive.
For this part you will need: outdrive oil, a pump to fill the outdrive, new gaskets for the vent and drain screws and tools to remove the screws and prop. You will also need shop towels and an oil pan.
Remove the prop and inspect the prop shaft for any damage and for things like fishing line wrapped around the shaft. If line is wrapped around the shaft inspect the shaft seal after removing the line for damage or leaks. If a leak is found have the seal replaced and pressure check the outdrive. Grease the shaft and replace the prop.
Locate the vent and drain screws on the outdrive. The vent screw will be on the upper part of the drive leg and the drain will be near the bottom close to the water intake holes. Place a catch pan under the drive and place the drive in the full down position. Remove the bottom screw then remove the top screw. Inspect the oil! If it has white streaks or is the color of coffee with milk remove the drive and have it pressure tested by a mechanic. If it is dark black you waited to long between oil changes. The drain plugs are magnetic inspect them for metal shavings an inspect the oil for metal shavings. If metal is found have the drive inspected by a professional. If the old oil has a foul smell or is dark grey this indicates overheating or an internal failure of the drive and will require professional help.
Once the oil has drained from the drive attach your oil pump to the bottom drain hole. The pump has a threaded connector that screws into the drain hole. I find it easier to attach the connector to the outdrive before you put the pump into the bottle of gear oil. Attach the pump to the oil bottle and pump oil into the drive until it flows out of the top hole. Replace the gasket on the top hole screw and screw the plug back into the drive. This will create a partial vacuum and let you quickly remove the oil pump from the bottom hole and place the bottom screw with a new gasket back into the drive. A small amount of oil may leak out before you can fully tighten the screw and this is ok. Using your shop towels clean up any oil that spilled on or down the drive leg.
Inspect the bellows and shift cable along with the water intake hose. If it’s been a few years since they have been replaced or if there is any dry rot or damage to the bellows have them replaced. A leaky bellows will sink a boat in record time! Here is a link to a decent alpha 1 bellows kit.
Check and replace the sacrificial anodes if they show less than 70 percent.
- Zinc Alloy Anodes = Salt water only
- Not recommended for use in fresh water
- Alloy is manufactured to meet or exceed US Military Specification (MIL-A-18001K)
- Aluminum Alloy Anodes = Salt, Fresh or Brackish water
- Not recommended, but can be used in fresh water
- Proven to last longer than zinc due to increased capacity
- Alloy is manufactured to meet or exceed US Military Specification (MIL-A-24779(SH))
- Magnesium Alloy Anodes = Fresh water only
- The only alloy proven to protect your boat in fresh water
- It is not recommended to use magnesium anodes in salt or brackish water .
- The result may be an accelerated corrosion rate, which may damage the metal parts of your boat and leave you with no anode protection in a short period of time.
- A Special Note on Magnesium Anodes for Fresh Water… Essentially, fresh water is a much less conductive environment than salt water, therefore magnesium anodes are your best choice as they are much more active (less noble) than zinc or aluminum anodes
- The result is increased efficiency thus superior protection for your underwater metal components
There are many types and models of outdrives. Some have a remote oil reservoir and will require addition steps to change the oil. This is a basic guide for mercruiser alpha 1 drives though the steps are generally the same for other brands such as OMC and Volvo.
Store the outdrive in the down position. This keeps water from collecting in the prop hub and possibly freezing and damaging the hub. It also reduces stress on the bellows and shift cable.
So you’ve read our multi part series on how to winterize your sterndrive boat and you noticed I mentioned using a 5 gallon bucket to winterize in place of a premade kit. A premade winterizing kit will cost about $40. You can make your own for a fraction of that cost.
You will need: A 5 gallon bucket, drill with a 1.5 inch hole saw bit, a bulk head fitting, and a hose bib or shut off connector.
Using your 1 1/2 inch hole saw drill a hole in the side of the bucket near the bottom. Be careful to not drill through the bottom of the bucket. Once your hole is drilled take the bulkhead fitting apart and insert the male threaded part of the bulkhead fitting through the hole you drilled from the inside to the outside. Make sure you have a gasket on both sides of the bulkhead fitting then screw the female threaded nut onto the male threads sticking out of the side of the bucket.
Take your Hose bib and wrap a few wraps of teflon tape or use pipe dope on the threads. screw the hose bib into the bulkhead fitting. You should have bought a 3/4 hose bib and a 3/4 inch bulk head. The products I have linked in this article are all compatible.
That’s it! If you bought the products linked here you spent about 20 dollars and will have a winterization bucket that will last you for years. I use mine to winterize the water system, engines and generators.
