Five Inboard and Sterndrive Engine Checks

 Don’t Forget That Engine!

Maintenance continues to be the key to a better-running engine and much longer engine life. While there’s more to learn than any one article could feature, make these recommended inspections of the following five systems.

For expert insight, we checked in with Volvo Penta’s service training center supervisor Ed Szilagyi, Mercury MerCruiser dealer service expert Rob Gina of Boatwrench in Longwood, Florida, and other marine pros.

Check all of your fluids so as to ensure smooth operation.

1. Fluids
Motor oil should be a clean, amber or gold color. Black oil suggests old and dirty oil; change it. In the event that the oil looks milky or foamy, it’s contaminated by water– bring the motor in for service.

Check power-trim fluid levels. Inspect trim-pump reservoir caps for the milk-carton-like seal beneath the cap. Dispose of this; it inhibits venting and may lead to leaks.

Get rid of the lower gear-case drain screw and check the condition of the lubricant. It ought to be clean, amber- or green-colored, and not filthy or contaminated by water. Burnt lubricant implies improper gear lash and impending failure; milky means water is leaking through a seal, which results in rusted gears, shafts as well as bearings.

Remember to examine engine coolant and power and hydraulic-steering fluid levels.

2. Cooling
Operate the engine on a hose adapter or perhaps at the dock to make sure proper cooling- system operation just before you go.

As soon as the engine is cool, check water hoses for age, brittleness and dry rot. Hoses should be pliant but firm, not mushy.

3. Drives and Props
Check the prop shaft for straightness by standing directly behind it and rotating the propeller, looking for out-of-true rotation. Bring bent props to a prop shop. Look for fishing line snarled all around the shaft where it enters the gear case. This common malady causes seal leakage, allowing water in, gear lube out, or even both.

Look for damage to the skeg. Repair and paint damaged areas.

4. Belts
Push between pulleys; belts ought to bounce back. Look for cracks, fragility and dry rot, and abnormal wear. Look for thin areas.

Rusty, pitted pulleys often indicate an engine water leak. Belt-dust residue likewise suggests damaged pulleys.

5. Steering
Steer from lock to lock. Inspect cables for binding or stiffness. Clean crud from steering rams.

Inspect hydraulic steering for air pockets, sponginess and/or irregular function. Fix steering woes immediately, before using your boat.

6. Fuel Systems
Avoid ethanol fuels when possible. While it’s typically more costly to do so, fueling up at the marina where non-ethanol fuels are readily available could save money in the long run.

If you leave your boat idle for extensive time periods (greater than 60 days), add stabilizer to your fuel supply and run the motor at least 10 minutes in order to disperse the treated fuel throughout the system (fuel lines, filters and injectors or carburetors).

Suggestion: Be sure to utilize sufficient fuel conditioner! If unsure, double the recommended dose. Too much doesn’t hurt anything, but not enough won’t do the job.

7. Anode
Anodes safeguard your drive from corrosion and deterioration. Here’s what to inspect: Ensure your motor and drive have the correct anode for your use– magnesium for fresh water, zinc for brackish and salt water. If you’re not sure, bring your rig to your dealership.

Change all anodes that are less than two-thirds their initial size. Do not repaint over anodes; this prevents all of them from carrying out their job. Be sure to check your owner’s manual for the location of all anodes. Although a few are visible and quickly accessible, some might be located internally and therefore overlooked. For example, Volvo closed-cooling engines have anodes in the heat exchangers.

8. Charging System
It’s certainly not a bad idea to always keep a marine smart charger connected and plugged in any time you’re not making use of your boat.

Keep the terminals and cable ends clean and devoid of corrosion. Cleanse using baking soda or Coke and a wire brush. Do not use wing nuts on the terminals; nyloc nuts will certainly ensure that cable ends stay tight.

Keep the battery cables and wires out of water and damp places. Since they’re covered in plastic sheathing, it’s difficult to notice when they’re corroded inside until it’s too late and your engine won’t start. Be sure all wires are actually marine-grade tinned copper.

9. Hoses
Inspect all water hoses and clamps for tightness, age, fragility and dry rot. Make sure there are no leaks and that hose clamps fit securely without causing damage to hoses. It’s a good idea to keep additional clamps, hose-repair kits/extra hoses in your on-board tools and parts kit.

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