Working on Your Outboard: Does it Void the Warranty?
There’s a degree of confusion as to what does or doesn’t invalidate the manufacturer’s warranty on an outboard motor when it comes to servicing it.
The uncertainty of who can work on an outboard without invalidating the warranty, and what service and maintenance work is allowed under the warranty, is a common concern.
NOTE: Every outboard manufacturer’s warranty is different and the terms may change over time. Always read the owner’s manual and manufacturer’s warranty before working on your outboard. Contact your local dealer or the manufacturer directly if you’re not sure.
Outboard Warranty: Who Can Work on the Motor
Any outboard manufacturer’s warranty clearly states that it’s the responsibility of the owner to make sure all scheduled service and maintenance is carried out.
In fact, failing to service the outboard can actually void the warranty. What the manufacturers don’t always make clear is who’s allowed to perform scheduled maintenance. For example, a Yamaha warranty states that it’ll be terminated unless “The customer can provide record of maintenance having been performed as recommended in the Owner's Manual.” A Mercury Marine warranty says the owner must “Perform all regular maintenance in compliance with the schedule in the applicable operation and maintenance manual.”
By having the responsibility placed on his or her shoulders, the owner is entitled to perform their own scheduled service and maintenance, or choose who does it. However, if the owner chooses to service the outboard on their own, most manufacturers require proof of the work that was completed. Therefore, the owner should keep the receipts of the parts used (filters, spark plugs, lubricants, etc.) and a log of all work completed, including dates, approximate hours worked on the motor, etc.
Having a local authorized dealer carry out maintenance and repair work not only ensures you’ll have solid proof that the work was carried out to the manufacturer’s standards, but that the dealer will also take care of any upgrade and/or recall work covered by the warranty.
Outboard Warranty: What Can Be Worked On
Manufacturer warranties are very clear that any work that modifies the outboard in any way will void the warranty.
The term “modifications” is a broad one, but it’s fair to say a modification is anything that alters the outboard’s performance in any way. For example, changing parts to increase horsepower would be a modification.
There’s also the question of what falls under scheduled or routine service and maintenance. While you could argue that anything listed in the owner’s manual maintenance list should be considered “routine service”, the manufacturer might not see it that way. For example, changing the oil is clearly a routine job the owner can handle, but replacing the filter in the VST would be something only an authorized dealer should do.
There may be some gray areas, so the best way to look at it is anything that doesn’t require dismantling the outboard is considered service and maintenance the owner can manage without terminating the warranty. Anything else should be left in the hands of the local authorized dealer to keep the warranty valid.
Outboard Warranty: Which Parts Are Allowed
Some manufacturer warranties stipulate that using anything but OEM parts to service the outboard will void the warranty. For example, Evinrude makes it clear that “Using non genuine Evinrude parts for maintenance may also void the manufacturer’s limited warranty.” Using an aftermarket brand for a standard oil change probably won’t void the warranty, but stick to OEM parts for any major maintenance or repair work.