Most Boats & Motors are Ruined by Negligence



I am sure that I will go unchallenged in the above heading's statement.  I am not sure whether many of these owners are so absolutely blind as to what they have done, or not done, or if they are just lazy, or maybe a combination of things.  Here we could probably also include things the owner did in his wisdom of trying to maintain/repair the motor and claim he was trying to help things but in the end turned sour.   


The same applies to many things that the average owner of about anything mechanical, like fishing reels, guns, lawnmowers, etc. where at least some maintenance should be performed.   And let's face it, there are a few persons out there that should just not be put in charge of operating boats or motors, even a sharp knife or a pencil sharpener for that matter.


A saying about boats that makes a lot of sense is, "The first owner takes it in the shorts when he sells the boat, second owner spends his money getting it into fishing shape, and third owner enjoys the benefits of the previous 2".    Also "Outboard boat motors don't die, their owners kill them".


Quite a proper name "Temporary Insanity II" Oh Darn,  does this mean we will miss the hot morning bite?


Boats :
(1)  Here in most areas, unless for the diehard fisherman, boating is a a recreational seasonal thing.  So the boat may only be used for possibly part of 3 or 4  months of  the year, and then usually a limited time at that.   It will be forgotten the rest of the time.  This down time is where a problem of deterioration will occur.  Many boat owners do not have any idea of what is needed, so they take the boat to a marine repair shop to have it "winterized".   If you are one of these persons, you are upping your odds in maintaining your fishing/boating machine.  If you just park it outside in the weather when the season is over with, it may very well not want to start next spring.   Plus the convertible top and seat covers deteriorate rapidly in the weather.   Covering it with a tarp does have some benefits.  And mice may appreciate you for supplying a winter home.

(2)  If it is remote steering, the shifting & throttle controls need to be inspected at the motor end and lubricated occasionally.  Also be sure there are no sharp bends in these cables.


(3)  Steering system also needs to be inspected and lubricated more than occasionally.  This is especially so at the motor end that is more exposed to the weather.  There are 2 types of steering, with the gear type push/pull cable from the steering wheel to the motor being the most common.  The hydraulic steering is used more on boats over 20' and it uses a built in gear pump on the steering wheel unit that has 2 hoses to a hydraulic cylinder at the motor end.  This unit will have to be watched to see if there is no leakage of oil anywhere in the system and seals replaced if need be along with the oil reservoir topped off.  


Both of these need to have shaft seals and grease fittings at the motor that are maintained otherwise water may cause corrosion at the motor connection creating hard steering or breakage of something if you pull too hard on the steering wheel if it is frozen.


(4) If it is a cabin boat of any kind, you may consider placing a small electric heater inside the cabin during the winter to minimize the effects of mildew.


(5) It may be best to remove your electronics from the boat if you store it for any time and store them in a garage or the house.  (a) It lessens the chance of someone stealing them.  (b) It will ensure that they do not get damp and possibly have internal shorts in the wiring when you need them the next time. (c) This would also apply to your nautical charts, as most of them are not waterproof and can draw moisture and mildew.  (d) If there was some problem the last time you used the depthfinder, radio, or GPS, now is the time to send it to the factory for repairs.


(6) If it has a convertible top, after the season is over you should spray the inside of the snaps with WD-40 or Vaseline to lubricate the inner spring that snaps over the stud to hold the top in place.  If you do not, later when you want to remove the top, the snap may become more than just slightly resisting.  This can be especially bad if you boat in salt water and get a spray on the vinyl top.   Repeated forcing may damage the top and tear the snap loose.


(7)  Many wood or even fiberglas boats have become rotten under the floor and in the support stringers.  This is very expensive and time consuming to repair.  Many are bad enough that they are simply scrapped out.  Just drive around some shore type fishing / recreation towns and look in the weeds.  Even if you could convince the owners to part with it for just hauling it away, you are usually paying to much.   This is usually the result of a boat/motor unit left setting outside in the weather without the benefit of any protective cover especially if the winters are wet and rainy or snow.


