ABA Boat Maintenance & Repair Questions and Responses
The information contained herein is
the opinion of ABA member and marine mechanic Tim Harrington of
Madison Marine Service, Harwich, Massachusetts. Tim is responding to
a question solely based on the information an ABA member provided. Neither
ABA, nor Tim Harrington, nor Madison Marine Service assume any
responsibility or liability for events that occur due to actions you
or others on your behalf take based on the information given in Tim's
response. You are proceeding at your own risk.
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I live on the Gulf in South Alabama where we only occasionally have
freezing weather. Is it still necessary to winterize and if so, is
just draining the lower unit sufficient?
Considering your location, you should not have a lot of concern for
frost damage. However, I would recommend that you change your gear oil
and perform the remedial maintenance that should be done during your
down time. I would also at least fog your engine for storage. This
keeps the cylinder walls coated. Also, run some fuel store through the
system so your carburetors do not coke up on you during the first few
months you are out of the water. Before you start your season, give
the boat a good check, including your plugs and the water separator
(if you have one).
Q. We have a 1984 Sea Ray Sundancer with a Mercruiser engine. We had
electrical problems last season. Our charger was replaced. Barnacles
appeared on our lower unit. Did the electrical problems cause the
barnacles? Also, if the lower unit is not scraped and painted, will
this cause any problems?
The electrical problems you had may have caused electrolysis on the
lower unit if you had no zincs or your zincs were gone. The barnacles
will grow no matter what. In your down time or during spring
commission, clean and prime your outdrive and let dry completely. Then
apply several coats of factory or equivalent paint and also let that
completely dry. Once this is complete, you have to apply several coats
of clear antifouling. This will help with the growth encountered
during your boating season.
Q. I have a 1990 Sea Ray 260 Overnighter with a Mercruiser 310. I have
been having irregular RPM output at any speed. My max RPM output is
around 4000-4100, but frequently the RPM will drop to 3100-3600. The
engine (7.4L V8 454) is supposed to put out 4200-4600 RPM. I have new
plugs, wires, distributor, rotor, and replaced my fuel filters. Is
this problem common, and what else can I do? Thanks
Changing the fuel filter is a good idea. Have you checked it again?
You could have contamination in the tank. Your boat would have run ok
for a period of time and then drop cylinders due to moisture again.
Have you checked your coil for arc? Have
you made sure your wires are on the correct cylinders? The biggest
question, have you done a compression check and made note? Sometimes
it could be as simple as your prop slipping. Over time the prop hub
dries out and that will make rpm go up and forward speed drop. If it
is intermittent it could explain your tach readings.
I hope this has been helpful and I would
suggest you purchase a manual if you haven't already. It saves time
with trouble shooting.
Q. I have a clanking in my distributor and my motor backfires at high
speed. My distributor has oil in it. Is this base pressure?
you take off your distributor cap and remove the distributor you will
find the stem broken and/or the weights broken. It sounds like time
for maintenance before you create more problems. Sorry for the bad
news but once done you will be back on the water.
Q. We have a 1998 Donzi Sportdeck with a Mercruiser I/O. Our boat had
a hydraulic lock in June. It just had another in December. As I
understand it, water gets into the cylinders and the engine won't
start. In June we spent $5000 to get fixes to the manifolds. The
marina "pickled" the engine. Can you give me a layman's description of
There are many reasons why you are getting raw water into the
powerplant. It sounds like it has been going on for some time from the
little bit of information given. You stated that you had $5,000.00
worth of work done to have your manifolds replaced. I am guessing that
your risers were also worked on.
Pickling the engine means to clean out
oil and water residue from the interior of the combustion parts and
block. It sounds like your engine was dismantled and rebuilt to be
completely sure you have no further problems. Hydrolock is
self-explanatory - water in the cylinders creates a vacuum that stops
progressive motion of the operating criteria of your powerplant.
