TLC for your Outboard - Daily Checks

by Sherry Popham

Yamaha nails it with 3 reasons why outboard engine maintenance is important:
  1. It’s easier and more cost efficient than fixing problems.
  2. Your boat will be ready when you are.
  3. You’ll have more hours of trouble free enjoyment on the water.
First and foremost, always begin by referring to the Owner’s Manual provided with your engine. It will provide maintenance intervals that are based on engine running hours or months/years, whichever occurs first.  If you don’t have an engine hour meter, consider purchasing one. They are easy to install and are the easiest way to track engine operating hours, so there is no guessing about when it is time for maintenance. This article will focus on some of the basics of what you should do every time you use the boat. Adherence to this routine will greatly diminish the chances of poor performance and extend the life of your engine. Future topics will cover other equally important aspects of upkeep like usage triggered maintenance intervals, proper care of your power trim and tilt, the electrical system and props, external care and extended storage. Engine Flushing The number one task you can perform to extend engine life is flushing it after each and every use. We operate our boats in an environment that is extremely harsh and the aluminum components that comprise outboards are very vulnerable.  Failure to flush allows the buildup of salt in narrow passages used to transport cooling water throughout the engine and can lead to overheating. Longer term, an improperly cooled engine increases exhaust temperatures promoting premature exhaust system corrosion. Always check the stream of water from the “tell-tale” to confirm good water flow. The water being expelled may be warm but should not be hot.  Occasionally, this outlet will become clogged with debris impeding or totally blocking the water flow. If the stream is weak immediately turn off the engine to prevent overheating.  Try inserting small piece of wire into the tell-tale and gently move it back and forth to loosen any particles. Start the engine again to see if this has remedied the problem.  If it has not then there is a good possibility you need a new water pump. There are typically three methods —a flush bag, muffs, or hose-port connector. Refer to your engine manufacturer about the recommended method, position of the trim, RPMS, time required, PSI of the water flow and any brand specific concerns when flushing. Engine and Systems Inspection
  • Check your fuel water separator for water in the fuel.  Last month we talked about this issue and its implications.
  • Remove the cowling and check for fuel and water leaks
  • Examine your fuel system inspecting for fuel line damage, cracks or wear and any corrosion on clamps or fittings.
  • Check your primer bulb and tanks.  The bulb should be intact and supple. Depending on the tank materials check for corrosion or damage.  Improperly seated fuel senders can often leak and, over time, cause irreparable damage.
  Additional Tasks
  • Using an anticorrosive, like Yamaha’s YAMAHASHIELD, clean and lubricate the shift and throttle cables and other moving parts like carb valves.
  • After replacing the cowling, clean and wipe it down. The use of canvas engine covers between uses will keep your engine looking new.
  • Turn off the key and, if you have a battery switch, turn it off.
  • For carbureted outboards, 50 HP or below, many recommend that, after the engine flush, you disconnect the fuel line and run all of the fuel out of the float bowls in the carb.  Some use products like Yamaha’s RINGFREE and fuel stabilizer to accomplish the same objective but keep in mind the engine must be run at more than idle speed for these to fully disperse in the fuel system and produce the desired result.
  • Check for flaking paint or rusting spots and spot paint or coat with protecting grease.
  • Check the prop for cracks and signs of hub failure.
  • Check shear pin that connects propeller hub to drive shaft and keep a spare. (also keep a spare cotter pin and safety shut off clip).
Establish a routine that you strictly adhere to each time you use your boat and these simple procedures will extend the life of your engine and give you peace of mind that your engine performance will be as reliable as possible.  Even if you are not a mechanic, a little tender loving care can go a long ways in protecting your investment.

Sherry Popham
Sherry Popham


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