Servicing your outboard motor

There are quite a lot of little tasks to do when you are going to service your outboard engine.
If you use this checklist you should cover just about everything:
1.  Change the gear oil – and while you are doing this see if any water
     has got through the seals.
2.  Replace the spark plugs – some people just clean the old ones, but
     buy new.
3.  Strip down and clean the fuel filter.
4.  Strip down the water pump – clean any corrosion.
5.  Check the flywheel nut and nuts around the cylinder head.
6.  Check the recoil starter – lubricate it – also the pull rope for any
7.  Check the gear and throttle cables for any damage – lubricate all
8.  Check the tilt mechanism – grease it and the clamp screws while
     you have the grease out.
9.  Lubricate the prop shaft.
10. Bleed the auto lube pump – check for air in system.
11. Check the ignition timing – adjust if needed.
12. Adjust the carburettor pilot screws if they need it – otherwise
      leave as is.
13. Change the engine oil.
Start your outboard up after doing these tasks and listen to it. Check to see if water is exiting the exhaust. Then adjust the throttle – the engine should have a smooth pick from idle. The maximum revs should be achieved. Return to idle speed and check to see if does maintain its correct idle speed , now that the engine is hot. With the throttle
working smoothly, check all other functions, including the stop button!  Happy motoring!


Outboard Motor Accessories

Once you have bought and fitted your outboard motor to your boat, you will sooner or later want to add accessories.  For boats larger than a dinghy, the first accessory will be control box and cables to be able to sit or stand further away from the outboard engine.  This remote control will have two main benefits.  Firstly it will probably be more comfortable to control the outboard, using the remote control box.  Secondly, because you are no longer sitting right at the stern of the boat, the trim will be better.  That is, the boat will no longer be going along with the bow reaching for the sky!

A control box fitted with cables can be positioned anywhere on the boat.  You are only limited to the length of the cables.  So consider carefully where you want to site these controls.  If you are also going to use a steering wheel to guide the boat, obviously the controls should be near this wheel.  You can follow the traditional position of siting the wheel and controls or use your own imagination.

To find new and second hand controls in our store, click the link.

Other accessories you might consider adding to your outboard is the ability for your engine to charge the battery when it is running.  Most outboards have an alternator already fitted and all that is required is the wiring.  So this is easily sorted.  While on the subject of electrics, you might want to convert your outboard to an electric start!  This will save you some hard work;  not having to pull that starting cord again!  Just turn a key instead. 

So, to find electrical equipment to add to your outboard motor just follow this link.

In fact, if you are looking for any particular part for to add or replace, then click on our link to the store to see if it is advertised just now.  Remember parts are listed every minute of every day so keep coming back to see if what you are looking for is for sale.  It will no doubt be available at a very cheap price!  Certainly cheaper than ordering or buying through your local chandlery.

Often once you have bought your outboard engine you will need an outboard motor bracket.  Most outboard brackets are only guaranteed up to 10 h.p. so for small boats and yachts up to say 30 feet this is OK.  Larger boats need another alternative.  If you are looking for an outboard motor bracket for your engine, click here.

Sometimes you need to look at your engine manual for information on servicing and other routine checks. If you have bought the engine and or boat second hand, these items may not be available.  It is very useful to have access to information on your outboard.  Although things might be running tickety-bo at the start of the season, slight adjustments may be required later.  Being able to make these adjustments on your own, because you know how to do them, can prove useful.  Why not buy a manual second hand from our store, cheaply.  After all the more you know about your outboard engine, the better!

Often you will buy a second hand outboard and there is no tank to go with it.  Or the tank is too small.  To extend your cruising range why not buy a tank that is big enough to take you where you want to go and back?  Plastic fuel tanks come in a variety of sizes.  From my own experience, there is nothing more annoying than having to try and re fuel out at sea, in a chop, with petrol sometimes going into the filler and more often than not missing and running all over the deck!  So take my advice and get yourself equipped with tanks of sufficent size to go where you want without re fuelling.  Visit our store and buy a second hand tank, at a cheap price!