Q. I want to replace my engine. I have a friend who has a Mercruiser
350ci 230 hp 1987 I/O. I have an inboard. Can I use my friend's engine
and will it need any thing done to it?
You can do your exchange with your friend. However, in my opinion, the
bad news is that it will cost you more in labor and parts than it's
worth. You can buy a rebuild and install it with a heck of a lot less
trouble and aggravation. It would be nice to work on this with your
friend, but I'm afraid it would become a project.
Q. I have a 1988 SeaRay 268DA with a 7.4L Mercruiser (330Hp) with an
Alpha One drive. I am trying to remove the drive for winter storage
and am having problems. I have purchased the shop manual and have
followed the instructions. With hydraulic rams removed, clutched in
forward, and 6 lock nuts removed, I can only get the drive out about a
quarter of an inch. There is a fair amount of play in moving the drive
up and down on the studs and from what I can see it is well greased,
however, I can't get it off. This is my first year with an I/O, so I
am hesitant to apply too much force. I am hesitant to try prying it
off because I don't want to harm the gasket surfaces. Since the drive
came out 1/4 inch without any force, I am wondering if it is hanging
up on something inside the housing? Any ideas?
With regard to your outdrives you are ok. Sometimes they get hung up
in the gimbal housing and make it a little tough to get off. Disregard
the worry about your gaskets because you have to replace them anyway.
If you take a small block of wood, (I prefer pine or soft wood) and
put this at the base of your drive, you can use this as a lever to add
pressure to the drive unit and get her to pop off. It will come off.
Chances are the gimbal housing and gimbal ring need some servicing.
When done, spin the gimbal and make sure everything is ok. Otherwise
you will re-install your drives just to have problems in the spring.
This should help your dilemma and by using soft wood it stops damage
that may occur when using a hard wood lever.
Q. Just wanted to know how difficult it is to change the water pump on
the Alpha One Outdrive. And if there are any tips or methods for doing
this more easily, since I have never done this before.
advice is to get either a Mercury manual or Clymer manual that will
cover your equipment. Take the numbers off your engine and outdrive to
make sure they match the manuals you purchase. Use the outdrive Alpha
One book to take off the lower section of your outdrive. This will
give you the access to your pump assembly. Make sure to purchase the
correct replacement kit. This is something that you can do, just put
the manual to work and you will do fine.
Q. I purchased a 1996 Crownline 202BR with a Mercruiser 5.7L from the
original owner in March of 2003. I am now having trouble with the
trim. I used the boat three times and the motor would not come up. The
mechanic replaced the solenoid and that seemed to fix the problem. I
used the boat a few more times with no problem and then suddenly the
trim would not work again with the motor stuck in the down position.
This time you could hear a clicking when the trim switches were
pressed. I docked the boat at the same marina that had worked on it
before. I went to check on it the next day and tried the trim and it
worked. I brought the motor up and got it ready to put on the trailer.
By the time I got from the dock to the trailer (not far) the trim was
no longer working. I left the boat but the mechanic never got to it so
I went to pick it up and the trim was again working. I have not had it
back in the water since but the trim is still working. I also found
out that the original owner had a solenoid put in last year. It
doesn't seem to be a solenoid this time. Could it be something to do
with the circuit breaker on the trim motor?
I would suggest that you make sure your trim and tilt switch at the
remote control is functioning. After doing this, I would check the
trim motors and make sure they are working properly. If so, you may
have a problem with either a connection and/or the trim limit switches
and your drive itself. You will see two plastic caps on the top of
each side of your lower unit. One is for up and down movement and the
other is the limit for height. This may be were your problem lies.
Q. I have pulled my 2001 20' Astro Bow Ride for the season In the
process of trailering my boat, I have discovered that the lower unit
hydraulics will only bring my engine to its regular trim point - where
it normally stops. When I push the switch further to bring the engine
up to its farthest point, it does not operate. I checked the switch on
the throttle and it seems to be working properly. Also I checked the
hydraulic fluid and it is almost full. I believe there must be a limit
switch near or on the engine. Am I right? If yes, where is it, and if
not, what else should I check? Thank you.
