Follow These Tips to Keep Your Outboard Healthy
Over the past couple decades, outboard engines evolved from cranky, dirty, and somewhat unreliable devices into fully modern machines that rival or exceed the sophistication of auto engines. They no longer burn oil as a matter of course, they're much more fuel-efficient, and they are a lot quieter. They are also more reliable than they used to be -- given proper maintenance.
Because the boating environment is a lot harsher for engines than highways are, outboards will always require more attention than cars. An annual tune-up and periodic oil changes go a long way to keeping them alive. But there are a few other basic maintenance tasks that every owner should attend to regularly.
Flushing Your Outboard Motor
If you do your boating in saltwater or brackish water, you must flush the engine after every use. Likewise, if you boat in murky fresh water or run in shallow water with a weedy, muddy, or sandy bottom, you've probably drawn contaminants into the engine that can settle and clog its cooling channels and possibly lead to corrosion. Even if you run in sparkling clear water, it's a good idea to flush every time.
Flush the engine when you get the boat home or otherwise out of the water. With the boat on its trailer, connect a garden hose to the engine's flushing port. If you have an older engine without a flushing port, you'll need a tool called a flush muff, also known as rabbit ears. Place the muff's rubber seals over the engine's water intake ports and connect the garden hose to the device.
Either way, turn the water on full and start the engine, keeping it to idle speed. The engine must be out of gear. Keep an eye on things to make sure the muffs stay in place and that no one plays with the gear shift. Watch the water outflow for a nice strong stream and check the water's temperature with your hand.
A little warm is okay, but if it gets hot, you've got a problem that a mechanic should diagnose. If the stream is weak, it could mean the water pump is failing or the cooling channels and/or outflow tube is clogged, so shut off the engine immediately and don't run it again until the obstruction is cleared. Otherwise, run the engine for 15 minutes with the water running and you're done.
More Maintenance Tips
Here are some more steps to take to keep your engine in good shape between each use:
- With the hose still in place: if you have an older engine with a carburetor, disconnect the fuel line and run the engine to clear it of fuel. Gas that remains in the carburetor can leave deposits that will clog the jets. This isn't necessary with a fuel-injected engine.
- Take the cowling off the engine and check for fuel, water and oil leaks. If you find any, consult your mechanic.
- Spray down all of the working parts under the cowling with a water displacer like WD-40. Clean all the pivots and lube the control cables
Bennington pontoon boats are available with a wide range of power packages, including outboard engines from Yamaha, Evinrude, Honda, Mercury and Suzuki. Interested in getting started in pontoon boating? Click here to find a Bennington dealer near you.