Boat Engine Maintenance 101: Cooling System

Most systemic problems with boat engines can be traced back to a neglect of the cooling system. The cooling system in your boat will function much differently from the one in your car, so it’s important to be familiar with the discrepancies. Regardless of what type of cooling system you have, the water you’re floating in will be used to regulate the temperature of the engine, which means that all of the debris, algae and gunk in the water will now be pulsating through your boat.

The first way to prevent damage to the cooling system is to inspect, clean and replace the filters on the water intakes regularly. This will help you catch any large debris from the water that would otherwise be sucked through the system. If you are boating in salt water frequently, gasket failure will be your chief concern. When you see any signs of rusting or corrosion here, immediately switch out the parts and work to remove any deposits. In addition, changing your outboard motor oil regularly will help rid the system of deposits and keep the engine temperature in an acceptable range.

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Boat Engine Maintenance 101: Inspections

The cornerstone of engine maintenance is routine inspections. You can save yourself a lot of money and headache in the future by taking a few minutes to do a quick inspection every time you leave the dock. Most people assume that this is a complicated process requiring an extensive knowledge of engines, but it really just takes some common sense.

For the most part, it’s easy to see when there is a leak, loose fittings or unwanted debris clogging up the system. If you don’t feel comfortable looking around under the engine cover, seek out someone at the marina who can show you the ropes. I could write ten pages on how to check your Evinrude XD100 oil and examine the bilge pump, but unless you do it yourself, you will never get the hang of it. The important thing is to perform routine inspections and address any concerns before they have a chance to burgeon.

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Boat Engine Maintenance 101: Making a Plan

Every boat owner—without exception—needs to know the fundamentals of engine maintenance in order to prevent long-term damage and have the ability to make adjustments when they’re on the water. Before we delve into the specifics, it’s crucial to get an understanding of the end goal of engine maintenance. Not only do you want to prevent long-term corrosion and wear, you also want to ensure that your boat is performing at its maximum capacity.

The biggest catch-22 about engine maintenance is that although your vessel is constantly in the water, water—and salt water in particular—is the engine’s worst enemy. Water is corrosive in and of itself, but it also facilitates the growth of fungus and other microbes. To that end, it’s imperative that you maintenance plan includes measures to prevent corrosion and protect against water damage. Over the next couple of days, we’ll be covering everything from how to mix your gasoline and outboard motor oil, to basic steps you can take to maintain your cooling system.

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How to Operate a Boat: Emergency Scenarios

If you encounter an emergency at sea, the most important thing is to not panic. Since you’re out in the middle of the water, you need to think quickly and clearly, as you never know if help is going to arrive. One of the most common emergencies on a boat is having a man overboard. If you can’t see where the person has gone, turn off the engine immediately to avoid causing them any more harm. Have one of the other people onboard raise your warning flag to alert other boaters to the person. Once you’ve identified the person in the water, throw them a flotation device and slowly move the boat in their direction.

Whether you have a medical emergency or simply didn’t pack enough gasoline and Evinrude XD 100, there may come times when it’s necessary to signal another boat. It’s always a good idea to have a VHF or CB radio onboard, but if you don’t, you can use one of these internationally recognized distress signals: waving of your arms, reflecting sunlight with a mirror, SOS message or a flare.

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How to Operate a Boat: Shifting, Steering and Stopping

Before you push away from the dock and open up the throttle, be sure you have reserve gasoline and outboard motor oil on your vessel. If you’re operating an outboard motor, the throttle arm will also act as a tiller. Remember, the boat will go in the opposite direction that you point the tiller. You should be able to get the hang of it rather quickly when you’re going forward, but be sure to exercise extra caution if and when you have to back up. Once the throttle arm is turned to “run” or “shift,” adjust the shift lever and turn the throttle handle until you reach your desired speed.

Unlike your car, a boat doesn’t have brakes. The only way to reduce your speed is by lowering the power, which is actually quite effective due to the immense resistance from the water. And don’t try to stop on a dime. Shift the engine down to neutral well before your stopping point. If need be, you can give it a little more juice to get your all the way there.

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How to Operate a Boat: Starting the Motor

The first thing you’ll need to know when operating a boat is how to get the machine started. Begin by making sure that the shift lever is in neutral, which will be straight up on most models. Pull the choke if the engine is cold; if the engine is warm, only use the choke if it doesn’t start up after a couple of tires. Turn the throttle until it’s in the “start” position.

