Even insects can cause motor failure

Get off the bank, and drop anchor in the middle of large lakes to greatly increase your duck harvest this winter.

As I think back over the years, I have seen many different things that can cause serious damage to your outboard motor. Marine dealers and repair shops have done an excellent job of informing and educating outboard motor owners on how to prevent these things from happening. Sometimes new products have been developed to help prevent these things from occurring. Other times it was just a matter of informing the boat owner of potential problems and their prevention.

One of the earliest of these problems was saltwater corrosion. In the early days of the outboard motor, not much was known about saltwater corrosion. Little was known about the use of different alloys of metal to help prevent corrosion. Back then aluminum was aluminum.

Corrosion problems soon began to surface. One simple solution for the problem was to clean the metal of all the saltwater deposits before they could cause trouble. It was very early on that the outboard industry developed the motor flusher. This took on various shapes and forms, but its primary purpose was to allow the boat owner to attach a garden hose to his outboard and run clean tap water through the engine’s cooling chambers in order to wash out the saltwater contamination.

Type and octane of fuel was another early challenge for the outboard industry. Some engines required high-octane, lead-free fuel, while others used only leaded fuel. It was up to the dealer to instruct his customer as to what was best for his engine.

Things got really crazy in the late 1970s or early ’80s when the government mandated that leaded fuel was to be eliminated from the market, and gasoline manufacturers could sell only unleaded fuel. Many engines had to have mechanical modifications made to them in order to tolerate the new unleaded fuel. Again the marine manufacturers and dealers worked together to do whatever was necessary to overcome this challenge.

Fuel problems are still with us today. With the advent of the large, built-in fuel tank in boats, another problem has emerged — water contamination in the fuel. It wasn’t long after this problem was first discovered that the water-separating fuel filter was developed. Today most boats come with these filters as standard equipment, and for the ones that don’t, the dealer is quick to recommend them to the owner.

Engine lubrication is another of the many improvements that can be tracked over the years. When the two-cycle outboard was first manufactured, you were required to mix one part of oil for every 25 parts of gasoline that you ran through your engine. This oil was the lubricant for all of the internal components of the engine. It reduced friction between the moving parts and kept the engine running smoothly.

Later on, the outboard was improved to incorporate a recycling system that would pick up the unused oil in each of the cylinders and recycle it back through the engine for better lubrication. This allowed the marine manufacturers to now offer the current 50:1 oil. This lubricant mixed at a rate of 1 part oil to 50 parts gasoline.

The advantage of this reduced volume of oil was less harmful deposits of gum and carbon inside your engine. With less harmful deposits, the outboard owner could expect his engine to have a longer life.

One of the biggest killers of the modern outboard motor has been the engine cooling system. The engine water pump is made of rubber. That impeller rides in an off-centric housing. There is a short side and a long side to the housing. As the impeller turns, the blades are supposed to flex open on the long side and compress tight on the short side. This creates the pressure required to force the water up and through the engine cooling chambers.

What most outboard owners do not realize is that this rubber impeller loses some of that flexibility over time. When this happens, the cooling system becomes less efficient. The engine operating temperature is elevated, and this increased temperature — while not enough to harm the engine today — will accelerate the aging process of the engine. In other words, a neglected water pump may shorten the life span of your outboard motor.

For best results, I recommend that water pumps, thermostats and poppet valves be changed every two years — not because they will fail in two years, but because it is an extremely effective way to preserve your engine for years to come.

One of the strangest engine killers I have ever seen was shown to me recently by my friend Earl Spencer at Bayou Outboards. Earl called the other day and asked if I had ever seen an engine that suffered a power-head failure due to a mud-diver nest. I kind of laughed at first, and then I asked what he was talking about.

It seems that he has had a couple of engines recently that had been laid up for over two years while the boat owner was preoccupied with other, more-important things like rebuilding his home after Katrina. For many of these customers, things are beginning to return to normal, so they are pulling the boat out of the garage or storage shed and heading out on the water for some much-deserved relaxation.

While these boats were in storage, the engine was invaded by mud divers. The invaders would build several of their adobe homes inside the engine cover, where they were protected from the outside elements. This made a perfect home for the wasps to lay eggs and hatch offspring.

The unsuspecting boat owner takes the boat out on the lake, and in the process of running the engine and bouncing through the waves, the mud-diver nest would crumble into small pieces and in some cases get sucked into the engine’s intake system through the carburetor. This would then cause a loss of lubrication and power-head failure.

The solution to this problem is very simple. Just remove the engine cowling and inspect the inside for any of these mud nests. When you find some, remove them, and use your shop vacuum to suck out any of the residue that may be left when you dislodge them from the engine.

I would like to thank Earl for sharing this information with me and allowing me to pass it on to you.

If you need help with your boat, motor or trailer repairs, you can e-mail at hanktheboatdr@yahoo.com.

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