For an awful lot of us at the start of the season, we dig the outboard out of the garage, transport it down to the boat and when the time comes to using it, we clamp and lock it to the tender, turn the fuel tap on, add a touch of choke, pull the starter cord and wonder why our outboard won't start after the winter lay up AND ITS NOT BECAUSE WE HAVE FORGOTTEN TO ENGAGE THE KILLCORD! With the Covid restrictions that are currently in place, I have no doubt that there will be a rush to the water once the restrictions are lifted!
Whilst we will do our very best to service your engine once restrictions are lifted, there is bound to be a delay so why don't you tackle small engine servicing yourself?
So here are my top tips for servicing your small outboard yourself. Please note, however, if your outboard is still under warranty you will invalidate the terms of your warranty by servicing it yourself. It will need to be serviced by an authorised dealer for that make of engine. Speaking of warranties, on the Thursday before the Easter weekend I did make a phone call and spoke to the Mercury rep about this. He said, "I have no doubt that soon our company will be addressing the issue of warranties that could be in jeopardy as a result of not being able to get the engine serviced in the specified time limit due to the lockdown" Yamaha have also advised a 3 month extension on any warranty service that is due between 1st March - 31st May 2020
If you haven't washed your engine down with fresh water having used it on the sea last season, do so. Dry off and then inspect the engine for any sign of visible damage. Any paintwork chips should be touched up with primer to stop corrosion on metal surfaces, followed by the appropriate top coat. We do, of course, stock a range of aerosol and pots of touch up paints and these can be sent by courier during the lockdown, along with other items required for the service.
If you omitted to run the engine in fresh water at the end of the season (assuming you have used it in salt water) you must do so at this stage. Run for at least 20 mins to purge through any salt deposits that may be left in the cylinder head assembly and water pump unit. Whilst the engine is running check you have water coming out of the telltale. If not or it is weak it may be a big job to strip down and clear the salt build up from the cooling passages in the power head etc.
Remove any fuel from the internal tank, be it 2-stroke mixture or untreated 4-stroke fuel which has been sitting there unless it was dosed with fuel stabilizer before storage. Drain the tank and, most importantly, the carburettor by opening the drain screw. Dispose of any old fuel by pouring it in the tank of a petrol NOT DIESEL car. Incidentally, stale fuel is one of the most common causes of non-starting, which we often see at the start of the season.
Replace with fresh fuel and, if the engine isn't going to be used much, add some Quicksilver Quickstor fuel stabilizer to keep it in good condition throughout the season
For 4-stroke outboards, drain the engine oil, replace the drain screw gasket and filter (if present) and fill with new 4-stroke oil. 2 stroke engines of course rely on the oil in the fuel mixture for lubrication!
At this stage, in a service carried out in our workshop, we would remove the carburettor and clean with Quicksilver Power Tune. We would check the float height setting and check the needle valve for any sign of damage however probably best left alone in your DIY service unless you are confident at doing this. However you can clean with Power Tune without removing the carb by running the engine on fast idle then spraying Power Tune directly into the carburettor until the engine stalls.
Drain the gear lube, the gearbox is in front of the propeller in case you are not that mechanically minded, and replace with fresh gear lube. NB: If the oil that comes out is of a creamy colour and has emulsified there is a seal issue and that would need attending to! We would always recommend replacing the gaskets on the drain screws at the same time. Always fill the gearbox from the bottom drain hole, not the top one, to prevent air locks making the gearbox appear full when it isn’t.
Even though the spark plug, to an untrained eye, may look OK, replace with a new one. However, keep the old as a spare. The inline fuel filter should be replaced as a matter of course if fitted (make sure it's installed the correct way round) if there is a 'direction of flow arrow.
Remove the thermostat, located on the power head (see example photo below), check it is clean with nothing stopping it seating properly, and check its operation by placing it in boiling water to see that it opens and closes fully.
Remove and inspect the propeller, if there is slight damage ie a blade with a tiny nick you should file it smooth, prime and paint. If the damage is more severe, unless you replace you do run the risk of ending up with a bearing/seal issue.
Remove the gear housing and check the impeller for any tears or defects. Also check it is still flexible and hasn't formed to the shape of the water pump housing; as per the left hand image below left. Check the water passages haven't become blocked with salt build up as per the image to the right. Incidentally one should never run a water cooled engine without a source of coolant; it you will end up melting the impeller and you really will have a problem!
Apply a marine grease such as Quicksilver 2-4-C to the drive shaft splines, making sure you don't get any grease on the top face, before reattaching the gear housing to the engine. Grease the splines of the prop shaft and refit the propeller ensuring nut is tightened to correct torque. Grease all moving parts and lubrication points.
Test run the engine using flush muffs, or if the engine isn't suitable to take flush muffs use a large bucket or a wheely bin filled with water. Check you have good water pressure at the telltale. At this stage you should check for any oil and fuel leaks, and finally we would suggest that you do what we do and that is spray the powerhead with Quicksilver Corrosion Guard to protect electrical connections and exposed metal surfaces from corrosion.
Should you use a remote fuel tank the above comments regarding fuel are relevant but you need to pay attention to your fuel tank and fuel line. Make sure the interior of the tank, which may be metal if an older one, doesn't have rust flakes in it. As for the fuel line check thoroughly for splits where it has been clamped to say the primer bulb or the tank fitting, flex or bend and look closely for any splits in the pipe. When you prime the fuel the primer bulb should go hard when the carburettor is full. If it doesn’t there may be a problem with your primer bulb. Over time the non-return valves in the primer bulb break down, especially these days with the current formulation of fuel. This means the fuel runs back down the fuel line towards the tank and can cause your engine to stall due to lack of fuel while running. If you find your engine stalls but starts straight away when you prime the bulb again, the chances are you need to replace the primer bulb. Primer bulbs also degrade from UV exposure/old age however when ordering a replacement check the diameter of the spigot and order accordingly!
NB? To enable us to mail order the correct parts for you to DIY, email or ring us with the serial number of your Mercury, Mariner, Yamaha or Tohatsu outboard to ensure we supply the correct parts. The serial number can normally be found on a plate or sticker on the clamp bracket that holds the engine onto the transom of your tender.
Finally, If you’re unsure on how to carry out any of the above procedures, a good source of information is YouTube. You can normally find some excellent videos showing how to carry out the service items on your model of outboard.