Guide To Breaking In Your New Outboard
Whether you’re buying a new boat or repowering your existing fishing platform, properly breaking in a new outboard motor is one of the most important things you can do to ensure years of worry-free performance—and avoid potential pitfalls with the warranty.
“Following the manufacturer’s recommended break-in procedures definitely increases your odds of enjoying many seasons of successful fishing adventures without running afoul of engine problems,” says veteran guide and tournament competitor Scott Glorvigen.
“Every outboard owner is excited to get out and see what their new powerplant can do, but this is actually the most critical time in the life of the engine,” he explains.
“It’s worked for me,” he adds. “In all my years of guiding and competing in tournaments, I’ve never had mechanical problems with a motor that was properly broken in.”
Plus, he cautions, ignoring these critical guidelines could void the manufacturer’s warranty, leaving you on the hook for costly repairs caused by early abuse in the engine’s career.
Thankfully, breaking in a new outboard is a simple affair.
“Start by reading the owner’s manual, and if you have any questions, contact the dealer where you bought the motor,” Glorvigen says. “Don’t wing it based on what you’ve done with other engines in the past, because newer outboards may require a whole new set of break-in procedures. And there are different steps for two- and four-stroke engines, even for two-strokes of differing horsepowers.”
He advises paying close attention to all guidelines, including how to start the motor and recommended durations of various throttle positions and RPMs. “Fuel is key, too,” he adds. “And don’t overlook the extra oil requirements of some two-strokes, or any recommended service after the break-in.”
Besides getting your engine off to a great start, the break-in period also gives you the opportunity to safely get a feel for how the boat handles and the motor operates.
“This helps you get comfortable with your new set-up before tackling big water or running wide open,” he says, adding, “You wouldn’t take a new car out and race it around a track at full throttle the first time you drove it. The same should be true for boats and motors.”
When breaking in a motor equipped with information systems like Mercury’s SmartCraft gauges, Glorvigen carefully notes readouts on water and oil pressure, oil temp, trim angle, battery output, RPMs and other pertinent data.
“The information gives you a profile of how everything operates under certain conditions,” he says. “I jot the readings down in a notebook or on my smartphone for future reference.”
Glorvigen also notes that break-in guidelines aren’t only for new engines. “Overhauled outboards often require a little TLC before full operation,” he says. “If you’ve had major engine work done over the winter, be sure to check with the mechanic or service manager for their recommended break-in procedures.”
Before hitting the water for the first time with a new or overhauled engine, Glorvigen also recommends taking a moment to make sure the boat is as ready to go as you are, and that you have everything aboard for a safe and enjoyable outing.
“Fully charge the battery, double-check the fuel level, and give the boat and trailer a quick inspection to make sure everything is in place and buttoned down,” he says.
“Boat dealers do a great job getting rigs ready to go, but they’re only human,” he continues. “I once had a new prop spin off when I put the engine in reverse because the prop nut wasn’t locked down tight enough, and a friend’s steering was hooked up so the boat headed for port when he turned the wheel starboard.”
In a similar vein, make sure you have all required personal flotation devices, plus docking lines, cushions and other necessities of life on the water.
“Finally, make sure the trolling motor battery is charged up, too, just in case,” he adds. “And if all else fails, a trusty paddle can save the day if things go wrong on your maiden voyage.”