If you own a modern outboard engine, be it a four-stroke or a two-stroke (read Outboard Smack-Down: Two-Stroke vs. Four, if you’re still trying to decide which you like most), chances are you utterly love it. Today’s outboard engines are quieter, burn less fuel, create less exhaust, and most importantly, are incredibly reliable. Until… they aren’t. Truth be told, however, much of the time when an outboard has an issue, the root of the problem can be found in how the owner treated it. Since you’re a TFG reader we’re going to assume that you already know about the basics, like the importance of flushing your outboard, and keeping the power head and lower unit oils fresh. There are, however, a few items which require periodic maintenance that boaters tend to forget about.
- There’s a fuel filter under the cowl, too. Sure, we all change out our fuel/water separators. But since that little secondary filter is hidden away under the cowl, it’s out of sight and out of mind. That’s bad, because that little filter is your engine’s last line of defense against foreign objects in the fuel system. At least once a year, you should give it a look-see.
- Lubrication points on the engine’s steering system often go ignored until the steering binds up or a similar issue appears. Often, when this happens the damage is already done and it’s too late to do anything about it. This can turn into a major problem because on some outboards, in order to replace the bearing the engine turns on you may need to do a significant tear-down. Replacing a $200 part suddenly becomes a $1,000 adventure.
- Propeller dings should not go unattended to. Even small dings in a prop add vibrations to your boat’s ride. Over time, an accumulation of dings can lead to a lot of vibration. But since it increases bit by bit as the dings get added on different trips, many of us don’t ever even notice. Wait a sec – if we don’t notice, what’s the big deal? First off, when you finally do get the propeller reconditioned or replace it, you’ll most certainly notice how much smoother the boat runs, and wonder how you ever got used to those vibrations over time. Secondly, all that added vibration is doing damage to both your motor and your boat. This is small-scale damage, the type of stuff that just seems to happen for no reason: a screw backs out here or there, a nut comes loose on a bolt, or a wiring connection gets jiggly. There doesn’t seem to be any one cause for these things to happen. But it’s those vibrations that cumulatively have an effect. The solution? Hit those dings with a metal file, and smooth them out. And when your prop is starting to look ratty, have it reconditioned or replace it altogether.