Outboard engine progress, part 2. (Thanks, Elaine!) Also, engines aren't so bad.

This is a follow-up to this post about my outboard not working right.

You know, I was a little too hard on my engine. Literally and figuratively. First I didn’t take good care of it, and then I used its inevitable malfunction as a demonstration of its insolence and made it an illustration of why engines are bad on general principle. Or, as I believe I put it, sucked. Okay now, I maintain that we need to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and any steps I can take toward a Torqueedo are good ones, but my Honda outboard is not a bad person. It’s doing the best it can. And apparently, it was doing the best it could with old, crappy gasoline. My bad!

In the last post, in the comments, my friend Elaine said, “How old is the gas in there? If it’s been sitting for more than six months, the engine will be cranky.” This never occurred to me! Mostly because I asked someone (who shall remain nameless), whether old gas is a big deal. They said, “Nahhhhhh.” Turns out, it’s a very big deal. Elaine was right, thank you Elaine! If she hadn’t said that, then when I was calling shops this morning, I wouldn’t have thought to mention it, and so wouldn’t have heard them tell me how obviously it’s the ancient gas causing the problem.

I called my local favorite outboard shop, and then I called the Honda dealership – with whom I had a terrible experience last year but this call today gave me hope that things have changed – and then I called my marina. Here’s what I learned:

  • Yeah, OLD GAS IS BAD. Any gas that’s been sitting around longer than a few months, and especially gasoline that’s been sitting over the winter, should be chucked and replaced with fresh gas.
  • This is in large part because ethanol, a chemical in most gasoline, can soak up water, and cause the gasoline to turn into a gummy substance, which then runs into your engine and causes utter unchecked mayhem. Mostly in the carburetor. Don’t you like how I just throw that word out like I know what it does? Me too.
  • If you use gasoline with ethanol (and you’re using it if you get your gas from a regular gas station), then you should add an enzyme additive to your tank to keep the mayhem from happening. Also, still change out your gasoline more frequently.
  • You can also buy ethanol-free gasoline from a few marinas (including mine! yay!), and that’s the best choice and doesn’t require any additives, however, STILL, you shouldn’t use old gasoline even if it’s ethanol-free. Because old gasoline will wreak havoc, it will clog tubes and do other terrible things, it will call your relatives and tell them about that one time.

The course of action varied from person to person. Everyone agreed that the first thing was to get rid of the old gasoline. The mechanics had no idea where to do this, oddly enough. My marina said – well the guy answering the phone, not my actual marina come to life (frightening and awesome image) – that they can take old gasoline there! How cool is that? They apparently take a plethora of iffy-to-dispose-of items, like batteries and oil and fluorescent light bulbs. The woman (a woman!) who helped me dispose of the gas, gave me her card with her cell phone number, so I could just call her next time I had do this chore. I love my marina.

The next step is where things differed. Some people thought I should just pump the fresh gas into the engine, and that might do it. One guy said if that doesn’t work, just “Dump some additive into the carburetor and let it sit for awhile.” Others believed the more thorough course of action was to actually clean the carburetor, by removing it and then putting it back. One person even offered to let me borrow a sonic cleaner for this job! And another person who happens to live at my marina, offered to help me move my boat to the new slip in case I do all of this and none of it works. Boat people are the best, I am not kidding. Just the kindest folks around.

I appreciate being given the lazy option of just shoving some fresh gas in there and hoping for the best, but I’d like to do the more thorough option and borrow the sonic cleaner and see if I can take out the carburetor and clean it up.

First I should probably learn what a carburetor does, so I have some hope of identifying which thing I’m going to be unscrewing from my engine.

Here’s photos from my day, all two of them:

Here’s me after having walked from my car all the way down the to the end of the guest dock, carrying two jerrycans, filling them up, and walking all the way back, and then driving to the boat, and bringing them down. UPHILL IN THE RAIN! Which is a joke but is sort of true – it was raining, and I did have to walk uphill on the ramp. This is a cakewalk for normal healthy people, but for someone with fibromyalgia, that is some bad ass walking, I have to tell you. I’m sweaty but you can’t tell, all you can see is my GLOW! That’s my I Kicked Ass Doing Something Normal People Do Effortlessly glow. I’m very proud of myself in this photo. Mostly that I didn’t die.

On the left: the two jerrycans. On the right, my metal fuel tank that I like much better than the middle plastic fuel tank, which leaks. I think I’m going to get rid of that one, I don’t see the point of it. We motored from Oak Harbor to Shilshole (something like 45 nm) and used about half of the metal tank, I don’t need a second tank. It’d be great to have a Torqueedo, but I have to admit I apparently have the Prius of engines, the thing uses so little fuel. I suppose it helps that my boat is the size of a large bath toy. I left everything sitting today, since I didn’t have enough energy to do anything further.  Just getting all this together today was pretty nearly all my energy. But I got to lay in the v-berth for a half hour, napping off some of my fatigue, listening to the rain hit the deck. That was nice.

Oh and the photo at the top of the post is the metal fuel tank when I put it in the car after it’d been sitting near the house for the last few months. There was a little baby snail on board! I figured he didn’t want to learn how to swim, or get covered in gasoline, so I flung him back into the garden disposed of him in some manner that would not offend the gardener in our household (that’s a little test to see if our housemate reads this blog).

One comment

  1. Hey, I had a similar problem and it was rain water and spray making mine cranky, so I set out like all sensible people: Taught myself CAD, bought a decent 3D printer and invented this: https://thetanktop.co.uk which works for me. As for the enzyme, I had that on an old 2 stroke i thought. for a few bucks worth of old petrol it cost a lot more to get the carbs stripped 🙁

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