I’m a bit of newbie when it comes to boating, but I’ve now gone all-in, having recently bought a Panache 1850 with a four-stroke outboard motor that I used on a few dams last summer. Now, with winter upon us, my boat and motor will hardly be used. I’ve heard that failing to service the motor regularly throughout the winter is asking for trouble, but I’m no mechanic and not familiar with all the ins and outs of outboard maintenance. What can I do to ensure my motor is running strong come summer?



While regular servicing is important, you don’t need to be a mechanic to keep your outboard in tip-top shape – you need just a bit of TLC and some preventive maintenance. And, you need to start with the basics, like cleaning and maintaining your outboard after every outing.

Here are five simple do-it-yourself steps to ensure that everything keeps running smoothly once the weather warms up.


Whether you’ve been in fresh or salt water, make sure that you flush the engine at home after every outing. Attach a garden hose to the mount on the lower unit, where the water is taken in, and turn the tap on. (Older motors require a set of ‘ear-muffs’: two flexible rubber seals attached to a clamp; but new outboard motor designs (like your four-stroke) already have mounts and don’t require these.) Start up the motor. The water pump will then flush out the system. Be sure to stand well clear of the propeller, and keep the throttle in neutral: always think of your safety. While flushing the motor, check the outflow tube for any debris that might have become stuck.Outboard motor-2STEP 2

If your boat is going to be stored for an extended period, make sure you disconnect the fuel line. If it’s a carburettor-engine (two-stroke), you should allow the engine to burn what’s left in the carburettor, as old fuel can clog up the engine. Disconnect the fuel line (if you have the quick-disconnect type fuel line) and keep the engine running until it runs out of fuel. For fuel-injected engines, it’s best to install a stabiliser in the fuel tank before you run the engine.

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While the engine is running, it’s a good idea to have the motor cowling off so that you can visually inspect the engine for fuel leaks, water leaks, loose bolts, corroded parts or loose wires. Switch the engine off and put a bit of grease on the cable ends and linkages.

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Be sure to turn the key to ‘off’; and if you have a battery switch, turn it to the ‘off’ position, too. The idea is to make sure that all the moving parts are going to stay put for the next few minutes of cleaning.

Outboard motor


If you want to prolong the longevity of your outboard motor, wipe down and spray all the accessible mechanical components and moving parts with an anti-corrosive product like Q20. Be sure to lubricate or grease all the moving parts, such as the pivots, shift mechanism, throttle cables and carburettor valves. Place the cowling back onto its fittings. Once you’ve cleaned that, cover the entire motor with canvas or plastic for the duration of storage.



  1. Flush the engine with fresh water.
  2. Disconnect the fuel supply.
  3. Remove the cowling and inspect visually.
  4. Turn off the key.
  5. Spray mechanical components with Q20, refit the cowling and cover the motor.
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