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Thursday, August 17, 2023

Sailing Smoothly: Tips to Maintain Outboard Motors Like a Pro

Discover expert tips for maintaining outboard motors like a pro, from changing engine oil to checking batteries and propellers, ensuring smooth sailing and extended motor lifespan.

Any boat owner can agree that taking the boat out for a day whether it’s to cruise around or go fishing is extremely fun for all involved. To prepare for any type of boating is to ensure that the boat has proper regular maintenance. A crucial part of maintaining a boat is your motor, if not well maintained, you run the risk of breaking down or having more serious issues within the boat. 

Outboard motors aren’t necessarily hard to maintain but when it comes to regular maintenance, here are some tips every owner should know. Most outboard motors have a lifespan of seven to eight years, or 1,500 hours. With proper care and maintenance, its possible to extend the lifetime of these motors. 

What Is an Outboard Motor?

The outboard motor is the system for boats that are mounted typically at the back of the vessel. It’s used to power and steer the boat. It features three main parts; the top, mid, and lower unit. 

The top: Also known as the powerhead, this is the main engine of the vessel, this is the part that should remain out of the water.

Midsection: This features the housing and mountain bracket, this is most used when removing elements from the engine. 

Lower unit: Featured here is the propeller, this needs often maintenance due to constantly being in the water, it’s known to receive more damage from rocks or other materials underwater. 

Now, let's see some smooth sailing tips to maintain outboard motors like a pro.

Change Engine Oil Regularly

Just like any other machinery, it’s crucial to change the oil on a regular basis to ensure your boat is capable of performing at its best. Doing regular maintenance to an outboard motor is an easy task but some owners fail to maintain it. Most manufacturers recommended cleaning the motor at least once every season, or every 100 hours. It’s necessary to change the oil before the boat is put away for the off-season as well. 

The best tip is to change the engine oil while it's warm, this allows it to drain more quickly and allows it to drain completely. Make sure it’s not boiling hot but still warm. If the boat is in the water, most just fire it up for a few minutes. However, if it’s on the trailer, it’s important to provide a sufficient water source to keep it from overheating. The boat market and mechanics have a special device called “earmuffs” that cover the water intake and allow for a garden hose attachment. 

Check The Battery

Prior to heading on the water, or after the season a great idea is to check the battery and the connections to make sure all components are working properly. If your boat is often in salt water, this is a step that should be done often, as the salt is known to be damaging to certain parts. Salt often causes corrosion and damages the battery connections, fresh water can also cause damage to those parts. 

If you're planning on being on the water for a long day, a good idea is to top off the battery and get it to a full charge. Remember to also check the battery fluid level as well. If the levels are low, that can result in short battery life and low power. 

Check The Propeller

Also known as the prop, the propeller is the part that makes the boat move. Removing it and inspecting it often will make sure you are traveling by boat safely. All parts of the propeller must be functioning properly to make sure the boat can be pushed forward.

Keep the Boat and Outboard Motors Clean

Washing your boat after every use is extremely important to the overall health and performance of the vessel. If the hull is dirty, it can reduce the boat's performance and increase in fuel use. The engine is made up of thousands of components that are constantly exposed to salt water, fresh water, and other factors that can destroy the various components.

Most professionals recommended that the boat itself gets cleaned after every use, whether it's present in fresh or salt water, over time these elements can cause heavy damage. It’s important to also deep clean the bottom of the boat, this is something that some owners just brush off. This prevents any invasive species that are attached to your boat to relocate to another area. 

Flush the Outboard Motor

As previously mentioned, using “earmuffs” is very important when flushing the debris or buildup in the motor. After every use, whether it was the lake or ocean, the motor should be flushed out. This is done by attaching a hose and letting the water run out till it’s clear or you no longer see debris, this process usually takes around 10-15 minutes. 

Regularly Inspect Critical Components

Make sure the fuel lines are free of cracks and leaks that could disrupt fuel flow. Don't forget to replace fuel filters to prevent debris from entering the engine. Keep the fuel tank vent clear to maintain optimal fuel pressure and prevent vapor lock.

The water pump impeller deserves attention too. This critical component cools the engine by pumping water, so replace it at recommended intervals to avoid overheating. Check spark plugs for signs of wear and fouling, and replace them as needed to maintain efficient combustion.

Interestingly, even fishing line plays a role. It might inadvertently wrap around the propeller shaft, leading to damage. Regularly check and remove any entangled fishing line to ensure smooth operation.

Grease or Lubricate the Components

The components of the outboard motor that are constantly moving usually come with a coating of grease from the manufacturer to keep them running smoothly. However, over time fresh and salt water have been known to deplete the coating and leave them open to damage. Using vessel-safe grease will keep those components protected against issues such as corrosion, rust, and normal wear and tear. 

Avoid Sunlight

Unfortunately, most boat owners live in states where there is a lot of sunshine, however, it’s important to store the outboard motor and the vessel out of direct light. Over time the light can break down the rubber and plastic components making them more likely to receive further damage. 

A great idea to avoid sunlight on your vessel is to invest in a UV-blocking cover that fits the outboard and the boat. 

Use the Motors Frequently

Letting the boat motor sit is harmful to the vessel and motor. The seals shrink, the grease is less effective and the parts have the possibility of corroding. Letting the engine sit in the boat storage for more than a couple of weeks can extremely damage the components. It’s important to start the engine up and let it idle and heat up every once in a while, and try to find an excuse to use the boat! 

Any boat owner should add these tips to their vessel maintenance to ensure the quality and performance of their outboard motor, this can expand the lifespan and get more years out of the component. Proper boat maintenance will keep your vessel and outboard engine running better and longer, this creates a safe and fun environment.

By adhering to these maintenance tips, boaters can navigate with confidence, knowing their outboard engine is in prime condition for adventures on the water.

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