I think you will find on your throttle
control your trim switches are working the way they are suppose to. On
the arm of the control is a button that is used as a trailer switch
that will bring your drive to its highest point and then you will find
you can trailer your boat.
Q. Took my 1984 18'
Sunrunner into the shop. The engine died every time it was put into
gear, had not been used for approx 4 years, same gas. The shop finally
called and said that shift cables and bushings need replaced and gave
me an estimate of $700-800. I told them I was going to wait and would
pick up boat. They said the outdrive is off the boat and they would
put it in the boat or in my truck when I come in. My question: is it
normal for the outdrive to be removed to explore my problem? Is it
normal for the shop to leave it off if the work is not going to be
done right away? Does the price sound somewhat reasonable? Thanks.
This explanation may sound odd to you, but this is the way most
marinas operate once the owner puts a stop work order on a job. The
marina will provide the service requested and if there is a stop work
order, that's where the work comes to a halt.
If the lower shift cable needs replacing, it makes
no sense to put the drive back on just to have to take it off again to
finish the maintenance that needs to be done.
Also it's not a bad way for your marina or yard to
do business. They did the task that was asked, and they did not create
an unexpected expense for you. Can you imagine coming in, having the
job being completed and tested and then being presented with a bill
that is completely unexpected?
As far as the price quote, in my opinion, it is in
the ballpark, and in some places it could be even higher. To answer
your question, I believe that they have helped you a great deal and
did not charge you for a re-installation of a drive that needs to come
back off to complete the task. I hope this helps put you at ease and
it sounds like you have a good facility doing your maintenance.
Q. Why is synthetic
oil specifically not recommended by Mercruiser for the 4.3 engine?
I have not checked with Merc directly, but I would think there might
be problems with performance to engine and viscosity breakdown of
synthetic oil. Personally I do not use synthetic unless it is
recommended or stated as an acceptable alternative to oils. If your
engine is one of the new 4.3s, I think they recommend 25/40 or
something like that. You need to use what is recommended by the
manufacturer to protect any warranty you may have on your engine.
When I have catastrophic failure in a new piece of
equipment or if something is out of place with a failure, I send out
my oil and other liquids for analysis and try and determine the
failure problem, and manufacturers do the same. I would use what is
factory recommended to protect yourself and your equipment and to keep
any current warranty valid.
Q. With 4 average
sized people on board and no additional equipment I cannot get my 13'
Boston Whaler up on plane. By moving the bolts I could trim the engine
down one more step. Is this the thing to do or is there something else
to try? Or is this the best I can get from this rig? Thanks.
You have a great boat and equipment, but with 4 adults in your Whaler
and your 40 horse power engine, you are most likely getting the best
performance you can ask the boat to give you. Take into consideration
the average weight per man plus equipment to what she can produce in
thrust - it does have limitations.
I hope this has helpful, but it seems that you had
already reached the same conclusion.
Q. I need to bleed
the tilt-trim pump and cylinders. Can you walk me through the process?
Thank you - there are absolutely no competent boat mechanics within a
100-mile radius of where I am located. Thanks again for your help!
The easiest way to do this, depending on access to your connections at
the trim tabs themselves is to disconnect at the tab end. With a small
container use the trim motor to push the fluid out through those
fittings to get as much as you can out. You have to listen carefully
and discern when the motor is running out of material to pump, so that
you do not burn the pump.
The only other way is to drain at the pump motor,
but that will not help you if you want to completely purge your
Q. I just purchased
the new engine (Honda 200) for my 2001, 23' Bay Hawk. It has a
four-bladed/21 pitch prop, 25-inch shaft. Problems- 1. the boat comes
out of the hole real slow, it takes 300 to 500 feet to get up. Max
rpm's-4000, after about 300 yds the boat starts porpoising without any
trim movement. Is there any thing I can do to help my situation?