Outboards need oil.  Whether you have a modern 4 stroke outboard or an older 2 stroke, they all need oil. Oil is making many people rich.  It is an essential ingredient of outboard motors.  Much is made of the different qualities of oil.  I have over the years bought various types and qualities of oil.  Basically, your engine needs oil.  It needs oil that can do its job of lubricating the engine parts efficiently.  This is the crux of the matter.  All oil is capable of doing a job. Some lesser grade oils will deteriorate quickly, and need replacing. So if you buy cheap you have to remember to change your oil more frequently.  If you buy better more quality oil, you can change it less frequently.  The problems arise when you buy cheap and forget to change it! In my car I have been told to only use synthetic oil!  This is due to its superior qualities.  Oil is a lubricant.  As it gets used it deteriorates. It picks up debris from the engine, metal, carbon etc. So over time it wears out, for want of a better phrase.  Your engine will react to this oil as it deteriorates and will no doubt perform less efficiently because the oil has not been renewed.  So renew your oil frequently. At least once a season, if possible.

To buy oil at a reasonable price from good sources, go here.

Many boatowners take great pride in their outboard motors.  Keeping them clean and free from dirt and growth is important.  Although antifouling paint can be applied to their boat to prevent algae growing on the hull, most outboards manufacturers do not advise painting the leg of their outboard motor.  In fact, specialist aluminium paint has been developed to apply to outboards and outdrives that will inhibit growth of algae. 

For cleaning materials for your outboard, go here.

As you use your boat more often there may be times when you find yourself in a situation where your propellor acidentally touches the seabed and gets damaged.  You will need a replacement.  This can be expensive.  However, from time to time there are propellors advertised in our store that could solve your problem.  Sometimes the propellor fitted to the outboard engine is not the best fit for the boat / engine combination.  In other words the diameter or the pitch of the propellor is not giving the boat its best performance.  This may be due to the dealership or the manufacturer or just the previous owner not fitting the optimine propellor for the condition.

To purchase another propellor for your outboard, follow this link.



The first outboard motor was made by Ole Evinrude, a Norwegian-American, in 1909.

Until recently, most outboard motors were two strokes.  These engines were fitted with a carburettor and the design was fairly straight forward and simple. Nowadays, with all the emphasis on reducing pollution, two strokes are considered too heavy on unburnt hydrocarbons for todays’ world.

During the mid 1990s European directives and US exhaust emission laws made manufacturers change from two to four stroke engines. All the main marine outboard engine companies have now developed new four-stroke motors.  Most of these new engines are fuel injected apart from the smaller outboards, which still use carburettors.   Some models benefit from variable camshaft timing, and multiple valves per cylinder. Mercury Verado four-strokes are unique in that they are supercharged.

Mercury outboard motors have an interesting history.  They were started by an engineer, Carl Kiekhaefer, who sold them at first, by mail order.  The outboards were so well made- they withstood extreme conditions better than any other motors – buyers soon were purchasing massive quanities.  Nowadays, Mercury also produce Mariner outboards (outside the USA).

Mercury, Tohatsu, Yamaha and Evinrude each developed computer-controlled Direct-Injected two-stroke engines. Each brand boasts a different method of DI. Fuel economy on both direct injected and four-stroke outboards has been vastly improved.

Evinrude, founded by the inventor of the outboard motor, are a major name in the marine industry.  They became connected to Johnson outboards when they were bought by Outboard Marine Corporation (OMC).  Now both are owned by Bombardier Recreational Products.  When both these major names were acquired, their technology was updated and E-Tec direct fuel injection was introduced.  They were the first to win the American EPA 2005 Clean Air Excellence Award, which recognises low emission levels from outboard engines. The EU now also recognises this as well.
Honda first produced outboards in 1964. They have been making four-stroke engines ever since.
Suzuki started making outboards in 1965 as an extention to their cars and motorcycles.


British Seagull outboards were produced from the 1930s until the 1990s.  The previously mentioned exhaust emission regulations put them out of business, as a manufacturer.  However, the company still operates as a replacement parts business.  Which is just as well, for these engines go on for ever and ever.  Even the original ones made in the 1930s are still going! They are a strange outboard motor.  The models are all named after the power in pounds per thrust that they produce.  For example, the smallest, called the ‘forty minus’ gives out just less than 40pounds of thrust.  This particular outboard – just to confuse you – is also called the ‘featherweight’.  The largest engine, the ‘silver century plus’ produces over 125 pounds of thrust. Although pretty primative looking these outboards can push a fairly heavy displacement boat of, say 25 feet long.
This gives you a brief look into the history of outboards.  A considerable amount more could be included but this gives you an overview of the main companies.


