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Kerplunk- Submerged Outboards
by Tom Neale

If you’ve dropped an outboard, it’ll make a difference as to whether it was running at the time. If it was, it will probably have sucked water into the cylinders and carburetor. It may have even bent a rod, but this isn’t likely. You may need to remove the head—a job usually best left for someone at a shop. If you know you can’t get it to the shop anytime soon, proceed on anyway. If it wasn’t running, the cylinders may not have gotten any (or much) water inside, especially if you retrieved it right away. In this event, frequently all you need to do with regard to the cylinders after washing the outside with fresh water is to remove the plugs, make sure there is no water inside, spray a lot of CRC 6-56 or similar lubrication inside and slowly pull the starting cord (gas disconnected) to move and lube the pistons. If there is water inside, spray in the lubricant and pull the starting cord (with the plugs removed and gas disconnected) to get the water out. Before pulling the starting cord check to be sure there is no water in the carburetor. If there is, drain it, wash it, and spray the inside surfaces lightly with CRC 6-56 or similar lubricant.

Dry the spark plug cords and check to make sure no water got inside the jackets that go over the end of the plugs. Spray them with a water displacing lubricant such as CRC 6-56. The ignition “black boxes” may need replacement, but often not. Be sure all electrical connections are dry and sprayed with water displacing lubricant. Try starting it as soon as possible, with an oil/gas mixture slightly on the rich side. As a general rule, the sooner you get it running the better, assuming there’s been no major damage such as bent rods. If it starts running, let it run for a long time to dry it out and lube it up. It’s still a good idea to take it in to a shop when you can, and to replace electrical components, but the bill will probably be a lot less if you’ve taken these general steps.

As you can see, I’ve spoken only in very general terms, because what you need to do varies with what you’ve dropped, where you’ve dropped it, and how long it’s taken you to get up the nerve to go down and get it. I’m just trying to give you a start in the right direction should you find yourself in this classic boater’s predicament without professional help around.

There’s more information about saving dropped items on Tom’s Tips at www.boatus. Just click on the Tom Neale link on the home page, go to “Tom Neale’s Cruising for You” section, and click on the current “Tom’s Tips.” Above all, be careful and have fun.


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