In our last video-article with North Atlantic Marine Services in Wareham, Massachusetts, co-owner Steve Lawrence walked us through the initial steps involved in commissioning a 23-foot, outboard-powered center console. He showed us how to remove the shrinkwrap, install the batteries and “wake up” the 250-hp, 4-stroke Yamaha from its winterized slumber.
Now it’s time to start the engine and see if all of its systems are working properly.
Note: the engine featured in this article and the accompanying video is a 2009 250-hp, 4-stroke Yamaha outboard. Other types, makes and models of engines may have different commissioning requirements, so be sure to consult your owner’s manual or the manufacturer prepping your outboard for the season.
1. Temperature Test
As the engine warms to its normal operating temperature (this should take 10 to 15 minutes), Steve uses a digital temperature gauge to check the powerhead at several key points to make sure it’s heating evenly and that there are no “hot spots”, which could indicate a problem.
2. Alternator Check
Next Steve checks the alternator with a voltmeter to see if it’s putting out the correct charge. The optimal charge should be between 14 and 14.5 volts. Any higher or lower could indicate a problem.
3. Shift and Throttle
Now Steve climbs aboard to check the shift and throttle controls from the helm. If the boat has electronic controls, this needs to be done while the engine is running. Obviously, shifting between gears should be easy and smooth, but not too loose.
4. Steering Check
After checking shift and throttle, Steve performs a lock-to-lock check of the steering to ensure ease of movement. Again, the steering should be nice and smooth, with no binding, sticking or play in the wheel. Any play could indicate low hydraulic fluid level or a leak in the line.
5. Zinc Replacement
Replacing the sacrificial anodes (zincs) on the engine and other metal parts can be done in the fall or spring. A boat that spends a lot of time in saltwater should have its zincs replaced annually.
6. Spark Plug Replacement
The spark plugs used in today’s high-performance engines are not cheap, running upwards of $20 a pop. However, to extend the working life of his customer’s plugs, Steve maintains a “winterizing set” and a “summer running set.” At the end of each season he removes the summer plugs and installs the winterizing plugs, which he uses to burn off the oil and winterizing fluids during the commissioning process in the spring. He then replaces the winter plugs with the summer plugs. This allows him to get 2 seasons of use out of a set of plugs (unless the summer plugs are too badly worn).
Handy Spring Commissioning Checklist:
By the way, North Atlantic Marine Services provides a spring commissioning checklist on their website . It’s a long list, but taking care of each item will help ensure a smooth start to your boating season.
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