I have rigged and installed Honda's for a dealership here on Cape Cod.
You're way below your rpm, especially on a brand new 200! You will
only get the performance of your engine's capability at max RPM by
matching the proper prop with your power! I am sure you can watch your
RPM change as you try different props.
My suggestion is to go to the dealer or direct to
the Honda web site,
www.honda-marine.com/hmframeset.htm for support
to find the correct pitch for your engine. You will find a great deal
of performance and speed change if you do so.
You have a great engine, fine tune her and it will
serve you a good many years.
Q. I heard a
grinding noise when I tried to start my starboard engine. I pulled the
starter; it was broken so I replaced it. It made the same noise. I can
turn the engine over by hand. So why is my starter grinding? Could it
be hydro-locked? If so, what causes that?
I have received your question regarding the grinding noise you hear
when you start your starboard engine.
You want to know if your boat was in hydro-lock. If
you can put a breaker on your engine and turn it, you are not in a
There are a few reasons why you are hearing the
grinding sound. One reason could be due to water ingestion.
Have you ever replaced your flywheel? If so, does it
have the right number of teeth for your engine? If not, that could
explain the grinding noise.
You mentioned that you placed your starter. Did you
replace it with the correct marine starter? Marine starters are closed
to spark for inboard tanks! Also, make sure you use your blowers.
You may have improper meshing of your starter pinion
and flywheel ring gear. Check the starter pinion gear and see if the
teeth are chipped or worn. Check the flywheel ring gear for the same
I hope that by checking the things mentioned above,
you will find the source of your grinding noise. If you're going to
trouble shoot the problem yourself, I suggest grabbing a service
manual. It will also help you with any necessary repairs. As always,
if you have any doubts about what you are doing, turn to a qualified
Q. The trim motor
will not hold the trim, but it is not leaking fluid externally, what
could be wrong?
I have only worked on a few force motors, but chances are either your
trim motor or the plumbing are getting air somewhere in the system.
Being a 1986 motor, you are dealing with a trim that is 16 years old.
If you have excess corrosion, you may not be seeing the static or
pressurized leak. It may be time for new motor. If is a side mount, it
is a fairly easy job to replace.
Q. I have just had
my carb rebuilt and my performance has increased greatly, at take off
and speed. I am still having trouble with the engine stalling about
60% of the time when I pull the throttle down to neutral or try to
reverse from an idle forward to reverse to dock, here it dies about
90% of the time. The friend that overhauled my Rochester 2bbl carb is
a GM master mechanic but has said that he would like some direction
from a marine expert. Any ideas to check or solutions?
It sounds like things are okay with your carb, and I do not believe a
master technician would have a problem with a rebuild kit. From what
you're telling me and not knowing the year or serial numbers to your
inboard, I don't think your problem is in your carb. You seem to have
idle and high rpm with no interference, and it sounds like when you
are in low rpm range and shift from forward to reverse at low rpm, you
stall. Based upon this, I would look to the interrupter switch, if you
have one, and/or your lower shift cable. Take your serial numbers and
look at the manual to your engine. Here you'll find rigging and all of
the other parts we just mentioned. Troubleshoot by checking the shift
cables and interrupter switch to see which is the culprit. Your
mechanic friend sounds well qualified to help and the manual will fill
in the gaps for him. Hope this is helpful in getting you in the right
Q. My RPM is not
working. I have checked behind the gauge itself and all the
connections seems to be in good shape. Do you have any other
suggestions? It's a 1999 Johnson Motor 115 HP.
Your question was about your tach not working on your OMC outboard.
You stated that you have looked at your connections and they looked
fine. Even so, I would recommend that you remove them, clean them and
reconnect. Go to the engine and match your wiring from your harness
and check that everything is correct. If everything is ok, you may be
having problems with your gauge itself and/or the sensors at the power
head that send the rpms to the gauge.
