PWC Winter Time Storage Blues
In some parts of the world, the time comes when we must trade in our summer vehicle for another sport. The air temperature is getting lower and the water is colder or frozen.... A time for the polar bears and the die hard racers to stay out in the freezing elements. If you are lucky, and live in a year round warm area, you still might want to take a few months off from the sport to recover and do something else.
With that in mind, let's review how to store your watercraft and trailer for the short/long winters nap.
Since there are so many watercraft dealers and manufacturers, I can't tell you exactly what to do on your ski, but as a general rule almost everything will apply. We will break this down into specific areas and you can choose what would best suit your needs.
Fuel: Choose a good quality fuel stabilizer run the ski for a short time to make sure the stabilized fuel gets into the carb, Most manufactuers suggest topping off the run tank for storage to prevent excessive condensation.
Battery: Keep the battery charged and check its water. It is the pickiest part of your PWC. Without it, you go nowhere! If you have a serviceable battery check the water level once a month or when you charge it. To keep a battery alive a long time, keep at least 11 volts in it. Get a small motorcycle type battery charger and put it on charge once every other week. Make sure the place you charge your battery has vents! When a battery charges it will put off TOXIC fumes. Also, put some kind of catch tray under it for safety in case it leaks.
Cables: Inspect your cables for damage. Pull the throttle and inspect both ends to see if they are frayed. If they are, put some on order and replace them when you can. Check the steering in the same manner, turn hard left then right and inspect. If they check out okay, get some lube in the cable (always a good idea). You can get a cable lube attachment from your motorcycle shop or PWC retailer to make the job easy. Lube the cable until you see it from the other end. That will force any trapped water out and greatly extend the life of the cable.
Cold Climate (freezing): Some special precautions are needed when you drop below the freezing point of water. The main problem is water. When water freezes it expands. When it expands in the wrong places it can destroy your fiberglass/SMC (Sheet Molded Compound)/Carbon Fiber hull (BIG dollars). Check the bottom inside the hull of your PWC for any water left from your last ride. If there is any Get It Out! Use the drains (if equipped), a sponge or rags but get that water out before it freezes. This would also be a good time to clean any gunk and debris from the bottom. Use a BILGE cleaner from any local boat shop to do a superior job in getting up the oil residue from the hull.
Engine: If you are planning to take the motor out to get some work done on it, this would be a great time! Not only will it make it easy to clean the bottom of the engine compartment, but you can be sure of draining all of the water from it. If you don't have plans to work on the motor and are going to leave it in the boat, here is what you have to do.... First before you disconnect anything you need to "FOG" the inside of the engine. This is done with an engine fogging spray available from your watercraft store or boating supply store. Follow the directions on the can. With the motor running spray the fogger into the carb at a fast idle (Take of the air filter first). Spray the fogger into the carb for as long as the instructions say to do so. For my boat, with a 2 cylinder motor, it says to go for 2 minutes. When you must go longer than 2 min. think about adding some cooling for the motor so as not to overheat it. This will also clean out any water trapped in the tail pipe. If you had to cool the engine to fog it, then give it a few sharp revs after disconnecting it from the water supply. This rule also applies after every ride, so that the water does not condense in the cylinder from the exhaust and cause it to rust. If you have a compressed air source your life will be easier. Take cooling lines off the engine and blow them out using the air. You might get water back in the engine compartment so be sure to wipe it up. If you don't have compressed air, you will need to take the cooling line from the top of the motor off and add some type of non toxic glycol (antifreeze) until it spills out from the other line. This step would be wise to do even if you blow out the motor, just to be sure. Also remove the spark plugs and spray fogging oil into the cylinders. That will keep the cylinder walls and crank bearings oiled. Put the plugs back in so no crud gets in.
Hull: Once you have cleaned the inside don't forget the outside. Wash it with soap and water then apply a good coat of wax. Those decals don't like the cold weather that much and tend to shrink. Not much can be done about it other than to put your PWC in the spare bedroom.... but then you wouldn't need to winterize it either. The decals should be fine if they have a good coat of wax and are not subjected to hot/cold/hot/cold in a short time span. Also check over the hull with a fine tooth comb to see if there are any cracks/holes or loose hardware. Now is the time to fix it.
Mechanical Checks: We have covered most of the items, but here are a few more to look at. Bushings in the steering joint. Check for excessive play in the handle bar area and the steering nozzle. If you own a "Stand up" type ski, check the pivot bushings. Replace as necessary. Drive coupler.... That rubber thing between the motor and the drive shaft should be checked at least twice a year for excessive wear. Unfortunately that means the motor needs to be moved forward a little or removed to gain access to this part. Check the ride plate and intake grate for loose or missing hardware and severe gouges. The prop should also be checked along with the bore of the pump for any damage.
Seat & Pads: If you store your PWC for more than a month it is a good idea to keep your seat and any removable covers that are made of vinyl/plastic, etc. inside where it is warm. This will keep them from shrinking & cracking in the severe cold of winter. Clean them with your choice of any general purpose cleaner. Then treat them once they are clean with a protectant like Armor All to seal out the dust and dirt. When you re-install the seat covers the next time you ride, wipe off the protectant so you don't slide off.
Water Box: Last but not least, the water box. We have already been through the explanation that water expands when it freezes; so what do you think will happen to the WATER BOX? Take it out and drain it! The water box is hooked up somewhere between your exhaust and the final output of your tail pipe. Remove the hoses from both sides and drain out as much as possible. Most boxes will retain some water due to their construction. If this is the case, you will need to keep it inside and add some antifreeze so the remaining water will not hurt the box.
Project Time: Get a wish list together and start rounding up the parts you want to install in the off season. Make sure that the parts you get work well together. What I mean by that is you can't beef up your motor by 20 hp and expect that your stock ride plate/intake grate and prop are going to work correctly. Almost every part you get is reliant on the other to do its job, so keep that in mind when you make up the list.
Trailer Care: Hey! don't forget about me. If it weren't for me you wouldn't even get your PWC to the water! Take the wheels off and give the tires a good check. Look for cuts, cracks and check the valve stems for serviceability. Bend them over and see if they are cracked. Replace them if they are. Leave the tires inflated with at least 20 lb. of pressure. Then put some kind of tire preservative like you do on your car/truck on the trailer tires. Put the trailer axle up on blocks to that the tires are not sitting on the ground for months. If you leave the tires on the ground for an extended period this will create a flat spot in the tire. When spring arrives and you will be trying to drive with a "Square tire." Don't say that I didn't warn you. Also, take apart the wheel bearings. Clean, inspect, check the seals and re-grease them. If you don't already have them, it would be a good idea to install an automatic grease fitting to help keep the water out.
If you follow these general guidelines and refer to your manufactures recommendations, you will be first on the water next season with a ski that runs. You can have fun right away and rinse away the winter grime!