(8)  After usage, ALWAYS  leave the drain plug out, or at least pull it out and raise the bow when you get back to your residence so any water will have a chance to drain out.  This makes no difference whether it is a wood, fiberglas or aluminum boat.


In the photos below, these are ones I just snapped from driving along a back county roads, hard to even guess the reason they were parked where they are, or the current condition.  hey surely made someone happy many years ago.


The owner passed away years ago & the house is falling down Not much way to access this very neglected boat


Just because it is made of aluminum, does not mean that the rest of the boat is even slightly indestructible.  By evidence of the USCG renewal sticker on the boat below, this boat had not been licensed in over 6 years.  Notice the trees growing in the seat and the mice chewed floatation vest.   Sure things happen, and in this case a long term medical surprise.  But in the long run anything setting out in the weather will take a LOT of TLC to get it operational again, if ever.  He is now contemplating dragging it to a metal salvage yard and only bringing home the trailer.  Sometimes like this one, a price of free would be way too much.


OK ???


In the photos below, this boat was a plywood boat probably made in the mid 1950s.  A commercially, well made boat that from the appearance had sat outside for a considerable length of time with water inside.  As shown in the photo on the right, the placement of the drain plug allowed about 1 1/2" of water to stand in the bottom.  In photo on the left, the cracks in the keel go all the way thru to the plywood skin.  The whole mahogany keel was in the same condition clear to the transom.  The bolts thru the keel holding the outer keel on were regular steel and had rusted badly.


This boat was given away, the new owner salvaged the motor, steering unit and trailer, but cut the boat apart with a Saws-All.  I took these photos after the new owner removed the cabin and flooring.  He sawed all the hull up and burned it.  Basically he wanted the motor, controls and the windshield for another boat he was building.


Rotted keel More rotted keel that you could stick a knife blade in anywhere


It will behoove anyone who purchases a boat, either new or used to ask questions as to operation of the unit.  OK maybe you have owned a 12' aluminum duck boat, but now you purchase a 20' saltwater fishing boat.  There are a lot of things that are different.


A few years ago I got a phone call at 4PM on a Friday night by a friend who had been trying to sell a 18' fiberglas fishing boat with a 70HP Evinrude motor.  He finally after 2 years had a solid buyer that was going to be there Saturday morning at 9AM.  His motor would not start.  And he had by then ran the battery down.  HELP, PLEASE HELP. 


I explained that this was our wedding anniversary and that I had planned on taking her out to dinner.  PLEEEASE HELP.  OK I took my tools, spare spark plugs, testers etc. and headed his direction 1/2 hour away.


I did all the normal tests and everything looked OK.  Time to try it.  I left the cowling off, and pumped up the fuel line bulb.   Then I had him get in the boat and he at the helm, try to start it.   Yes, it cranked over, but no fire.  With me standing beside the starboard side of the motor, wait a second, try it again the 2nd time.  This was a cold motor and these motors need to be choked in that condition.  I said try it again for the 3rd time and I just reached over, manually pulled the choke, it started right off.  He was elated.


I then asked him why he did not choke it?  ???  CHOKE how do I do that ?  I informed him all he needed to do was while turning the ignition key to start, to also PUSH the key IN to choke it.  He had owned this boat/motor combo for years and never knew how to choke it.  Maybe that is why he was wanting so bad to sell it.


He was happy to pay me more than I normally would have charged and I got more than enough for a late dinner date.


Outboard Motors :
(1)  It will be hard to put the first few possible problems in actual order.  But reading the owners manual, would probably be one of the top items, as they usually list many items that need attention.


This motor was for sale on e-Bay, the seller did say it was seized up & who knows what else This motor was used in saltwater, stored upside down for over 15 years & near a saltwater environment.  In addition, NOTE the salt crystals in the carburetor throat.  Crankshaft & bearings were BAD, but the compression was good


(2)  IF the motor is used in saltwater, the failure to run it SOON (like ASAP) afterwards flushing with muffs on to wash out as much as possible any saltwater left internally in the motor can have devastating results to the crankshaft and bearings.  This also applies to externally, in that the motor needs to be rinsed off to help protect the bolts / nuts and any of the metal linkage parts & brackets.  OK some of the new motors literature say the internal surfaces are corrosion resistant.  Maybe so to some degree, but do you still believe in the tooth fairy?


