By: Jon Mendez | November 21,2023
With winter approaching, now is the time to think about outboard maintenance. These tough little workhorses don’t need much in the way of maintenance but they all suffer from lack of regular use and a few simple steps now can prevent a lot of frustration next season...
Firstly, store it correctly; older 2-stroke outboard engines can usually be stored at just about any angle, provided the fuel is turned off and the breather is shut, but 4-strokes either need to be stored upright or laid down on the correct side to prevent oil running into the wrong parts of the motor.
Some (but not all) engines have special little lugs to rest on but if in doubt check the owner’s manual as it’s not always obvious. Modern engines like clean, fresh fuel. It sounds obvious but these days petrol contains up to 10% bio-ethanol, which has a shorter shelf life, so try to use Premium E5 rather than regular E10 when filling up.
My 20-year-old 4-stroke does not run reliably on E10 fuel as it gums up the carburettor. Above all don’t expect the fuel to last from one year to the next, as it will go stale over the winter and any fuel left in the engine’s filter, pump and injection system will slowly evaporate and leave behind contaminants, which can clog the system and make starting difficult.
The cure is very simple – before you finish for the season, turn the fuel off at the fuel cock and run the engine until it stops. I am pedantic about outboard maintenance, so I run it dry every time we use the engine, even if we intend to use it again tomorrow.
Plans change and tomorrow’s outing may not happen, leaving me with an engine that won’t start. I try to judge it so that I turn the fuel tap off as I arrive back at the boat and then leave it running at a fast idle until it stops.