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Use eyes, ears to manage outboard maintenance

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Prior to Triton Networking in August, Ole Parker of Parker Yacht walked and talked through basic outboard engine maintenance with about a dozen yacht captains and engineers.

“I learned some valuable things,” said Capt. Antonio Palazuelos Archdale, who attended with his mate. “Usually, I give the engine to someone like him [Parker]; I don’t touch them. But now I know what to look — and listen — for.”

Parker had a Yamaha F200XB Four Stroke on display for the captains and engineers to touch, interact with and ask questions about. He offered several basic elements of maintenance, including common sense.

Ole Parker of Parker Yacht, center at engine, discusses maintenance tips with captains and engineers last summer. He’s hosting another seminar in February. See details below. Photo by Lucy Reed

“Your in-vessel fuel-water separator is your first line of defense. This filter,” he said, pointing to the fuel-water separator on the outboard, “is the second.

“If you have water in the fuel, you’ll get an audible beep in neutral,” he said of the late model Yamaha engine. “The second you put it in gear, the beep will go away, but you still have water in there. You can run the engine enough to get you out of danger, but not enough to drive around the island.”

There were a lot of questions from crew about the oil these engines take, how best to check it and when to add some. Parker noted that each outboard will have different specs, but usually, he’ll use 10w30 for most outboards; 20w40 for larger boat engines.

“The block and shaft should be vertical to check the oil,” he said. “Do it twice with the dipstick, and wait a couple minutes after turning off the engine so it drains down to the oil pan. In cold climates, warm the engine up a little to check the oil level.

“And you should never need to add oil,” he said. “Whatever you need on a new engine, it’ll never need that much again, even when you change the oil because not all of it is removed.

“Changing the oil and using clean fuel is the secret to longevity — that, and not sinking it,” he said. “You can go up to 145-150 hours before changing the oil, but I wouldn’t recommend it.”

Much of the hour was spent answering crew questions.

Q. When flushing the engine, should it be running?

“The engine doesn’t have to be running,” Parker said. “Let the hose connected to the flushing connector run 5-10 minutes without cranking it.”

“Every day?” a captain asked.

“If you are running the engine every day, there’s no need to flush it every day,” Parker said. “The problem comes when the engine sits, the saltwater evaporates and the salt begins to jell. A week of not running it is pushing it.”

Q. Would you recommend WD40 as a protectant?

“No, not on new electronic engines,” Parker said. “It’s bad for the belts.” He suggested silicone spray such as Yamalube Silicone.

Q: Should you tow the tender with the outboard up or down?

“When towing, get the prop out of the water, but keep the skeg in the water to give the tender some traction,” Parker said. “I never tow with the prop down.”

Q. Is there maintenance to do on the tilt mechanism?

“There are stainless steel rods in the trim-tilt mechanism,” Parker said. “When they get pitted, the seal can go bad and water can get in the system. Check the shafts for pitting and apply some waterproof grease to the dust seals.

“The two best things on a boat are your nose and your ears,” he said. “So listen to it. When it changes and sounds different, it means there’s air in there and needs maintenance.”

Q. Can you manually control the tilt mechanism?

“There is a manual relief valve, but no one knows they’re there,” Parker noted. “They don’t get maintained because no one knows they’re there.”

The assembled crew mingled in Parker Yacht’s warehouse in Fort Lauderdale after the seminar and continued to ask questions related to performance and warranty. Several said they were glad to be able to ask their questions and learn something new.

“I was happy to learn about the tilt mechanism; I learned how I can raise or lower the engine in an emergency situation,” freelance Engr. Joel Antoinette said. “I got a full understanding of the things that can go wrong and how to deal with that. And that’s why I came, so I really appreciate you doing this for us.”

Join us as we gather for another educational seminar with Parker Yacht, this time about remote steering systems, on Feb. 7 from 4-6 p.m. RSVP requested, captains and crew only: lucy@the-triton.com.

Lucy Chabot Reed is publisher of The Triton. Comments are welcome below.

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About Lucy Chabot Reed

Lucy Chabot Reed is publisher and founding editor of The Triton.

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