Maintaining your outboard motor, cheaply of course!

Every outboard motor needs maintenance.  As a bare minimum you should service your outboard engine at the start of the season. You can probably do this servicing yourself, but if you prefer it can be done by a marine mechanic.  Remember, there are no hard shoulders out at sea, so you will depend on the outboard to get you back in, safely.  So it is important you must service the outboard!

Once the outboard engine has had its annual service you can do some tasks throughout the season to keep it in tip top condition.  If you can get into the routine of flushing the outboard after every use with freshwater, to clean the internal water ways, it will help prevent corrosion and clogging.  An easy to use piece of kit, called a flushing kit, is used to connect to a water hose and also to the water intake of the outboard.  If you run the engine in neutral for a few minutes it will clear any salt water, sand or grit in the engine cooling system.  Also check that as you are pumping water into the engine, that water is leaving via the exhaust!  This should be a constant stream of warm, not hot, water.

If you are not getting a constant stream then the cooling channels may be blocked, slightly.  You can use some thin wire to insert into the exit pipe and try to clear it.  If that does not produce the required flow then you may need a new water pump. 

When you have finished flushing the outboard motor, disconnect the fuel pipe or switch off the fuel;  this is to allow the remaining fuel to be used by the engine. Check all round the engine with the cowling off and see if there are any fuel or water leaks. Repair if you can or take to your marine mechanic. If everything is OK then spray the whole engine with either WD40 or Quick-Lube.  Make sure all moving parts are sprayed and they move easily.  Close the fuel vent tap.

If you keep you outboard on the boat rail between trips then buy or make a cover to protect the engine from the weather.


Has your outboard gone under water?
What you should do if your outboard engine goes under the water?  As quickly as possible, wash the outboard with freshwater all over, to get rid of  any saltwater. Saltwater in the engine will corrode the internal parts very quickly.  Then empty all fuel from the tank and fuel lines etc.  Take out the spark plugs and either clean and dry or replace them.  Look over the engine to see if there has been any grit or sand ingested.  Try and remove it or get the engine serviced.  If there is no grit or sand then you can begin to turn the engine over, by hand.  Crank it slowly by hand, this allows water to be expelled.  Try cranking it at different angles, even upside down. To ensure all the water has drained out.

Once you are sure you have no water in the engine you can flush the cylinders and crankcase with pure alcohol, this will absorb any remaining water droplets in the engine.  If you wash all the parts in hot soapy water and allow them to dry or use a hair dryer then you will need to coat them with oil, to protect them from rusting.  Assemble the engine, add the fuel and turn over the engine.  Try starting it, if it fires up then allow it to run with some throttle in a container filled with freshwater to allow the engine to cool as it should.. The outboard motor is now ready for use.


Choosing an outboard motor for your dinghy

30 years ago American manufacturers dominated the outboard motor market.Names such as Mercury, Johnson, Evinrude and Chrysler, led the field competing with each other to produce bigger and better outboard engines. However, while this was going on they were neglecting the smallest of the outboards. These are the outboard motors that sell in the greatest of numbers and are often the first outboard many of us, buy. This being the case many of us stick to the same brand (brand loyalty) as we buy other bigger outboards over the years. The Japanese seized on this fact and gradually Honda, Yamaha, Suzuki and Tohatsu concentrating on small outboards began to take over as market leaders. They achieved this domination by improving efficiency and reliability. As well as adding features to these small outboards previously only found on larger engines.

Having achieved success in the small outboard market, these Japanese manufacturers expanded up the power range. They again came to dominate the outboard engine market up to at least 20 hp. The American manufacturers instead of competing with the Japanese, gave up and decided to buy these engines from the Japanese and badge them as their own. Now the Chinese have entered the market. Basically doing what the Japanese did previously, copying the best features of the present engines and at the same time keeping costs down.

