Winterize your boat: The fuel system

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Mark Hicks

The fuel system in your boat is of critical importance. Yet, far too many anglers simply fill the tank and move along. That’ll work for a while, but most experts will tell you that at some point it’ll catch up with you. 

The following tips are designed for winter storage. But, frankly, most of them apply to any time of the year regardless of how often you fish. There’s no time when taking care of your fuel system isn’t important. 

Buy good fuel 

Starting with high-quality gasoline is the first step in taking care of your fuel system. Name brands matter, but so does volume and reliability. In general, the more gas a station sells the less likely you are to have problems. A good way to make sure you’re getting the best is to check with local guides or other anglers who fish the area a lot. Find out where they buy their gas. 

Industry experts nearly always recommend ethanol-free gas when you can get it, but that can be problematic. In some areas it’s readily available, but in other areas it’s almost impossible to find. 

And, always check your owner’s manual to see what grade of fuel they recommend. Don’t deviate from that. Manufacturers put a lot of time and money into research. They don’t make recommendations out of ignorance. 

Use additives

Check your owner’s manual to see what additives they recommend. Most manufacturers and mechanics will tell you to use some sort of engine cleaner(s), and if you’re running fuel with ethanol in it, they’ll have an additive that’ll remove it or neutralize. 

When your boat is in storage for the winter, or if you’re only using it occasionally, add fuel stabilizer. Modern stabilizers are really good. Most of them will keep fuel fresh for a year or more.

Here is the thing, though. They don’t have much effect if they’re only poured into the gas tank when the outboard isn’t running. You need to run the motor for at least 15 minutes after you add them to get the additives through the complete fuel system — lines, carburetor, injectors, filters or whatever.

You can run the motor easy enough if you’re on the water when you put the additives into the fuel tank. But, if it’s cold and miserable and your rig is at home, all you have to do is take it to the nearest ramp and back it into the water. Lower the trim and fire it up — in neutral. There’s no need to take it off the trailer. 

Some newer motors have ports on them that allow you to attach a garden hose to them which will provide cooling water to the motor. You won’t even have to leave your driveway. This will work but you must follow the directions to the letter. Just a few seconds without water can cause serious damage.

And, don’t forget about fuel filters. In some outboards, most notably the newer ones, there are two instead of one. Change them, or have them changed by a professional, according to whatever schedule the manufacturer recommends. They’re important.   

Fill the tank 

The experts differ on whether you should fill the tank completely full or only three-quarters full before you store your boat for a long period of time. Without getting into the details of why they differ the idea is to avoid condensation as much as possible. Check with your dealer. He’ll give you good advice based on what rig you own and where it’s at. 

In truth, though, if you buy good fuel and use additives the way they’re supposed to be used you shouldn’t have any trouble with condensation or water.

That’s it! Taking care of your fuel system is pretty simple, really.

Editor's note: More on winterizing - The hull and trailer; The motor