Outboard Motor Care
More boaters than ever are choosing boats outfitted with outboard motors because
outboards are reliable, efficient, easy to maintain, and provide lots of horsepower.
So what does it take to properly use and maintain your outboard motor? First thing
before starting your engine is to inspect your fuel tank and fuel supply lines. Be sure
there are no cracks or leaks in the squeeze bulb, hoses, or connections. Make certain
the hose connections are seated properly on both the tank and motor.
If you use your boat infrequently, use fuel stabilizer throughout the year to prevent
water from contaminating your fuel. Storing your tank full with fuel is a good way to
minimize impacts from moisture.
Next, open your engine cover and check your oil level. Check for any leaks of oil, fuel,
or the cooling system. Give a visual inspection of the wiring and connections. If
everything checks out, put your cover back on and be sure it’s latched securely.
Next give the battery a visual check. Is it secure? Are the terminals tight? Is it free
from corrosion? If not, mix baking soda and water and scrub the terminals clean
with a toothbrush or small wire brush. Check the electrical wires that lead to your
motor and make sure they have integrity and are secure.
As you’re looking at the outside of your motor, inspect the hydraulic rams and seals
for both your power tilt and your steering. Make sure the seals are not cracked, and
the arms are not rusted. If they show rust, polish off the rust and apply a spray
lubricant to displace water. If your seals are cracked, you will eventually leak
hydraulic fluid, and lose pressure. Take your boat to your local repair shop early to
fix this issue before it becomes a serious problem.
Once your engine is started, visually inspect that a steady stream of cooling water is
being emitted from the engine. If the stream is weak, check that the intake is not
blocked with sand or debris. Sometimes a small piece of wire to clean the inlet hole
is all it takes to restore full flow.
If you check out these few simple items before every start up, you’ll have minimal
problems when you’re out on the water.
If you run your motor in saltwater, after every use you will want to take a fresh
water hose and flush your cooling system to minimize blockage and corrosion. Then
hose off the entirety of the outside of the motor.
For outboards run in saltwater you will also need to periodically inspect and replace
your anodes or zincs. These are pieces of aluminum or zinc that are attached to your
motor at strategic places that minimize corrosion to the metal parts of your motor
both inside and out.
Come fall when it’s time to store your boat for the winter, be sure to winterize your
outboard motor. Fill the fuel tank and use fuel stabilizer. Run the motor to feed
stabilized fuel through the lines, filter, bowls, and injectors.
Fall boat maintenance always includes oil and filter change, fuel filter change, and
change the lower end gear oil. Lastly purge all of the water in the cooling system
using a glycol-based antifreeze. Run the motor until you see the pink liquid emerge
from the outlet at the back of the motor.
Another fall boat service item is to periodically change the impeller that pumps the
cooling water. Saltwater users should change the impeller every fall. Fresh water
users may consider doing this every other year for peace of mind.
Before storing your boat for the winter, remove your marine battery and take it
inside. Keep it fully charged throughout the winter, and your battery will last a long
These boat maintenance practices are easy to follow. If you do these simple things,
your outboard motor will perform better, and will last for many years to come.