Boating Tips

Beating overheating

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Simple fixes for a fire-breathing outboard motor!

You’ve gathered a few friends and family on your boat and you’re out for a leisurely cruise. Everything is swell, your children have a line in the water and Uncle Freddie is taking a nap on the soft seating below the Bimini. Your single outboard motor is running like a dream until you take a closer look at the temperature gauge and your heart skips a beat when you notice the temperature is abnormally high and rising rapidly. Before you tell your relaxed crew that there might be a problem, there are certain checks that you can undertake quite easily to determine the cause of the overheating. More often than not, it will be one of the issues set out below that is causing the problem.

outboard motor overheat

The first thing you should do immediately is switch off the motor when you notice the heat gauge rising. If the motor gets too hot, without being noticed, serious and catastrophic damage will take place with the eventual failing of the motor. If you are in a high traffic area, ask one or two of the crew members to look out for other boats and then begin your task of fault-finding.

Let the boat drift for a few minutes and this will allow any debris, reeds or plastic blocking the intakes to float free, while allowing the engine to cool. Once the engine has cooled, try putting the motor into reverse to dislodge any obstructions.

If there is no water being ejected from the tell-tale it means it is blocked. This does not necessarily mean that the entire water flow through the engine is blocked as a greater portion of water passes through the exhaust outlet, but it is still important to unblock the tell-tale. First use a paper clip or a piece of wire to dislodge any blockages at the tell-tale outlet nozzle. If the outlet is not blocked, remove the cowling and take off the pipe that takes water from the engine to the tell-tale outlet and check for any blockages. Remove any debris and start the motor to check that water is flowing freely from the outlet.

Check the intake grilles/sieves for clogging and remove any buildup of debris. If the raw water intake grilles are blocked, no water or reduced amounts of water will be making it to the impeller which drives the cooling water through the motor, and this can cause overheating.


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