Mid-season outboard maintenance

Outboards operate best with some mid-season care. Here's what to take care of

By David HarrisDavid Harris


Photo by Eden Robbins

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This is a good time of year to revamp your inventory of spares and make sure you are well-prepared for the coming winter layup. Check your stock of fogging oil, four-stroke or two-stroke engine oil, gear oil, filters, hose clamps, spark plugs, and tools. A spare prop and fuel hose can save the day and help ensure stress-free vacation time.

1. Consider installing a remote water-separating fuel filter

Contaminated fuel is the number-one reason for poor performance.

2. Burn fuel out of the engine

If your summer schedule leaves the engine idle for two or three weeks, consider burning the fuel out of the engine so that deposits and sludge can’t form and deteriorate internal components. To evacuate the fuel system, run the engine in neutral at a brisk idle, disconnect the fuel line at the engine (above, left) and, as it starts to sputter, intermittently apply choke and throttle to help complete the fuel burnout. You will have to prime the fuel system on restart by squeezing the fuel-hose bulb (above, right), but the benefits of easy starting and smooth running are worth the effort.

3. Conduct a visual check of fuel lines and fuel connections for cracks or leaks. Check and replenish oil levels at the dipstick for four-strokes and oil reservoir for fuel-injected two-strokes.

4. Know how to remove the prop

If you’ve been getting extra cosy with the rocks in your bay, now’s the time to remove the prop and check for damage. On older engines, shear pins connect the prop to the shaft and are designed to break before something else does, such as the shaft itself. Cotter pins work to keep the assembly together More up-to-date engines use a shock-absorbent rubber hub to protect the drive gear and usually incorporate a large washer, or thrust bearing, in front of the prop and a nut behind to hold it in place. Removing either is easy and every cottage boater should master this task. If you notice fishing line around the shaft, remove it, as it can cut the seals at the prop shaft, causing gear oil to leak out. If the prop is damaged, poor performance and vibration will result.

This article was originally published on May 15, 2007

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