Avoiding Freeze Damage with Outboard

by | Sep 20, 2022 | Blog

If you own a boat and live in colder areas in the world, your boat engine could be susceptible to freezing weather in the winter months.

Your outboard motor, in particular, is at higher risk for freeze damage if water is left in the engine during storage. It’s also more susceptible to freezing since outboard motors are usually left outside, exposed to the elements.

When water freezes, it expands and can cause cracks in the engine block or cylinder head. If your outboard has been exposed to freezing temperatures or has been in cold weather operation, have a certified technician inspect it for cracks before operating it.

There are several ways you can prevent outboard freeze damage, and we’ll explore that and more in this article.

Why You Need to Winterize an Outboard Motor

Winterizing your boat engines is an important part of being a boat owner, as it can help you prevent costly freeze damage to your boat engine.

If you don’t winterize your outboard and it’s exposed to freezing temperatures, the water inside could freeze and expand, causing cracks in the engine block or cylinder head.

So, if you live in a cold climate, it’s important to take steps to winterize your outboard motor.

There are also many benefits to regularly winterizing your boat’s outboard motor:
1. It extends the life of your outboard motor: When it happens that your boat engine freeze, the outboard will have to work much harder to heat up the cold oil and water. This puts extra stress on the outboard motor, which can lead to premature wear and tear.

2. It improves outboard performance: Outboards that are properly winterized tend to perform better than those that aren’t. This is because all of the outboard’s working parts are protected from the elements, which can help prevent corrosion and other damage.

3. It saves you money in the long run: By winterizing your outboard motor, you can avoid the costly repairs that would be necessary if the outboard was damaged by freezing weather.

4. It makes starting your outboard easier: A winterized outboard will be easier to start in the spring because all of the outboard’s working parts will be protected from the cold.

5. It reduces outboard maintenance: When you properly winterize your outboard, you can reduce the amount of outboard maintenance that’s necessary.

How to Winterize an Outboard Motor

Winterizing your outboard motor takes some time and effort, but it’s worth it to prevent freeze damage. Here are the steps you need to take to winterize your outboard motor:

1. Change the crankcase oil and filter

Suzuki Outboard Motors

This helps remove any water that may have accumulated in the outboard during operation. The crankcase oil is located in the lower unit of the outboard, and the filter is usually located near the oil fill cap.

Both parts should be changed according to the outboard manufacturer’s recommendations. Check your owner’s manual to be sure.

2. Change the lower unit gear oil

In addition to the crankcase oil and filter, it’s also important to change the gear oil in the outboard. The gear oil is located in the lower unit and helps lubricate the outboard’s gears.

To change the gear oil, drain the old oil out of the outboard and then fill it with new gear oil. Again, be sure to check your outboard’s owner’s manual before you proceed with the change.

3. Drain the outboard

On a related note, it’s essential to drain the outboard of all the water, oil, and fuel that’s stored. This can be done by removing the hull drain plug and draining the outboard into a container.

If any liquids are left in the outboard, they could freeze and cause freeze damage. So, it’s important to make sure that the outboard is completely drained with as much water as possible before storing it for the winter months.

4. Remove the spark plugs

The next step is to remove the outboard’s spark plugs. This will help prevent the outboard from “firing” when it’s started in the spring.

To remove the spark plugs, simply twist them out of the outboard using a spark plug wrench. Be sure to label the spark plugs so that you know which one goes where when it’s time to replace them in the spring.

5. Stabilize the fuel

If you’re going to be storing your outboard with fuel in the tank, it’s important to stabilize the fuel. This will help prevent the fuel from going bad over the winter. Stabilizing the fuel also ensures that there is proper oil viscosity when the outboard is started in the spring.

To stabilize the fuel, add a fuel stabilizer to the outboard’s fuel tank. The fuel tank is usually located at the back of the outboard. Then, run the outboard for a few minutes so that the stabilizer can circulate through the outboard’s engine.

6. Add anti-freeze to the outboard

An anti-freeze agent is a critical component of outboard winterization. The anti-freeze helps prevent the outboard’s water pump from freezing and cracking.

To do this, add the anti-freeze to the outboard’s water pump. The water pump is located at the back of the outboard, near the propeller.

7. Fog the outboard engine

Fogging the outboard engine helps prevent rust and corrosion. It’s especially important if you’re going to be storing the outboard in a humid environment.

To fog the outboard, remove the air filter and spray outboard fogging oil into the outboard’s carburetor. Be sure to follow the outboard manufacturer’s recommendations for the type and amount of oil to use.

8. Check the propeller

Before storing it for the winter months, it’s a good idea to check the outboard’s propeller. The propeller is located at the back of the outboard.

To check the propeller, simply inspect it for any cracks or damage. If the propeller is damaged, it should be replaced by a professional like Precision Marine.

9. Store the outboard upright in a dry place

Finally, once all of the above steps have been completed, the outboard should be stored in an upright position in a dry place.

If possible, store the outboard indoors in a temperature-controlled environment. Otherwise, store it in a shed or garage. Be sure to cover the outboard with a tarp or outboard cover to protect it from the elements.

How to Position an Outboard Motor in Freezing Temperatures

As we mentioned, it’s important to store the outboard in an upright position, and not in a down position. Outboards are designed to operate upright, so storing them upside down can cause damage.

To check if it’s in the right position, look for the outboard’s nameplate. The outboard’s nameplate is usually located on the outboard’s transom plate, near the propeller. The outboard’s nameplate will have an “UP” arrow that indicates the correct storage position.

Operating Your Outboard in Cold Weather

If you do need to operate your outboard in cold weather, there are some things you can do to help prevent freeze damage.

First, make sure the outboard is properly winterized. This includes adding anti-freeze damage to the outboard’s water pump and fogging the outboard engine.

Next, be sure to wear proper cold weather gear when operating the outboard. This includes gloves, a hat, and warm clothing.

Finally, keep an eye on the outboard’s temperature gauge. If the outboard’s engine starts to overheat, shut it down immediately.

Avoid Outboard Motor Freeze Damage with the Right Steps

Outboard winterization is an essential part of maintaining your boat. While it can be done by yourself, it’s always best to have it done by a professional like Precision Marine.

With professional outboard winterization, you can be sure your outboard will be properly protected from the cold weather and ready to go come springtime.

Contact Precision Marine today to learn more about outboard winterization or to schedule a service.

About Precision Marine

Precision Marine is a certified Suzuki marine parts dealer based in Florida. We have more than 30 years of professional experience in the marine industry, specializing in Suzuki outboard installation, maintenance, and repair.

Aside from outboard winterization, we also offer a variety of other services to ensure that your boat is in top shape, including outboard tune-ups and oil changes, boat bottom cleaning, and more.

We also offer a wide range of outboard parts and accessories for all your outboard needs.

Give us a call today to learn more about what we can do for you.