Keep Your Engine Running Year After Year
Published: Wednesday, February 21, 2018
The thought of doing engine maintenance is enough to keep anyone up at night. But it is a necessary part of owning a boat, and can be made easy if you spend just a little time planning for it. The best place to start is to follow your manufacturer's guidelines designed to keep your boat running well and make each component last longer. Keep in mind that ignoring manufacturer's recommendations may void your warranties.
With modern engines, the maintenance required can be as simple as just filling the fuel tank and flushing the engine. As an example, an Evinrude E-TEC G2 outboard should be topped off with oil every once in awhile, but doesn’t need oil changes or dealer-scheduled maintenance for 500 hours or 5-years.
When it comes to your engine, there is so much information that the manufacturers provide, but day-to-day engine maintenance is pretty straightforward. As any boater knows, galvanic corrosion destroys underwater metal parts and can occur in fresh or salt water; however, salt, brackish, and polluted waters will accelerate corrosion. Your outboard has one or more sacrificial anodes that protect it from galvanic corrosion. Disintegration of the anode is normal and lets you know it is working. Check each anode and replace anodes smaller than 2/3 their original size. Don’t paint the anode, its fasteners, or its mounting as that will reduce its corrosion protection.
One good habit to get into is to flush your outboard with fresh water after every use, but in particular after you use it in brackish or polluted water to minimize the accumulation of scale and silt deposits in cooling system passages. The engine can be flushed on a trailer or dockside, takes only a few minutes, and makes a huge difference in the longevity of your engine. Trim the outboard to the fully-down position in a well-ventilated area. Flushing the engine with the outboard tilted can allow water to enter the cylinders, resulting in engine damage. Attach a garden hose to the flushing port on the back of your engine and turn on the water. After flushing, leave the outboard in the vertical position long enough to completely drain the powerhead. When flushing is done, store the outboard in the recommended down position. If you do need to store your outboard in a tilted position, make sure the cooling system is drained completely before tilting. Never place the gearcase higher than the powerhead. You should periodically wash the entire boat and outboard with soapy water and apply a coat of automotive wax. Leave the engine covers in place when washing the outboard and don’t use solvents such as acetone.
When getting ready to store your engine, every engine has a different procedure for long-term storage or “winterization”. During the winterization process, the engine is "fogged" with extra oil to coat internal engine components. Although every manufacturer has their own set of steps to be completed, some manufacturers focus on making the process as easy as possible. An Evinrude E-TEC G2 can be done with the push of a button and it can be done in the water. To start, stabilize the engine's fuel supply by adding a fuel conditioner — following instructions on the container — and then fill the fuel tank. Attach a garden hose to the flushing port and turn on the water. Whether you have Evinrude ICON gauges or use the iLink mobile display interface, you can simply scroll through the interface and select “Winterize”. It’s just that easy!
When it is time to launch your boat again, you have to do a pre-season check. Remove your outboard from storage and prepare it for a season of reliable service by performing a general check and a few preventive maintenance procedures. Check for loosened or removed hardware and replace damaged or missing parts. Check the gearcase for leakage and, if leakage is evident, the gearcase seals should be replaced. Gearcase lubricant is thick and clear, so do not confuse this with engine oil, which may normally appear on the skeg after performing the long-term storage procedure.
So, now that you know the basics, read your owner’s manual, follow the recommended steps, and you’ll keep your engine running right for years to come!