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4-Stroke Watercraft Winterization Guide

Here's an expanded version of our winterization list that explains why we do what we do when it comes to winterizing 4 stroke watercrafts. We recommend that all jobs be performed by an experienced or qualified technician.

Step 1:  Clean & Prep

First wash the exterior of your watercraft with the same soap you would use on your car. Be sure and scrub as much of the algae and grime off of the lower portions of the watercraft, as it will be much more difficult to remove those buildups after it sits all winter long. Next fill the fuel tank with fresh gas (premium no ethanol) and stabilize with the recommended amount of fuel stabilizer. Connect a cold water supply to the flush port usually from a spicket and hose, start the watercraft, open the hose valve you so you have about 1/2 flow. This step does 3 things for you: Runs the stabilized fuel through the entire fuel system, flushes out any leftover lake water still in the system, and warms up the engine for easier engine oil extraction. Run the watercraft up to operating temperature, about 10-15 minutes, this is also a good time to double check your charging system before battery removal. Be sure to start the engine before turning the water on, and shut the water off before turning the engine off.

Step 2: Change oil and filter and check over

Now that the engine is warm change the oil and filter. For most 4-stroke watercraft you'll need an extraction tool to suck the engine oil out of the crankcase. Give the watercraft a good check over and make a list of any known issues. Inspect systems such as: cables, steering, reverse, pump and impeller, etc. If you are not ready to repair any issues found, at least you'll know about them and can plan for the upcoming riding season.

Step 3: Freeze proof (for outside storage or storage areas that are not climate controlled)

Freeze proofing will help eliminate the possibility of water freezing and expanding which could damage expensive components on your watercraft. You'll need a piece of hose approx. 3-4 ft long with the male end still attached, a large funnel, RV antifreeze and 5 gallon bucket. Since this process can get a little messy with antifreeze spilling onto the ground, use RV antifreeze since most brands are considered GRAS (Generally Regarded As Safe) by the Food and Drug Administration.  Connect the hose and funnel to the flush port, set the 5 gallon bucket below the exhaust and pump area to catch the water and antifreeze, start and run the watercraft and pour 1-2 gallons of RV antifreeze through the flush port until you start to see the antifreeze pouring out of the exhaust and pump area. This process mixes with and helps flush out any remaining water in the system to prevent it from freezing during the cold winter months. This process will also need to be repeated in the spring using hose water only so the antifreeze is flushed out and not run into the lake.

Step 4: Compression inspection and cylinder fogging

Remove all spark plugs and document compression readings from each cylinder. Check in your service manual for cylinder compression specs. This is just to give you peace of mind that your engine is still in good working condition after riding it all season, or if any readings are out of spec this will at least give you a heads up that might need some diagnosing and/or repairs before you are ready for the next riding season. Using engine fogging oil, spray about 1-2 seconds of fogging oil down each cylinder, turn the engine over a couple of times and repeat the process. (Be sure the straw is securely attached to the nozzle so it doesn't shoot down the spark plug hole and into the cylinder) This process will help prevent moisture buildup in the cylinders during storage. Reinstall the old plugs and torque to spec. Some prefer to use anti-seize on the threads when installing watercraft spark plugs.

Step 5: Battery service and care

We recommend completely removing the battery for the duration of storage. Some of today's programmable fuel injected watercraft has the tendency to drain a batteries voltage in a matter of weeks because of ECU memory functions, clocks, security systems, etc. Remove the battery, if standard type top off fluids, clean and grease battery posts and terminals. Charge and test the battery to get an idea of the battery's current health state. We recommend storing the battery up off the ground in a dry climate controlled area and leaving it connected to a battery tender or use a charger 1-2 times per month. 

Step 6: Drying and final storage prep

Take the time to completely dry the outside of the watercraft, used compressed air and blow around tight areas like the handlebars and switch areas. Try and soak up or vacuum any water inside the hull. Make sure the hull drain ports at the rear of the watercraft are opened and all water is drained out. Last step cover the watercraft and countdown the days until spring. Be sure to check with us for information on watercraft Summerization.

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