2 Most Common Outboard Engine Issues: Fuel Systems and Flushing

We talked with a Yamaha Master Tech, to find out what outboard problems he sees on a regular basis. Fuel systems and freshwater flushes topped his list.

4th June 2013.
By Lenny Rudow

Visit our boats.com How-To library, and you’ll notice that a lot of the topics relate to outboard engines. This shouldn’t be a surprise, since outboards have been growing in popularity for many years now. So we decided to ask Chris Breeden, the service manager at Norfolk Marine and a Yamaha Master Tech, which outboard problem he saw with the most regularity.

Chris’s first answer came without hesitation: fuel systems. Thanks to modern ethanol issues, fuel systems can be finickier than ever. According to Chris, the first step in maintaining your fuel system is the use of a 10 micron fuel filter/water separator. Secondly, he notes that adding a fuel stabilizer to the tank each and every time you fill up is a must. And particularly on smaller, carbureted motors, the fuel system should be drained down every time the boat will sit unused for more than a few days at a time.

Listen in on our conversation with Chris at Norfolk Marine, and watch as he drains down a small carbureted outboard to maintain its fuel system.

The first step in this process is to start the engine, and disconnect the fuel line. Then let the engine idle until it runs out of fuel. Next, place a rag under the carburetor and open up the carb drain screw. Once all the remaining fuel has drained away, the engine can sit for several months without any issues. Making sure the fuel in your tank stays good is, of course, a separate issue (for more information on long-term fuel storage, read Ethanol Winterizing Tips).

The next most common problem Chris sees is damage due to saltwater use without freshwater flushing. Corrosion and salt build up, anodes melt away, scaling clogs passages and gets into places it doesn’t belong, and then you’re left with major damage and a major repair bill. In fact, Chris showed us the inside of an outboard that hadn’t been flushed regularly and it was a mess—to the tune of thousands of dollars in repair bills.

More good outboard advice, from Master Tech Chris Breeden and boats.com:
- How to Change the Engine Oil on a 4-Stroke Outboard
- How to Change the Thermostat on an Outboard Engine
- 100 Hour Two-Stroke Outboard Engine Service
- How to Winterize a Four-Stroke Outboard
- Solve Your Outboard Motor Problems: Starting, Fuel, Shear-Pins
- How To Video: Salvaging and Pickling an Outboard
- How to Change the Lower Unit Oil on a Boat


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About the author:

Lenny Rudow

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Lenny Rudow is Senior Editor for Dominion Marine Media, including Boats.com and Yachtworld.com. With over two decades of experience in marine journalism, he has contributed to publications including Boating Magazine, Marlin Magazine, Boating World, Saltwater Sportsman, Texas Fish & Game, and many others. Lenny is a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design who has won 28 BWI and OWAA writing awards.
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