Easy Outboard Maintenance & Repair for Kids
Engaging your kids in the process of maintaining the family’s boat and its engine will start them on the path to looking after their own boat someday when they’re older.
These easy outboard maintenance tasks you can teach your kids are essential to the performance and health of your (and maybe someday their) outboard or I/O motor. Here are five basic boat engine maintenance jobs you can involve your kids in that are simple, safe and engaging enough that they won’t be bored to tears.
1. Engine Flush
Flushing the engine after every run is vital to its health. Any salt and other contaminants left within the cooling passages running through the motor will quickly corrode the engine. Even if you only use your boat on lakes or inland rivers, the water still contains salt that’s harmful to the motor. To flush the engine, all you need is a garden hose and an engine flusher. Once the engine flusher is attached to the motor, you’re pretty much playing with water on your driveway (and what kid doesn’t love to play with water?).
2. Check the Engine Oil
Checking oil levels is something that should be done before every boat trip. Make checking the engine oil level your kid’s own personal job to give them a sense of responsibility and importance. If the oil needs topping off or replacing, have your child help you as you do it. Your junior assistant can also start by passing along tools when you need them while you show them how to do an oil change. Before they graduate to doing their own oil changes, let your child remove the dipstick, read the oil level and reinstall the dipstick. If you can get your kids to actually get their hands dirty during the next oil change, even better!
3. Replace the Gearcase Oil
Your engine’s manual will tell you how often to replace the lower unit oil, but it’s a job you should do at least once per year. And why not involve the kids? It’s a simple enough maintenance job. Usually the only tools you’ll need are a screwdriver and a gearcase lube pump, so this is yet another opportunity to get your young “apprentice” involved. To replace the gearcase oil, just remove the vent plug and the drain/fill plug, then let the old lube drain out and pump the new oil in.
4. Lower Unit Pressure Test
Pressure testing the lower unit lets you know whether all the seals are good and if the gearcase is healthy. It’s another kid-friendly job that only requires a couple of tools (screwdriver and pressure tester), which is a great way for a “young squire” to get used to working on a boat. To pressure test a lower unit, you’ll need to drain out the oil first. Show your kid how to use that gearcase pressure tester while you’re changing out the lube.
5. Replace Spark Plugs
The condition of the spark plugs provide a great insight into the engine’s health, and a good way to teach a young’un how to spot problems. For example, if the spark plugs’ electrodes are black with carbon, the engine is running too rich. If the electrodes are coated with oil, there’s a leaking gasket or piston ring. Replacing spark plugs is as simple as disconnecting the wires, removing the old plugs and installing the new ones. Have your kids disconnect the wires before showing them how to remove the first spark plug.
Involving your children with these basic maintenance tasks is not only a great bonding experience, but also an important step in the development of life skills and taking on the responsibility of boat ownership. And who knows? Maybe someday your "boater-in-training" will pass these skills on to their children!