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Maintenance Tips for Outboard Motors

Taking a boat out for a day of fishing or just cruising around on the water is always a lot of fun and one thing that ensures plenty of fun boat days in the future is proper boat maintenance. One of the most crucial parts of your boat to maintain is of course the motor, which if it isn’t well maintained, could break down on you at the worst possible moment, leaving you and your guests stranded out on the water. Outboard motors aren’t all that complex, but when it comes to proper maintenance, there are a few things that anyone who owns one should know.

Keeping Your Boat and Motor Clean

Regularly washing your boat and it’s motor may seem like a mundane task, but it is something every boat owner should make sure is done regularly. A dirty hull can significantly reduce your boats performance and cause your vessel to increase it’s overall fuel consumption. Your engine is also made up of thousands of individual pieces and components, all of which are regularly exposed to salt water, salty air, and other environmental factors that can degrade and corrode your components. Additionally, salt water residue will mar the gel coat of the hull causing the outboard motor work harder. Thoroughly cleaning your motor, both after use and on a schedule, will ensure your boat’s motor runs at peak performance for as long as possible. Make it a habit to at least rinse the boat and motor with fresh water after every outing to reduce residue.

Regularly Changing Your Oil

Just like with a car, it’s crucial that you regularly change your boat’s oil to ensure best performance.  Changing the oil in an outboard motor is a relatively easy task but one that many boat owners will neglect. Unfortunately, there aren’t quick-change service centers for boats like there are for cars, however in most cases is considerably less difficult than an oil change for a car.  Changing the outboard motor oil once every 100 hours, or at least once every season, is recommended by most manufacturers.

To ensure a complete change of oil, do it while the engine is warm. If the boat is already in the water, it’s easy enough to fire it up for a few minutes. If the boat is on the trailer, make sure you supply the engine with enough water to keep it from over-heating. This is usually done by using a device that mechanics call “earmuffs” to cover the water intakes and attaching a garden hose. Some manufacturers provide a special fitting just for this purpose. Refer to the service manual for details about the motor being used.

Regularly Inspect the Propeller

Nicks and cracks in the propeller can reduce overall speed and performance of your boat as well as put unexpected additional load on the engine. Checking the prop should be routine whenever the boat is launched and every time it is pulled out of the water. Nicks in the prop can come from running over things in the water, rocks and debris kicked up by the trailer tires when towing, or a number of other potential hazards while out on the water.

It’s not only important to check your propeller for damage, but to also to make sure it’s tightly secured and hasn’t vibrated loose. Additionally, check for any debris like fishing line that may get tangled around the propeller shaft. A prop shaft wound with fishing line can cause the outboard’s seals to leak and the bearings to wear out prematurely.

Check the Battery

It’s always a good decision to check the battery and connections every time the boat’s about to head out on the water. Make sure that all of the connections are free of corrosion and well connected. Salt water is especially damaging to battery connections, but fresh-water can wreak havoc as well. A dead battery on the water can be a real problem when out on the water as it can sometimes be upwards of 4-5 hours before help may be able to arrive.

Topping of your battery with a full charge the night before any outing is just smart thinking. It’s also a good idea to make sure the battery fluid is at the proper level. Decreased electrolyte level in a battery can significantly shorten battery life and decrease starting power when it’s needed most.

With very little time, effort and money invested, an outboard motor will last for years. Because they are simple motors, it doesn’t take an engineering degree to keep them working properly. A person with very little marine engineering ability, or experience can easily perform any of the maintenance tasks mentioned in this article and the time spent is truly an investment in the longevity of your boat.

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