Outboard Boat Engine Cleaning How ToFirst clean your skeg and prop should be checked, too. It's easy!

In our outboard service business, we see a lot of different engines, some maintained well, many not. It's usually pretty easy to see how difficult an engine will be to service by taking a quick look at its exterior. While sometimes there are surprises, usually if an engine doesn't look sharp, it also doesn't run well and can be difficult to service. Typically, this means that there's considerable corrosion, and therefore it can be tough to remove parts to perform routine services like replacing a water pump impeller.

Outboards are pretty small, so maintaining a good appearance and keeping the finish looking nice is not so difficult a task. Like any maintenance job, it takes some dedication and drive, a few tools and supplies, and some time and elbow grease. Let's get started.

Start At The Top

Boat Top WashingThe cowling (shroud, hood, cover, and so on) is what most people see first. It protects the power head from the environment and protects people from moving parts. It also keeps things quieter. Typically, cowls are made from fiberglass, plastic, sheet molded compound, and/or aluminum. They're usually painted with automotive enamel and decorated with decals and appliques. Maintaining the cowl is easy; the following are steps and tips to keep yours looking clean and new:

Wash with Lustrelab® BoatWash & Shine  and water. This is particularly important if your boat is in saltwater. This keeps those salt deposits from drying on the surface, especially on any aluminum parts like trim and latches.

Protect the cowl with Lusterlab®'s  Marine Boat Wash and Shine. Mix BW&S as directed and simply wash and rinse and your engine cover will be both protected and shined!.

Keep it covered. Outboard covers are available from many sources including your local marine dealer, marine supply store, or online resources. Just search "outboard motor cover" in your web browser and you'll be inundated with results. Buy one that fits your engine properly, is ventilated, and can be secured with ties or shock cord.'


middle-outbaod-engine-hull-washingThe engine's center section, often called the exhaust housing assembly, consists of the swivel bracket, steering arm, tilt/steering tube, clamp brackets, and power trim/tilt assembly. These often get the worst neglect. Here the paint can peel and flake off, corrode away, and generally just end up looking terrible. Keeping these parts clean and coated with wax or protectant — even WD-40 works well in a pinch — will keep the engine looking and working well. Here are some areas to pay attention to:

Keep corrosion away from the trim unit, clamp brackets, exhaust housing, and swivel bracket. Watch for peeling and chipping paint here, and be sure to sand, prep, and touch up any bad areas.

The steering arm is made from high-strength steel, so it is heavily powder coated. It can, however, peel and rust, and replacing it is time consuming and expensive. If the original powder coating is peeling off, it could be time for a repaint to keep rust from creeping in.

Lower Unit

Boat Motor Cleaning Prop and BottomThe lower unit has a tough job. It's often left in the water and subject to corrosion, it takes the brunt of underwater obstructions, and generally gets the most abuse. Here's where to focus your attention to keep your gear case looking and performing well:

If your skeg has been bent, chipped or broken, replace the gear case housing or have a competent welder repair the unit. IMPORTANT NOTE: If you have a high-performance rig capable of speeds in excess of 60 mph, DO NOT repair the skeg by welding; you must replace the housing. The skeg is under too much side loading stress at elevated engine heights and higher speeds, so welding it will produce a potentially dangerous situation if it breaks off at high speed.

Sand and prep any scrapes or abrasions before applying touch-up paint. As with other parts that require painting, use zinc chromate primer applied to the bare metal before the actual color paint is applied.

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