One of the hardest things is knowing the correct name for things. When I first built my bucket I didn’t know the name for the bulkhead fitting. I spent way to much time wandering around the store looking for something I couldn’t name. I hope this article helps you in your boating journey.
Check out the projects page for other boating related projects!
So you’ve read our 3 part series on winterizing your boats engine and sterndrive. Now it’s time to winterize your boats fresh water system.
There are a multitude of designs and setups for boat fresh water systems so inspect yours and make sure you know how water or in this case antifreeze will flow through your system.
Most boats have a freshwater tank, hot water heater and various faucets and outlets for the water to flow from. You may have a freshwater flush head or a raw (seawater) flush head. It’s important to know exactly how your system is set up. Almost all vacuflush systems use fresh water to flush and will need to be winterized according to the manufactures instructions.
I always start by going to the pumpout dock and pumping the head holding tank. Next I empty the freshwater holding tank by opening the faucets and running the freshwater pump until all of the water is out of the system. Remember to open and drain seldom used things like transom shower heads and washdown hoses. Locate your hot water heater and open the drain and blow off valve on the hot water heater. Make sure you have turned the breaker off for the hot water heater. Once the water has drained from the heater close the drain and blow off valve. Opening the blow off valve will let the hot water heater drain faster.
If you have an on board ice maker follow the manufactures instructions on how to winterize it. I typically turn the water off to the ice maker and let it run until it uses all the water in the line to make ice. Once it stops making ice I disconnect the water line at the solenoid and drain any remaining water from the line. Most ice makers can be damaged by blowing air through the lines or using antifreeze.
Now that your water system is empty there are a few different ways to winterize the system. I have a bypass valve and hose installed on my hot water heater so after I drain the hot water heater I can bypass it and not have to waste 12 gallons of antifreeze filling it up. This is a good hot water tank bypass kit. So with the hot water heater bypassed pour five or six gallons of antifreeze into your water tank and turn on your freshwater pump. Go to the furthest faucet from the holding tank and one at a time turn on the valves until antifreeze comes out of the faucet. Now go to every other faucet and repeat the process.
If your boat doesn’t have or you don’t use your fresh water tank you can winterize by using your 5 gallon bucket you made following this post and a utility pump. Fill the bucket with antifreeze attach the utility pump to the hose bib on the bucket and attach the discharge side of the pump to the dockside water connection on your boat. Turn the pump on and follow the same directions as above to pump antifreeze through your boats fresh water system.
If you have a freshwater flush head, flush the head for enough time to be certain the antifreeze has filled the intake and discharge hoses along with the head pump.
If you have a raw water flush head locate the through hull for the water intake, shut it off and pour one gallon of antifreeze into the head and flush it until it is all gone. Disconnect the hose from the through hull and drain it before reconnecting it to the through hull. Check your hose clamps and replace if needed.
Some boat owners like to winterize the water system by using compressed air to blow it out. I don’t like this method because it can damage faucets and other parts of the system and it may leave a pocket of water in a low laying hose or pipe. By using antifreeze you are insuring the water has been replaced with the proper antifreeze.
The boat’s been winterized, you’re removing all of your belongings and wondering “what in the heck do I do with my batteries”?
Marine Batteries need to be maintained throughout the winter. How you maintain them depends on how your boat is stored. If you want the batteries to last the winter and the boat to fire up first thing in the spring follow these simple steps.
For a boat stored on land with the drain plug removed you can take your batteries out of the boat and store them indoors in a heated environment checking them monthly and charging if necessary. Removing the battery from the boat is fine as long as the boat isn’t in danger of collecting water in the bilge and needing the bilge pump to run. It’s not a bad idea to remove the battery boxes with the batteries in order to safely store them preventing anything from falling on the battery and shorting it out.
I use this type of meter to check my batteries charge while they are out of the boat. You can also use a multimeter to check the charge. If you need to charge a battery do not charge it inside of your house. Batteries off gas while charginging and could cause an accumulation of explosive gas inside your house.
If your boat is stored in the water (as mine is every other year) you will need to keep the batteries in the boat to insure the bilge pumps and other systems function. I use my shore line connection and leave my smart battery chargers running all winter. If you don’t have this option at the very least you need to stop by the boat bi-monthly and check / charge the batteries with an approved marine battery charger. I turn off all the breakers and switches for 12 volt powered things I don’t need. Basically I just leave the bilge pumps connected.
Remember! If the batteries die you are at risk of sinking when the bilge pumps fail. It’s also a good idea to stop by the boat after foul weather and insure everything is ok.
As batteries become discharged the electrolyte will have a higher freeze temperature. This can lead to the battery bursting or internal damage to the battery. A fully charged battery has a much lower freeze temperature than a discharged battery.