The engine will have a pulley like a lawnmower; pull this rope gently until there is resistance, then pull quickly. This process often will need to be repeated numerous times. After the engine starts, push the choke in slowly if necessary. Turn the throttle back to the “run” position. If the engine doesn’t start up after a few tries, check to see if there is enough gas and Evinrude XD100 oil in the tank.

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How to Operate a Boat: The Basics

Whether you just bought your first boat or just plan to ride along as a passenger, learning the boating basics is a good idea for anyone who is going to be out on the water. Even if you aren’t planning to drive, you never know when an emergency will arise—or the skipper will want to take a turn being towed.

If you’re not riding in your own vessel, be sure to learn the basics of the craft when you get on. This should include locating the fire extinguisher and emergency supplies and learning how to start it up—although you should be able to do that after our crash course. Over the next few days we’ll be covering the essentials of boating—from how to properly check outboard motor oil and gasoline, to basic driving operations.

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Motor Oil: How Long Will It Last?

Many people buy their Evinrude XD 100 oil in bulk in order to save a little money. But oil, like all liquid lubricants, will go bad over time. However, the way you store your oil can significantly prolong its shelf life. Be sure that the oil is stored in a dry area which isn’t subject to severe temperature changes. The oil will also last longer if it remains sealed and unopened.

Most oils will last four to five years on the shelf, but you have to remember that technology is constantly improving. What was state-of-the-art oil five years ago may be obsolete today. Simple oils will have a longer shelf life than more complex formulas. For example, base and process oils will last at least three years while metal cutting oils will only be good for about one.

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Motor Oil: Mineral or Synthetic?

There are three basic categories when it comes to outboard motor oil: mineral, synthetic and semi-synthetic. Mineral oil is the traditional stuff that is drilled and refined straight from the earth. Synthetic oil is comprised entirely of manmade chemical compounds. Semi-synthetic, as you can probably ascertain, is a combination of the two aforementioned types.

So which is the best type? Synthetic oils have the upper hand because scientists have the capability to design the oil to their exact specifications. This allows them to create oil that works well in virtually any conditions and runs cleaner than mineral oil. There used to be the notion that switching from mineral to synthetic or vice-versa was detrimental to your engine, but current research has shown that you can switch back and forth without causing any damage.

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Motor Oil: What is Sludge?

Sludge has been a star of gasoline ads for the last several years, but do you even know what it is or why you need to be protected against it. Oil will oxidize over time, and when this happens the additives in the oil separate out. These additives consequently breakdown and solidify, then are heated and turned into a gooey, viscous substance we now refer to as sludge.

The obvious question is how do you get rid of and prevent sludge; and unfortunately there’s no easy answer. Flushing the engine can be effective, but you also risk simply flushing the pieces of sludge to a more recessed part of the engine. The best way to handle sludge is by preventing it in the first place. You can do this by changing your oil regularly and only using premium products like Evinrude or Yamaha oil.

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Motor Oil: Understanding the Label

Virtually every oil on the market today is multi-grade oil, meaning it contains additives to maintain viscosity as the engine heats up. As opposed to single-grade oil, such as Evinrude XD 100, you can use premium multi-grade oil in a variety of climates. Most people are familiar with the _W-__ labeling on motor oil, and this actually will tell you the oil’s viscosity as different temperatures.

The number before the ‘W’ indicates the cold viscosity rating, while the second number is the hot. For example, 10W-40 would be the equivalent to 10-rated oil in the cold and a no more than a 40 when the temp outside heats up. This rating is also used to grade the oil: 0W-30, 0W-40 and 5W-40 are fully synthetic; 5-W-30, 10W-40 and 15W-40 are semi-synthetic; 10W-40 and 15W-40 are mineral.

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Getting to Know Your Vessel

Last weekend I went out fishing with some old buddies on Elliott Bay in Puget Sound. One of the guys had just purchased new boat, so naturally I was intrigued about the vessel. The first thing I noticed was the Evinrude name plastered on the side of a large outboard motor, which is always a good sign.

As I began talking with him about the boat, it quickly became apparent that he didn’t have a solid understanding of boat maintenance. He’s a first time boat owner and had failed to even consider which type of outboard motor oil he was going to put in the engine. Over the course of the day I took every opportunity I could to bestow a few fundamental pointers on him. We’re going out again next weekend, so maybe I’ll show him how to do some simple maintenance in exchange for all the free beer he gave me the last couple of days.

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