So let us compare the outboards that are on offer for those looking for an outboard motor for their dinghy. If we take a fairly larger dinghy say, a Pioner 12 (pictured below) so that each outboard has to push a reasonably heavy weight through the water.
If we then take the following outboard motors :-
Mercury 2.5hp; Mercury 3.5hp; Mariner 2.5hp; Tohatsu 3.5hp; Yamaha 2.5hp; Suzuki 2.5hp; Honda 2.3hp; and a Parsun 2.6hp. All these outboards are 4 stroke engines. This is due to an E.U. Directive that prevents 2 strokes from being sold in the E.U. These outboards will provide a fairly wide range of engines available on the market, for powering dinghies. 

To judge one engine against the another several tests were completed. A Bollard pull test showed that the Mercury 3.5hp and Tohatsu 3.5hp were the most powerful at 90lbs of thrust (These two engines along with the Mariner are virtually identical). The least effective was the Honda 2.3hp at 66lbs of thrust. In between were the Suzuki 2.5hp at 83lbs of thrust, the Yamaha 2.5hp at 78lbs of thrust and the Parsun 2.6hp at 70 lbs of thrust.

Next test was Fuel Consumption. At full speed – 5.75 knots, the best outboards were the Yamaha 2.5hp and the Suzuki 2.5hp by at least 20%. The worst was the Parsun 2.6hp. When the throttles were eased and the dinghy was cruising the Fuel Consumption comparision was less evident, only about 10% difference. All these figures are for 4 stroke engines. However, based on figures previously recorded for 2 strokes under similar circumstances, the older engines were up to 50% less fuel efficient at full speed. Very thirsty! Remember 2 stroke outboards are still available second hand.

Then the weight of each outboard motor was compared. Four stroke engines are heavier than older 2 strokes because of the powerhead etc. The Mercury, Mariner, Tohatsu, Yamaha and Parsun all weighed approx. 38 – 41 lbs (18 kg.). However, the Honda 2.3hp and Suzuki 2.5hp weighed a lot less at 28 lbs (12.5 kg.).

The price of each outboard motor was then compared. This was difficult to be accurate as discounts and sale offers are always changing.

Mercury 3.5hp £449

Mercury 2.5hp £380

Mariner 2.5hp £429

Tohatsu 3.5hp £449

Yamaha 2.5hp £489

Suzuki 2.5hp £379

Honda 2.3hp £429

Parsun 2.6hp £375

Although the Parsun was the cheapest and it is virtually identical the same engine as in the Yamaha 2.5hp, it is not as good. It is a bit like me following a Gordon Ramsay recipe, to the letter, but when compared side by side you just know that his food is going to be that much better. The Chinese are able to copy, just like the Japanese did before them, but they have not got it right, yet!

Finally a little about each outboard tested. The Mercury, Mariner and Tohatsu are the same engine. Starting settings for the throttle are easy to understand with the choke and stop button clearly labelled. The petrol on/off tap is not so clearly marked. All these motors have gears. Ahead and neutral then using the 360 degree rotation you can get astern thrust. There are 4 tilt positions and a shallow water ability. Oil levels can be easily checked by viewing the indicator on the side of the engine cover.

The Yamaha 2.5hp also had easily understood starting and stopping settings but the oil level gauge was out of sight under the engine casing cover. As with the Mercury outboard the Yamaha 2.5hp has gears, ahead and neutral with 360 degree rotation. Unlike the Mercury which has a shear pin, the Yamaha has a rubber hub at the propeller, so no shear pin to break.

The Suzuki 2.5hp is as above but with the oil gauge easily viewed at the side of the cover. The propeller has a shear pin with spares stowed under the engine cover.

The Honda 2.3hp is not water cooled like all the other outboards tested. It is aircooled and has no gears. Instead it uses a centrifugal clutch. This makes starting and manoeuvring more difficult than the others. It simply takes a bit of getting used to it. The oil gauge is out of sight under the cover. The propeller has a shear pin with spares kept under the engine cover.

Finally the Parsun 2.6hp, a copy of the Yamaha 2.5hp but not as good. However it is the cheapest engine when new. Fuel consumption was its biggest draw back.