Maintenance / POSTED 29-May-2014

Make Motor Flushing Part of Your Daily Routine

May is the top tarpon month in the Florida Keys, which means I’m on the water just about every day. I leave home in the dark and it’s usually dark when I get back home, so by this time of the month I’m running on autopilot.

Long days on the water in the wind, sun and heat really wear me out, and the only way I can keep sharp and not forget anything is by having a routine to everything I do. From launching and retrieving the boat to putting away my tackle and other gear, I have a set routine that I go through every morning and evening so that I don’t forget anything. I even have a routine for cleaning my boat at the end of the day and positioning it for the next morning.

When I built my house, I had the architect design a garage that’s wide and long enough that I can back my entire boat and tow vehicle in it so that I can load everything up the evening before my fishing trips and then all I have to do is get in the truck, open the garage door and drive away. I try to have everything ready to go the night before, so that I don’t have to count on remembering anything when I first wake up.

For me, the biggest concern is my gear, so that everything is not only ready to go fishing the next day, but also maintained so that I won’t suffer avoidable breakdowns that can take me off the water in the future.

One big self-maintenance check is flushing. When I get home from fishing, I back my boat up the driveway, grab the hose and hook it to the flush attachment on the side of my Yamaha Outboard. A lot of people don’t think about flushing their engines every day, but it’s one of the easiest things you can do to maintain the cooling system on the motor.

It doesn’t matter if I’m running across shallow sand or mud flats, or open water, or even whether I’m in saltwater or freshwater, flushing the motor is part of my regular operational procedure. When you run your outboard, there’s a potential for the intake ports to pull in everything from sand and shells to grass particles, chemicals or naturally occurring minerals in the water. All those things can impact the cooling system in your engine over time.

Saltwater is probably the worst element, because once the water evaporates, salt can crystallize and cake to the interior of the motor, causing corrosion and build-up that can lead to decreased water flow and eventually overheating. The interior sections of your Yamaha Outboards have corrosion protection, but the build-up of salt over time can erode even the best metals and paints. As a rule, the first places that see major issues with salt build-up are around the pilot tube, and if that area gets clogged with salt, sand or mud, your engine can overheat.

Flushing the motor also cleans out any sand, shell particles or debris that got pulled into the intake. Over time, those coarse particles can wear away the blades of the water pump impeller or clog the thermostat, once again leading to overheating problems. It only takes 10 to 15 minutes to adequately flush the engine, and I do it while I accomplish other tasks.

I’ll hook the hose up to the flush attachment, turn the water on (not the outboard), and then get in my boat to unload everything that needs to come off and clean out the cooler. I’ll then reload all my drinks for the next day and secure all my rods and tackle. All that takes me 10 to 15 minutes or even more, so I know the engine is getting a good flush of freshwater. If your boat is on a lift, you might want to tilt the engine if it’s still in the water, so that you know you’re only having freshwater entering and leaving the engine.

The last thing I’ll do is inspect the inlet screens on the lower unit for debris or weeds. When you run through grass or weeds a lot, you can get a lot of little particles stuck in those screens, and they can limit the outboard’s ability to take in water and cool itself. I’ve seen everything from a piece of plastic to a mud clod on those screens. If they’re dirty, use the hose to wash them out, or a small scrub brush to clean away debris.

Then I’ll turn the water off, unhook the hose, and use it to wash the boat. From there, I back the boat into the garage, shut the door,  and repack any tackle or gear that I’ve worked on, so that all I have to do in the morning is grab a cup of coffee and go fishing. 

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