Also the motor cowling should be removed and the engine itself rinsed off with fresh water as the motor can also draw in moisture when it sucks combustion air.    Leave the cowling off for a few days.  Let the motor air dry and then it could be beneficial to spray all the parts of the powerhead with a water displacing oil.  This will pay for itself over time, as if you do not take care of it the paint will start to peel away because of salt corrosion under the paint or on/in the electrical parts.  Maybe it did not get dripping wet internally by a wave that came over the stern, but just being in the salt air has an effect over time. 


(3)  Remove any tangled fishing line that may have gotten wound around the prop shaft.  OK, you can't see any of the 100' or so that you lost must have fallen off on your drive home.  Guess again.  Or you picked up some that the other guy threw away.  The line, either monofilament or the newer spectra type braided lines WILL do damage to the prop shaft seals if left there long enough.  The mono will melt from heat by being wound tighter on the shaft between a seal & the prop hub.  This will then eat the seal out.  Spectra line is worse in that it will CUT the seal and shaft rather quickly.


Either way if left long enough, the seal will be damaged, allowing the gearcase oil to leak out.  When the oil is all gone, & the seal is ruined, water will leak in & all the internal bearings, shafts and gears WILL become damaged to the point that at some point in time your motor's lower unit will not function.  It may not shift and will possibly seize up, because of the now bad bearings, gears and shafts.  If left for a considerable length of time, the complete lower unit may become cracked because of the rust/corrosion and you can not even be able to take it apart without ruining the housing.


Monofilament fish line taken from around the propshaft in front of the prop Remove this before it ruins the seal/shaft


(4)  If your fuel tank is removable, it is recommended that you transfer this left over fuel into a vehicle and use it up that way if you expect extended periods of down time.  Or add a fuel enhancer/stabilizer additive to combat the fuel from becoming stale or if it happens to be an Ethanol blend to prevent the Ethanol from separating from the gasoline.   If you have a permanent mounted fuel tank, add a fuel stabilizer and fill the tank full would be preferable.   By filling it up, you lessen the chance of condensation inside the tank, which next spring will save time and energy if you don't do it & have water in the tank.


(5)  Pull the drain plug on the lower unit and check for contaminated oil in the gearbox.  If everything is OK, then top it off with new oil but it is also advisable to replace the nylon washers.


(6)  If you are going to let it set for an extended period of time, you may want to winterize it by running it and spraying in the carburetor a "Fogging Oil" until it dies, then spray some more into the spark plug holes.  This leaves a oily coating internally in the motor, which can extend it's life as compared to starting up a motor in 8 months that has become dry inside and possibly damaging the crankshaft or cylinder walls.


(7) Pull the prop off and see that the shaft splines are greased.  You will be glad you did next time you try to remove it.  Repair the prop if it has any damage.


If you get an old motor given to you, the chances are very high that it will cost you way more than if you just went out and purchased a running motor.  OK, if it has just set for many years but you do not know the condition it was in at the time it was initially put away.  You may luck out occasionally, but believe me most of the time, the motor is so old that no parts are available anymore or if they are the replacement price is prohibitive.  Also if you are going to do the repairs yourself, are you good enough to do ALL the troubleshooting before you get into it and have already laid out money for something that possibly never ran right from the start.


I have bought, repaired and sold many outboard motors in my time, even not counting my time, I am sure if I kept track of the parts alone, I would not be making it a real worthwhile venture, I should have spent my time and money fishing instead.


In the photo below it is pretty obvious to me that this motor had been recovered from a watery grave a considerable time before teardown.


And the previous owner said he ran it just last month, BS


Copyright 2004 / 2012  LeeRoy Wisner  All Rights Reserved
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Originated 11-2004, Last updated 10-15-2012
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