Beginner’s Guide To Outboard Motors

Any idea why your fishing buddy’s do so well out on the lake? Well, aside from the tall tales told at the bait shop about the one that got away, there is something to their success that comes from more than the type of rod and baits being used. In some cases, the gear attached to the aluminum boat has something to do with reaching the daily limit. We’re talking outboard motors here. They give you the power to get to places that would take forever if you only had oars. So, let’s take a quick look at all you need to know about outboards.

The Various Types of Motors

There are four basic categories that the average outboard motor falls under. They are as follows:

1 – Large Motors for Pontoon Boat Speed

These are the big boys at the top of the scale. They are huge, heavy chunks of machinery that will deliver massive amounts of horsepower and as such are designed for bigger boats. Essentially, a large motor is meant for boats measuring 37 feet or longer. You know, the cruiser type vessels that the guys in the campsite will jokingly refer to as the ‘Party Boat’ or “That Jerk Who Is Scaring Away All The Fish.”

These motors will have the power of V6 or V8 cylinder blocks behind them generating up to 557 horsepower. The two to four-cylinder style will be powerful enough to push hulls of up to 17 feet as they will produce 15 to 135 HP. Regardless, any large motor is one that is so heavy that it has to be either bolted or bracket bolted to the transom. They also will be wired in such a way that they can be controlled at the helm. Lose one of these babies and your large motor instantly becomes an anchor.

2 – Portable Motors

These are the smaller motors that will go up to about 15 HP. These are the ones you may usually see in and around the campsite as they are somewhat lighter and can be clamped onto the back of your aluminum boat. These are also the motors you have to pull start and will feature a throttle and gearshift on the side. Steering is controlled by a tiller, and these are the motors that are usually the choice for trolling in lakes or as a source of auxiliary power for sailboats.

3 – Electric-Powered Motors

If you are one of those environmentally-conscious types, you’ll likely use one of these motors. Not only are they smaller, but they are also usually the power source of choice on lakes that prohibit gas-powered monster motors. In other words, this is the perfect tool for trolling with your smaller boat. However, it won’t do squat if you suddenly wanted to go water skiing. In some cases, you’d be better off just using oars. You’d get to the other side of the lake faster, for sure.

4 – Pump-Jet

This is the type of motor that sucks up water from underneath the boat and passes it through the engine. Essentially, it creates a jet of water for propulsion. It also looks pretty neat to see water bubbling out from behind the boat as it moves forward.

Outboard Motor Parts

The average outboard has three basic parts. Okay, there are several crazy little bitty parts inside the thing, but there are really just three sections that form the entire unit. Here’s a look at each:

1 – Powerhead

We love that name. It sounds um, sort of heavy metal-like. This is the upper portion of the engine that stays above the water. That is, provided you don’t drop it by accident or clamp it wrong. The brains behind this part of the motor are the cylinders that fire on the down stroke and generate the power to operate. In order to get the cylinders moving, you tug on the pull cord to create the spark that sets everything in motion.

The motor is cooled by water, how handy is that, eh? Other parts in the powerhead section include the all-important fuel tank, a speed control lever, reed valves, and a carburetor.

2 – Midsection

There’s nothing really sexy about this midsection. It is where you will find the mounting bracket and exhaust housing. The bracket is where you clamp the motor to your boat, and the exhaust well removes the bad stuff the engine no longer needs to breathe so that you can.

3 – Lower Unit

Here’s the place where you really see a lot of action. The propeller is housed down here and makes up the bulk of the lower section. However, there is an interesting aside to note here. The prop can be tilted, and if you’ve ever found yourself in shallow water grinding at a rock bottom or churning up weeds and branches, you’ll appreciate that tilting ability of this part of the motor.

What’s The Deal About Boat Repair Parts?

There is going to be a time in the life of the outboard motor you have that you’ll need to seek a repair of some kind. Yes, the guys at the bait shop may be able to help you find the right place to go, and if there isn’t a marina nearby, a small engine repair shop may do the job.

When shopping for parts, be sure to stick to reputable retailers who are authorized to carry the manufacturer’s parts. A flea market may save you a bundle, but there won’t be any warranties, and you may end up with a piece of crap that doesn’t work anymore, anyway.

There are three basic steps to follow when searching for the right parts for the job. They are as follows:

1 – Do Some Homework

Mr. Google should be your friend. If you are on speaking terms with him, make him earn his keep by digging up some info for you. That means visiting the manufacturer’s website to see what parts are required and if there are any dealers near you who have what you need. It’s a lot like the old days of video tape recorders. You couldn’t use Beta parts on a VHS machine. The same basic rule applies here. Use the right parts, and you’ll be fine.

2 – Know Your Stuff

Even if your outboard motor was purchased second-hand or was found in a ditch before you cleaned it up and got it running, you need to know some basic information about that tool. When parts shopping, you should know the year and model of your outboard. You should also know the correct name of the part you require. Sure, calling it “that thing-a-majig that sits over top of the part that heats up a lot” may help the guy in the flea market but it really helps to ensure you end up with the correct part when you can call it by name. A test may follow.

3 – Pictures That Are Worth Maybe A Few Dozen Words

Nothing speeds up a purchase at the parts shop like a picture of what that thing is you need for your outboard motor. Not only will it help the parts guy to figure out what it is you are looking for, but it’ll also ensure that if there are nuts and screws and bolts and other do-dads required, but the parts dude should also know that and have all of them available as well.

As a safety check, don’t be afraid to ask the question, “Is there any nuts, screws, bolts or other do-dads I need with this?” It’ll save you having to make a return trip to the parts shop and remove a story from potentially getting extra mileage at the bait shop.

Is That All?

Well, of course not. Outboard motors are powerful tools used to push you and your boat forward in any body of water. Even the pansy electric-powered ones still have enough pushing power to get you over to your favorite fishing spot. Plus, outboard motors don’t last forever.

Considering the bigger ones have the same basic parts as your automobile engine, there is a period of time where rebuilding may become the most logical of life-extending actions as you can afford. Eventually, even the best of outboard motors reaches an end of its life and has to be retired.

Depending on where you live and the type of landfill options available to you, you may want to strip the outboard first of all useable parts and components. Once that is completed, visit your local landfill site to see what they recommend you doing with the remains.

You may be able to toss it in a pile of other rusting parts over in the far section away from recyclables, or you may be faced with actually getting rid of it yourself. Burying it in your backyard is not an option, however, if you were to drop it in the centre of your favorite lake accidentally, we would turn a blind eye to that. Eventually, it’ll become part of a natural reef for marine life with all the other junk sitting down there with it.

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