There are lots of things to enjoy about owning a motor boat, but maintenance isn’t one of them. Maintaining a motor might not be enjoyable work, but a few preventative measures and procedures can help your outboard run for longer.  Outboard motors  are high value purchases so it makes perfect sense to keep them healthy for as long as possible with some simple maintenance.

If you buy your motor from an authorized dealer, you should be taught about any ‘breaking in’ steps to take before freely using your outboard motor. This commonly includes running the motor at a set RPM for a specified amount of time when using it for the first time. This is to help ensure the motor has a longer life.

Hire a reliable mechanic to tune-up your engine at the start of every season. They can test the spark, run a compression test, check seals and water pumps, test warning alarms and generally eliminate potential causes of breakdown. This annual  check-up will help to keep the motor ticking over, but there are some additional things you can do to help ensure it makes it through the season.

Image Courtesy of:
Robert S. Donovan

It’s recommended to flush out the engine after every outing, including salt and fresh water outings. This can take anywhere between five and twenty minutes. A set of “rabbit ears” can be used, which consists of two flexible rubber seals connected with a metal clamp. This should be inserted into the lower unit where the water is picked up, and then a garden hose attached. Once the engine is started the water pump will do the work.

Once flushing is complete, disconnect the fuel line and allow the remaining fuel in the carburetor to burn. Fuel should not be sat in the engine for longer than sixty days, so using last year’s fuel is asking for trouble. Once the engine is out of fuel, turn off the engine and turn off the battery switch if you have one. Open the engine cover and check for fuel or water leakage.

Wipe everything down and spray with anti-corrosive like WD 40. All the moving parts of the engine should be lubricated  including the shift and throttle cables, carburetor valves etc. Replace the engine cover and wipe the outside down. Use canvas or plastic covers for the engine between trips if provided.

You should also consider talking to an authorized dealer about ethanol stabilizers and product-specific tips to help you keep your outboard motor running for longer. The best way to ensure that your outboard motor runs smoothly is to invest in one of the most reliable models on the market, such as Mercury Outboards.

Tom Clark writes about outboard motors and boat maintenance on behalf of Southern Shipwrights.