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Winterizing In the South: No Joke Right Now

Got a great phone call from Eric Colby, my friend and former editor at Powerboat magazine. Colby, who used to write The Boat Doctor column—and did a consistently great job with it—for Boating magazine, had just gotten off the phone with Mike Horak, the powertrain director for the Brunswick Boat Group. Both Colby and Horak were concerned about the recent rash of freezing and below-freezing temperatures in the South—the low in Bradenton, Fla., for example, was 28 degrees yesterday—and the effect those temperatures could have on marine engines that weren’t winterized.

Generally speaking, winterizing marine engines isn’t standard operating procedure for powerboat owners south of the Carolinas. But weather conditions in the South of late have been anything but standard.

“If there’s a bunch of water sitting in your block, you could have issues,” said Colby. “You know what happens when water freezes—it expands. You could be facing the potential problem of a cracked block. You could have problems with your exhaust manifolds.”

Despite that temperatures are predicted to rise in the South as the week progresses, boat owners who want to err on the side of caution should winterize their engines, at least for the short-term.

“The main thing is to get the water out of your engine,” said Colby. “Pull the drain plugs and the drain hoses. If you put in some type of anti-freeze, you’ll want to use propylene glycol.”

What’s the worst thing that could happen if winterizing proves unnecessary? You trade off minimal effort for substantial peace of mind.