How to Clean and Maintain Your Boat’s Outboard Engine
Cleaning and Maintaining Boat's Engine
It's the heart of your boat.
You don’t need to be a mechanic, or hire one (unless you want to), to take care of this integral part of your boat, but for practical and safety reasons, you can’t afford not to!
Here’s how to keep your boat engine clean and purring for as long as possible – saving you time, expense and a lot of hassle.
These steps are recommended for cleaning your outboard motor after each boating trip and especially before storing your boat for a prolonged period.
Bonus Tip: if you've already planned out time to clean your boat engine, and you've gathered all your supplies, it's probably a good idea to take a quick look at your bilge to see if that needs cleaning or repairs.
Flush Out Your Engine with Clean Water
Remember that whether you navigate marine or freshwater with your boat, sand and impurities can accumulate in the engine. Corrosion (rust) and erosion (wear) are any engine’s worst nightmare! Make use of a fresh water hose (the one in your garden, for example) to get this job done and help rinse off any salt water residue.
Note: stay clear of the prop and keep the boat out of gear to do this safely!
Check the Water Pump
You need to make sure that it's functioning correctly as it is responsible for keeping the engine cool. If you don't see an adequate flow while you're flushing out the motor (a warm stream, not hot) with the engine switched off, try to unblock the water line. If that doesn't work, you may need to replace the impeller – sorry!
Burn Off Residual Fuel and Check Lines
Disconnect and drain the fuel line, if you can, and burn off fuel remaining in the carburetor. Fuel (especially if left standing for a long period) can become quite sticky and gum up your engine.
Take care when burning off the residual fuel not to let the engine run dry and overheat (if it gets louder or you start to smell burning). That can cause serious (and costly) damage!
Take care to always run your engine on fresh fuel – no more than two months old.
When draining your fuel tank, make sure to dispose of the fuel in an environmentally friendly way at the proper recycling authorities.
Other fuel related checks:
- Cracks and wear on the fuel lines, primer bulb and tank
- Ensure the vent is “breathing” well
- Check for water in the fuel – indicating a possible leak
You’re almost done. Now that your engine is flushed and fuel free, make sure the engine is off and the battery switch disconnected.
Open the Engine Cover
Check for any water or fuel around the engine (indicating leaks) and get a mechanic involved to sort out any issues you find.
Depending on the age of your engine, you may need to make use of a soft microfiber towel and a good degreaser to remove any heavy dirt or grime. Take care to protect electrical components from cleaners and chemicals. With your engine wiped down (and looking a lot better!) treat the moving parts of your engine with a good anti-corrosive and lubricant – to protect your engine from moisture.
Close up the engine and replace the waterproof canvas or cover. Inspect the gasket and latches to make sure that the cowl is perfectly sealed. After all your hard work, you wouldn’t want moisture finding its way into your boat’s engine – no way!
Once you’ve performed this outboard motor care cleaning ritual a few times, it’ll get easier and quicker. One of the added bonuses of regular engine cleaning and maintenance (besides saving you money and the inconvenience of needing a tow) is that you’ll get to know your boat much better, from the inside out!
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