Thursday, December 19, 2013

RTFM*: How NOT to Store Your Outboard

cruising dinghy mishaps
DOH! Our Homer Simpson moment.
Doh!  Hindsight is a wickedly passive-aggressive instructor.  We much prefer to learn from other’s mistakes… Guess it’s payback time -- don’t do what we did!  Our apologies to those who would never be foolish enough make this mistake, even without this broadcasting of our “Oops!”  In that case, enjoy it, smugly.

Remember when summer ended, and you put your lawn mower away until the next spring?  Spring came, and you’d wheel it out, give it a pull, and away you’d go. 
broken outboard motor PB balaster
PB Blaster penetrant;
Wayne pulls out the good stuff.

Naively, we figured the same was true for our dinghy outboard motor, a 2012 5-horse, 2-stroke Yamaha.  We blithely pulled it out of its 6-month storage, popped it onto our new dinghy transom, and figured we’d be good to go.  We weren’t.

When we attempted our first dinghy ride, to a sweet little park at Sisters Creek, our outboard motor was frozen solid.  That night, we just stayed on the boat.  No walkies, but otherwise we were fine.

The problem?  The piston rings were frozen solid to the cylinder.  No go.

Spark plug removed
for better lube access.
Wayne pulled the spark plug out and filled the cylinder with P.B. Blaster ( penetrant and lubed the intake through the carburetor as well.  Still no go.  An overnight soak did the trick.

But that wasn’t all.

Wayne was able free the engine and get the motor to turn, but the carburetor was not delivering fuel.  He suspected the fuel was the culprit, as the motor would run on starting fluid.

In St. Augustine, we begged for and got one of the closest mooring balls to the dinghy dock (thank you St. Augustine Municipal Marina – click here for marina info).  Wayne still got a good workout rowing our dinghy against the strong current.

cruiser boat maintenance and repair
Wayne pulled and pulled, our Yamaha outboard sputtered and
coughed, but wouldn’t start.
Wayne contacted Triangle Marine Service (click here for their info on FB) on recommendation from the folks at St. Augustine Municipal Marina.  Triangle Marine came down to the marina docks that day, picked up our motor, confirmed the fuel left in the carburetor got gooey over the motor’s 6-months of inactivity. Within three hours, they were able to empty our fuel tank, clean the carburetor and fuel tank, and return our working engine to us. 

Our final runs pre-storage of the outboard in saltwater without a freshwater rinse probably didn’t help lubrication and corrosion minimization.

Triangle Marine promptly retured our Yamaha outboard.  A quick trip
back to our chariot via dock cart and she was ready to rock ‘n roll.
In the interim, we seriously considered an upgrade to an 8-horse 4-stroke Mercury, though we were less than excited about the extra weight inherent with 4-strokes.  Plus, they cost over $2000!  Replacing our 4-stroke with a Mercury 5-horse was still $1500!  Triangle Marine’s “lightly used” Yamaha 4-stroke 6-horse was a more palatable $600; a little more power (than our 2-stroke) but a lot more weight (new 2-strokes are no longer an option in the US for outboards – we bought ours in Antigua).  Fixing what we had was a better option.

The bill?  $250; less than half a used 6-horse and 1/8 of an 8-horse 4-stroke Mercury.  Expensive lesson.   Though thanks Wayne’s persistence and mechanical instincts for keeping that lesson from becoming a lot more expensive.

What to Do:  Four Simple Steps
Next year when we take out six months for hurricane season, we’ll RTFM and follow Yamaha’s four simple steps (well, three steps, the last is mine)
  1. Rinse the saltwater exposed parts of our outboard with freshwater, whether in a freshwater rain barrel or by taking it for a spin in fresh water
  2. Run the engine dry or find some other way to drain all the fuel
  3. Fog the engine with 30 weight oil; lubricate that baby before putting her to beddie bye for a while
  4. Test drive our outboard before we set sail… and rest assured when we need our chariot to fire up we will be able to do so without any ado

Bottom line?  Treat your outboard with TLC, even – especially – when you don’t plan to use it for a while.  Save yourself the stress and the potential boat bucks required to replace it.  *RTFM (for those lucky enough to not know what RTFM means – Read The F------ Manual)

Enjoy lessons learned from someone else’s mishaps?  Click here to check out Celia’s AlwaysGoBlog for less expensive and equally embarrassing, “How Not to Park Your Boat” lesson.

May we, and you, not learn our next lesson from the school of hard knocks.


  1. Having the outboard seize up is a lesson you won’t soon forget. And, like you say, better to learn from other’s mistakes. Hopefully your readers will profit from your experience.
    I have an inordinate number of internal combustion engines in my life* and have found (the hard way) that an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. On all of my two-stroke motors, I run them out of gas at the end of every day. Even though I may plan to use, say, the chainsaw tomorrow, life seems to have other ideas and the saw may sit for a while with gas slowly gumming up. On my small four strokes I try and run the gas out of them, too. I try and buy equipment with Honda motors because they all come with a fuel shut-off valve, making the run-out-of-gas routine very easy.
    At the end of the season I’ll drain the fuel tank and fog the motor with fogging oil. Fresh gas in the tank come next season and a few extra pulls or cranks on the starter and the engine is up and running. What to do with the gas you’ve drained out of those little tanks? I pour it into the Subaru. There’s never enough gas to make that big of a difference in the octane and it doesn’t go to waste.
    I’ve even had good results with fogging oil in automobiles. Years ago I went cruising in Mexico and put fogging oil in the Honda Civic before I left home. Upon returning several months later, the Civic started up with only minimal extra cranking. There was a voluminous cloud of blue smoke at first but that cleared in a matter of seconds.

    *As I mentioned I have a lot of engines in my life. I think it works out to be 46 cylinders at the moment.
    Pickup truck 8 cylinders
    Sports car 6 cyl.
    Subaru 4 cyl.
    Backhoe 3 cyl.
    Farm tractor 4 cyl.
    Antique tractor 2 cyl.
    Riding mower 2 cyl.
    Push mower 1 cyl.
    Other mower 1 cyl.
    Brush mower 1 cyl.
    Edger 1 cyl.
    Big chainsaw 1 cyl
    Small chainsaw 1 cyl.
    Weedeater 1 cyl.
    Boat inboard 4 cyl.
    Dingy outboard 1 cyl.
    Skiff outboard 3 cyl.
    Trolling motor 2 cyl.

  2. All grease points on your engine should be filled with fresh grease as recommended by your manufacturer for the specific engine location OMC water pumps Check for corrosion at all wiring connections

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