If this seems to be the case, I suggest that you
have a qualified technician do an ohms test for you. It will not take
much time to do an ohms test and it could tell you what your problem
Q. My '77, 75HP
Chrysler outboard refuses to start. The motor turns over, but there is
no spark to the distributor and beyond. I think it may be due to a bad
power unit (a.k.a. CD unit) because the unit gets quite warm when I
turn the key to the "on" position. I don't want to have to replace it,
because it is a costly part, if I don't have to. Do you have any
thoughts, ideas, suggestions, etc?
I do not believe, based on the information that you gave me that you
have much choice other than replacing it, especially if it is heating
up during cranking operation. After 25 years in service, I think it
has served you well.
You may be able to save some money if you check out
Sierra products. They are sold on the Boater's World website, which
you can link to thru the following ABA site,
I am sorry for the news, but I don't think you have
much choice. I hope you're on the water soon.
Q. Temp goes up as
throttle is increased. Reduce throttle and temp comes back to normal
at 2500RPM.Problem appears to be on starboard side. Infrared show port
to be about 120?. Can you think of a cause? I had the boatyard work on
it last year. They reduced temp, but not to a normal range
I received your question from the American Boating Association. If I
understand your question correctly, you have a temp fluxuation when
throttle is increased with your port engine. As you increase RPM, your
temp rises and it returns to a normal range at 2500 RPM. You used a
heat gun to indicate what the correct reading was at 2500 RPM.
(Returned to 120)
It sounds like your pump and thermostat were
replaced at the boat yard. I don't believe that this is the cause of
your problem, as you would completely overheat in high RPM if they
Based on the information you have supplied, I would
start looking for blockage within your cooling system. Your boat is
twelve years old and I do not know whether you run in salt or fresh
water. Check all your hoses and your water flow. Make sure your
inspection includes risers and manifolds for restriction. Also check
your water assembly and drive and make sure the recommended thermostat
is in place. It sounds like a definite restriction problem under
pressure. If you have ever lost water pump impeller due to wear or
drying out, check inlet restrictions for pieces of rubber that would
restrict water flow. You are probably going to narrow this down by
checking for restriction in these areas. I hope this helps you get to
the bottom of your problem.
I have a Chekmate with a Suzuki 115
horsepower motor on it, it is a speed boat what should my top speed
I would say that at
115 HP, a 16' Checkmate should move right along! The best way and most
exact way to determine your top speed without a speed gauge or picking
to locations on land and timing yourself at your high rpm range, is to
use a GPS. If you do not have one, maybe you could borrow one. Without
a speed gauge, this would be the most reliable way to tell your speed.
If your engine is carbureted, your RPM should be between 5500 and
6000. This is high end! Do not run the boat for long periods at max
RPM, though. Have a great and safe boating season and try to keep it
under a 100!
Q: I have a problem
with my boat. It seems like it won't change gears. I have a Mercruise
inboard/outboard with a 4.3l. It has an Alpha One outdrive. Can you
give me any advice?
would like to give you a starting point for your problem. Your engine
to outdrive is mechanical shift. On the top right side looking forward
you will see your shift cables. Not knowing how old your cables are, I
would check the standard measurement for your cable. From the center
of the mounting end to the center of the hole in front should be 6
inches. This should rig your shifting cable closer to working
correctly. If this does not help, it is probably time to change the
cable. If you have a problem with going into reverse with stalling,
chances are it's your lower shift cable. Check your throttle box for
operations. To change your shift cable is not a hard job but may be
time consuming do to the routing. Your lower shift cable is a
different story, not bad but outdrive has got to come off. Before
doing this, obtain a manual. They are inexpensive and it will save you
any guesswork. Also, if you are going to change both cables or if your
boat is out of the water, it is a good time to check your outdrive
gear oil. Do not re-use the old gasket and O-rings. Hope this gets you
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