How to clean your outboard engine

Maintaining your boat’s shiny finish involves taking care of more than just the gel coat. If you have an outboard engine, the casing needs washing down and buffing up in much the same way has the paint on a car. But why bother? Well, when it comes time to sell your pride and joy, looks count for a lot in negotiations and in the all-important photographs on the listing. So if you want to know more about keeping your outboard engine looking brand new, check out this how-to video, filmed by USA editor, Lenny Rudow.


One way to keep your engine looking great which we didn’t address in the video is simply by keeping it covered. As we mentioned, long-term exposure to UV radiation is just about the toughest thing on your engine’s finish (excepting impacts that cause chips, cracks, and scratches, of course).

If it’s possible, keeping your boat and outboards in a garage or under a cover will go a long way to keeping its finish like new. Dedicated canvass engine covers can also be purchased, to keep the sun off your outboards. But beware—poorly fitting covers can be worse than no cover at all. On windy days an ill-fitted cover can shift back and forth, rubbing against the outboard’s finish, slowly wearing it away.

The danger is greatest when you cover your engines with a polypropylene tarp, which can actually do a lot more harm than good. The light polypropylene can whip back and forth in a breeze, and ruin an outboard’s finish in a matter of hours. If you cover your boat with one of these tarps, you need to first wrap the outboards in a cotton sheet or a non-abrasive blanket, to protect them.

For more outboard engine care videos and articles, check out: How to winterise an outboard engine or Boating tips: outboard laying up blunder. For tips on cleaning and maintaining the rest of your boat, take a look at: Boat cleaning: how to care for your hull or 5 ways to protect your boat over winter.

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