Flushing will save you big bucks

The Tchefuncte River has left many an angler scratching his head, but it actually offers surprisingly good springtime spawning action.

I have asked many customers how often they flush out their engines, and the answer is almost always the same. They tell me they flush their engines every time they use them.

The truth is, very few boat owners actually flush their engines after each use, and many of those who do don’t do it properly.

It is very easy to fall into the trap. You come home from a long day on the water, and you have fish to clean, gear to put away and a boat to wash. You’re tired, so you ice down the fish so they can wait until tomorrow. You simply park the boat telling yourself that you will clean it and flush out the engine tomorrow.

Of course, tomorrow comes, there are a thousand excuses and you simply do not get around to doing what should have been done the day you went out.

Many of you attempt to justify not flushing out the engine by rationalizing that you were operating in a freshwater area, and there is no need to flush out any salt water from the engine.

Flushing out your engine cleans a lot more than just salt water from the water chambers. Even in fresh water, there are pollutants, chemicals and even minerals that can be harmful to the cooling system.

I recently serviced several engines for customers who have described a problem where the engine would run great up to approximately 4,000 RPMs, but above that, the engine overheat alarm would sound. If they slowed down below 4,000 RPMs, the engine ran cool again. They could not understand what was happening because their tell-tale stream on the engine was pumping plenty of water. Those who had water pressure gauges installed on the dashboard reported that the water pressure was great, but the engine continued to overheat when run at higher RPMs.

This problem usually occurs on engines that are 10-12 years old, and is caused by a build-up of deposits inside the water chambers of the engine’s cylinder head and water cover. In the majority of these engines, this build-up is not from saltwater deposits. Instead, it is a thin coating of deposits that cover the head and water jacket. This layer is similar to what you might see as a hard-water stain in an older bath tub.

It is never thick enough to block the water flow through the engine, but it does seem to create an insulating barrier between the metal surfaces of the engine and the water that is supposed to keep the engine cool. The engine runs cool at slower speeds, but when the engine speed is increased, the operating temperature also increases and the engine cooling system can no longer keep up. The engine overheats, and the alarm sounds.

In order to repair this problem, I have to remove the engine cylinder head and water jacket covers. The passageways in the head and water cover are then cleaned with a bead-blast machine. This machine sand blasts the metal surfaces to remove the deposits from the metal. The water passages inside the engine block also have to be cleaned, but unfortunately this can only be done by hand with the use of a scraping tool and a small wire brush.

Once the metal is completely cleaned, the surfaces are painted with a thin coat of primer paint to help protect them from salt corrosion, and the engine is reassembled. In order to complete the service of the cooling system, the lower-unit water pump, the thermostats and the pressure relif poppet valve should also be replaced at this time.

The cost of a repair of this nature can range from several hundred dollars for the repair to possibly several thousand dollars for a new engine. Flushing out your engine every time you use it could prevent such an expense. Flushing the engine is a simple procedure, but if it is not performed properly, you are wasting your time.

You can purchase a flushing device for your motor from most boat dealers and repair shops. The most-popular flushing device is the ear muff style. It consists of two large rubber suction cups mounted in a spring-loaded metal retainer. One side the suction cup has an adaptor that you screw your garden hose into. You slip the flusher over the lower unit so that the cups completely cover all of the water-intake holes on the unit. Turn the water hose on full blast, and crank up your engine.

It is extremely important that you allow the engine to run long enough to reach operating temperature. Once operating temperature is reached, the thermostats will then open, and the full force of the water hose, assisted by the engine water pump, will begin to flow through the engine cooling chambers. Allow the engine to run for another 10-15 minutes so that all contaminants can be cleaned out.

There are a few very important safety warnings that should be adhered to whenever you are running your engine on a flushing device.

First, never leave your engine unattended while running. It is possible for the flush device to vibrate and slide off of the lower unit. If this happens, your engine would overheat, and could be seriously damaged.

Second, never operate your engine at high RPMs while on the flusher. Without the restriction of the propeller pushing the boat through the water, an outboard motor could easily exceed the red-line RPM, and could result in a major power-head failure.

Third, make sure there are no small children or animals around the engine while it is running. If the engine were to accidently shift into gear, a family member or pet could be critically injured.

Be safe on the water, and remember maintenance is a lot less expensive than repair. If you have any questions about your boat, motor or trailer, you can
e-mail me at theboatdr@yahoo.com.

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