Spring Commissioning: Gas Engine Start-Up Tips, Part 2


Get your boating season started on the right foot by looking at important items to check on your outboard when waking it up from its winter nap.

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 before prepping your outboard for the season.

1. Temperature Test

Digital Temperature Guage
Digital Temperature Gauge

As the engine warms to its normal operating temperature (this should take 10 to 15 minutes), use 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” that could indicate a problem.

2. Alternator Check

Check 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 & Throttle

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 the shift and throttle, perform 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

If you did not replace the plugs in the fall, do so now.

7: Propeller

If you didn’t do this in the fall, inspect the prop for signs of damage. A bent, chipped or cracked prop can rob an engine of efficiency and affect the boat’s top speed and performance. Also make sure there is no fishing line wrapped around the prop or shaft. Grease the shaft and install the nut to the proper torque.

8: Paint & Wax

Cover any dings or chips on the outboard housing or skeg with touch-up paint. Also consider applying a coat of wax to the engine cowling.

9: Mounting Hardware

Check the engine mounting nuts on the transom to make sure they are tight and secure.