You don’t have to be IBC’s 5 Star Gold Certified Master Mechanic “Dan The Man” to properly care for an outboard. First and foremost become acquainted with your user manual, even if you have owned an outboard before. Technology changes at an ever increasing pace, so read the book. There is nothing worse than a break down, especially if weather is coming in, if you are offshore or in a shipping lane. Familiarizing yourself with the operation and nomenclature of your motor may save you some headaches later on.
Everyone operating a boat should have their outboard serviced annually by a qualified mechanic. Seals and impellers can degrade over time and new Ethanol Fuel Blends can render an outboard useless in a matter of weeks. Warning Alarms, spark plugs and wires, upper and lower unit oil, and any other critical items your qualified mechanic and manufacturer recommend should be inspected before you start your boating season. Don’t wait until the last minute before you go boating either. Chances are you’re not the only one trying to get out on the water or trying to get your outboard serviced before the weekend.
Flushing Out Your Outboard
ALWAYS FLUSH YOUR MOTOR after using it even if it was only used in freshwater. Flushing attachments are more and more frequently found on the new 4 stroke motors(look at Yamaha’s example), check your owner’s manual to find out if yours has one or not and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. The indefatigable “Rabbit Ears” or flushing attachment fits nearly all motors without built in flushing systems and with the addition of a garden hose complete the package. Ten minutes on the rabbit ears and you’re done. With the problem of invasive species this is a must after every outing.
Always check for cooling water discharge out of the “Tell Tale” when you start your motor. If you don’t see any water being discharged from under the cowling or “peeing” as I hear so often, shut down the motor and figure out the cause. Sometimes it’s debris or vegetation covering the intake, sand in the water passages, other times it’s a bad impeller. Today’s modern impellers are manufactured to extremely tight tolerances out of space age neoprene derivatives but they aren’t indestructible. An annual check will tell you whether or not you need to replace your impeller, or the rate of flow from the tell tale outflow pipe (or lack thereof). Remeber if the motor hasn’t been run in several years the impeller can dry out and become brittle thus making it more apt to break apart when run.
Always , always, always use fresh fuel every single time. Fuel that is left in your tank can begin breaking down in days to weeks. The new E10 fuels available at your local gas station are less effecient and leave unburned contaminants in your motor. If possible use ethanol free fuel from a reputable marine supplier or buy your pump gas from a trusted source. Independent studies have found some dishonest stations watering down their gas beyond the federally allowed 10% to increase their already fat bottom lines. It’s buyer beware so know where the good gas is sold or ask the local fisherman who earn their livelihood on the water. Most manufacturers won’t honor fuel issues in their warranties so be proactive and use the “Good Stuff”! It’s a good idea to disconnect the fuel line and run the motor out of fuel if it isn’t going to be run for any period of time longer than a few days (carburated motors only , never run a fuel injected motor dry unless your manufacturer reccomends it). If you must use “pump gas” use a fuel stabilizing additive such as “Yamalube Fuel Stabilizer & Conditioner Plus” for E10 fuels.