As the days start to shorten and leaves begin to fall, the time has unfortunately come to pull my boat out of the water and get her ready for winter storage. Every boat or personal watercraft owner dreads the end of the boating season as it leads to a host of necessary chores just to have to store it until the winter thaw begins. One crucial step that gets a lot of questions is whether to change the engine oil and oil filter before placing it in storage or after the long winter nap.
Most engine manufacturers recommend that you change your engine oil every 50-100 hours. This applies to both gasoline and diesel engines. Many people will debate this, stating that they didn’t put that many hours on it over the season. Or, they’ll question why it should be changed just to let it sit with new oil? Let’s dive into why it’s a good practice to change it before storing it.
Modern oils do not wear out like their predecessors did, but they do accumulate dirt, combustion residue and acid. Leaving any of these to settle on your engine’s moving parts 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 fresh oil that contains rust inhibitors, which will help extend the life of the engine. 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 the old oil in the engine over the winter can pit 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 correctly, run the engine long enough to get it warm, which helps to loosen the contaminants and distribute them throughout the oil. Always install a new filter and don’t forget a new gasket as well.
Preventive maintenance is the key to a long engine life. To best protect the interior surfaces of an engine during winter storage, always start and run it for a few minutes after an oil change — this circulates the new oil onto the engine bearing surfaces. It is also important to always use high-quality oil that meets or exceeds the specifications recommended by the engine manufacturer. Changing your boat oil is essential for it to run properly so you can sail the waters safely, smoothly and enjoy more of those gorgeous summer days when they return!