bloke down the pub said…

dawncraft chronicles

bloke down the pub said...time to service the outboard!

I am very protective of mine. It might only be a second-hand Honda 8 with very faded silver cowling and the remains of a broken tiller handle still attached. However, its purpose is to push the boat along with out dramas.

The first bit of advice is don’t go on line and ask for help. Buy a service manual – when that fails get on the phone website, email and even pen and paper and ask Honda, never amazes how much more they know about their own engines compared with the bloke down the pub.

The next bit of advice is to get it done professionally. This means the various electrical components, seals and oils can all be done at the same time. This will mean removing said lump from the rear of the boat. As one gets older outboards get heavier and cunning must replace brute force and youthfulness: a simple hydraulic engine crane saves hours of problems and reduces the chance of not just a service but an after dunking strip down.

I also don’t bother with electric start on something this small. Outboards should be kept as simple as possible, that way it eliminates a host of other issues. And the day I can’t pull that engine over is the day we go back to horse drawn.

Half the battle is proper winter storage. I see too many outboards sitting in the canal all over winter. Which means the all-important impeller is sitting in the water getting a good freeze up which cannot do them much good.

Next is the fuel. When I come back to the mooring I never turn the engine off but disconnect the fuel supply and allow the carburettor to run out. Jerry the old mechanic from Bristol Boats told me that not only does this stop water etc building up in the carburettor but also the induced coughing fit at the end helps clear the jets.

I never keep fuel in the tank over winter. In fact, I only ever add a gallon at a time to the remote tank with an appropriate shot of Redex or similar.

Also tilt the engine up even in the summer time when not in use. I can remember being driven to distraction on the Kennet and Avon with an intermittent cooling water. To the point of almost stripping the impeller out on the towpath. A quick phone call to a serenely calm Jerry who had seen it all before and several tilts later and a lump of water reed came out the inlet!! Its amazing what gets up there and blocks the tubes.

I have also learnt the hard way to remove the gear linkage cable before tilting, I use Teleflex but even these don’t like being bent too far.

Ok so what do we need for a simple service that we can do?

  • A netting bag the kind that sprouts come in,
  • The correct spark plugs (too short the engine will start on tick over but wont work under load, too long and the engine will never work again)
  • Correct fuel filter for the engine and some new clips,
  • Correct grade oil and one of those oil suction pumps
  • A plug spanner and some string.
  • OH yes, I forgot a length of rubber tube that fits over the plug.

I am lucky my mooring comes off a bank - all I have to do is reverse in and work from the bank.

First rig up the netting under the outboard, duct tape string anything will do, its job is to stop things falling into the canal.

I won’t bore you with how to change filters or oil but move on to the string. All my tools have holes drilled in the handles. Loop the string through the hole and round your wrist. A sort of mechanics Pandora bracelet. To make yourself feel better count the number of times said tool dangles in mid-air as you let go of it and add an imaginary fiver to the service cost each time it does.

Next job is the plugs

Just loosen them with the wrench then slide the rubber over the top and unwind by hand, the result is the plug will come out still attached to the rubber and not land in the safety net along with the end of the plug socket. Putting them back in is just the reverse, the beauty of this is you cannot get cross threaded, very easy to do when they are sticking out at strange angles.

Last job is to check the fuel connector. Mine is getting worn. A Honda one is expensive so I bought a cheap one from eBay. It leaked like a sieve so I still have the old one on. Eventually the little o rings get damaged and the first sign is a misfiring and revs all over the place. A quick squirt of carburettor cleaner doesn’t go amiss but the most important thing is a good look round, check for cracks in cables, loose wiring, damaged connectors... Very seldom do engines fail mechanically its always something stupid.

Lastly for your own protection follow this simple risk assessment. NEVER do this on a busy weekend, do it under the cover of darkness at 2 am, do it in the snow... For some reason when I undo my cowling thousands of experts appear from nowhere and one of them is - the bloke down the pub.

Dawn Treader moored on pontoon outboard motor with cooling water

THIS WON'T HELP AN IMPELLER...                                                                    CHUGGING AWAY WITH COOLING WATER


outboard engine