How to Winterize a 4-Stroke Outboard Engine

The end of the boating season means it's time to winterize your outboard. 

You shouldn't wait until the last minute to winterize your motor. As soon as your outboard is done running for the year, winterizing is a necessary maintenance process to protect it against corrosion while in storage.

Follow this winterization process walkthrough for a 4-stroke outboard motor, and watch our video above for visual guidance.

Tools and Parts Needed - Four-stroke Outboard Winterization

Tools

  • Ratchet and extensions
  • Socket set
  • Screwdrivers
  • Torque wrench

 

4-stroke outboard winterization supplies

Winterizing a 4-Stroke Outboard: Oils and Lubricants

The first steps in the winterization process are just part of your outboard's regular maintenance schedule: changing the lower unit and engine oils.

Winterizing outboard motor lower unit oil

Step 1. Drain and replace the oil in the lower unit. 

Watch our outboard lower unit oil change video below to see how it's done.

Step 2. Drain and replace the oil in the powerhead, and replace the oil filter.

Winterize Mercury outboard oil change and filter

Watch our outboard engine oil change video below to see how it's done.

Winterizing a 4-Stroke Outboard: Fuel System

Fuel oxidizes and goes stale when left sitting for weeks or months at a time. The methanol content within the fuel also attracts water molecules, which causes corrosion. Adding fuel stabilizer prevents the fuel from breaking down and going stale. The fuel stabilizer also absorbs water molecules attracted by the methanol content.

Winterize Mercury outboard fuel stabilizerStep 1. Add fuel stabilizer to the tank, then run the motor for a minute to draw the stabilized fuel through all the fuel lines and into the fuel system.

NOTE: Follow the manufacturer's guidelines on the packaging to prevent over or under-saturating the fuel.

Step 2. Fill the fuel tank to the brim to prevent condensation from forming within it.

Winterizing a 4-Stroke Outboard: Combustion Chambers

Any exposed metal surfaces on an outboard are prone to corrosion while the motor isn't in use. 

This includes the piston heads and cylinder walls within the combustion chambers. Spraying them with fogging oil provides a protective coating over them.

Winterize an outboard fogging oil

Step 1. Remove the spark plugs, and spray the fogging oil directly into the engine's combustion chambers. Spray the oil for a couple of seconds into each spark plug hole.

Step 2. Install the spark plugs back into the engine, and torque them to the manufacturer's specs provided in the outboard's owner's manual. 

PRO TIP: Now is a great time to replace the spark plugs with new ones as part of the outboard's routine maintenance schedule.

Winterizing a 4-Stroke Outboard: Powerhead

Having protected the inside of the engine against corrosion, it's now time to protect the outside of the motor. Spraying the powerhead with corrosion guard provides a thin oil coating that protects any external metal parts or surfaces from rusting.

How to winterize an outboard corrosion guard

Step 1. Spray a film of corrosion guard on every bit of the outboard, with the exception of any belts, anodes and zincs, which should not be sprayed.

Winterizing a 4-Stroke Outboard: Battery

The battery might not be part of the outboard, but if you don't winterize it too, it'll be completely dead when it comes time to use it again. 

Outboard winterization tips battery tender

Batteries need to be cycled (the repeated process of charging and discharging) to remain healthy. A battery left idle for months loses its charge and can be completely ruined.

Step 1. Remove the battery from the boat, clean the terminals and protect them with a coating of dielectric grease.

Step 2. Preserve the battery with a Battery Tender. The tender will keep a battery's power level optimized for months on end, so it'll still be in perfect health when boating season rolls around again.

Got a 2-stroke outboard instead of a 4-stroke? The winterization process for an outboard is the same or similar for all outboard engine types, but the video above is specific to 2-stroke engines. Watch the video above to see how to winterize a 2-stroke Mercury outboard. 

 

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