Winters are cold at Lake of the Ozarks—cold enough that a personal watercraft needs winterization before the deep chill sets in. Winterizing a personal watercraft is an important procedure that keeps your investment protected throughout the winter months and is required whether you store your watercraft indoors or outdoors. Steps to winterize a jet ski or PWC can vary based on the year, make and model, so always thoroughly read your owner’s manual to verify that you’re taking proper care of your watercraft.
When in doubt, or when you’d rather not do it yourself, take your watercraft to a Lake area marine service provider.
But if you prefer to do it yourself, this initial outline can help you get started on winterizing your jet ski to ensure that it’s protected all winter long and ready for action when warm weather returns.
Fuel System: It doesn’t matter if your PWC has a two-stroke or four-stroke engine, the fuel system must be winterized. There are two ways to do this, either by draining the system or treating the fuel. Most PWC manufacturers recommend completely draining the fuel tank and running the engine until there is no remaining fuel in the lines, injectors, or carburetors. This eliminates the possibility of fuel system clogs and engine issues that can occur when fuel leaves deposits as it breaks down. The other method is to treat the fuel that is already in the system. This consists of adding an approved fuel stabilizer to the fuel tank to keep the fuel fresh, filling the fuel tank completely to eliminate moisture build up and running the engine to circulate the treated fuel throughout the fuel system.
Cooling System: There are two types of cooling system designs used on personal watercrafts: a closed loop or an open loop system. A closed loop cooling system utilizes an anti-freeze or coolant to cool the engine, rather than the water in which the watercraft is traveling on. A closed loop system normally does not need to be serviced when winterizing but always check your owner’s manual to know what’s recommended for your year, make and model.
An open loop cooling system utilizes the water in which the PWC is traveling to keep the engine cool. Because of this, it’s important to ensure that all water is evacuated from the system when winterizing as it has the potential to freeze and cause serious engine damage. Run the engine briefly without it being connected to a freshwater source to push as much water out of the cooling system as possible. Then disconnect the cooling system hose from the main pump to drain out the remaining water from the system into the hull. The steps required may vary depending on your PWC’s year, make and model but the goal remains the same: remove all water from the watercraft’s cooling system.
Oil Change: Most PWC manufacturers will recommend changing the oil in your machine before storing it for the winter months. This is especially true if you put a lot of hours on your machine throughout the season and the oil is dirty and due to be changed. You don’t want the engine sitting idle for that long with dirty oil in the crankcase. Make sure to use the recommended oil specifications as indicated by the PWC manufacturer and follow the standard oil change procedure for your machine.
Fog the Cylinders: Keeping the engines cylinders lubricated while in storage is a crucial step in the winterization process. Failure to do so will allow moisture to build up in the engine’s cylinders and cause rust, causing serious damage to engine internals. To prevent any internal engine damage, it’s always recommended to fog the cylinders with fogging oil. Remove the spark plugs from each cylinder in the engine and spray a liberal amount of fogging oil into each cylinder. Then, with the ignition and fuel systems disabled, crank the engine over to coat the cylinders in fogging oil. Repeat this process again and reinstall the spark plugs and wires when you’re finished.
Lubrication: Every PWC, regardless of the make and model, has similar moving parts which should be lubricated before winter. This includes forward and reverse cables, steering cables, and throttle cables. Use a good lubricant recommended by your manufacturer and apply a liberal amount to these moving parts so they don’t seize up when sitting throughout the winter.
Electrical System: The last system that must be addressed before you tuck your PWC away for the winter is the battery. It is never recommended to leave a perfectly charged battery unattended for months throughout the winter – the result will be a completely discharged battery next spring! Make sure to remove the battery from your PWC and store it in a dry place in your garage connected to a battery tender. This will ensure that it stays charged and maintained for the entire winter and will be ready to use once again next season.
Wash, Wax and Cover: It doesn’t matter if you are storing your PWC indoors or outdoors, it’s always a good idea to wash it and apply a coat of wax before its winter slumber to keep the finish protected. Once it’s clean, cover it using a durable and snug winter cover and tuck it away for next season.
The end of the boating season can be a bummer, but getting sidelined by mechanical issues when you bring your PWC back out in the spring is even more of a letdown! By taking a few easy steps to adequately winterize your craft at the end of the season, you can rest easy knowing that it’ll be in good shape when you’re ready to hit the water again.
Greg Kopf is Brand Ambassador at POWERSPORTSiD.com and a car, boat and motorsports enthusiast.