Tom's Old Evinrude Johnson Outboard Boat Motor Tune Up Site
1952-1967 Evinrude and Johnson 3 HP Lightwin Tune Up Project
The purpose of this site is to share my experience and offer free practical advice and tricks to tune up specific old Evinrude and Johnson outboard boat motors so that you will feel comfortable doing the same. In addition, I will give some background history on each of these motors so that you will appreciate them better. If you have one of the outboard boat motors that I talk about in these "Tune Up Projects", and you want to tune up your own old Evinrude or Johnson outboard boat motor to get it running well, this is the place for you. While this site is no replacement for a service manual, the pages which describe these tune up projects contain step by step instructions as well as pictures which go far beyond what you would get in a typical service manual. As time goes on, I hope to add more "Tune Up Projects" to the list below. Please visit the New Facebook Fan Page and let us know that you were here. Positive feedback is always appreciated but I can take the criticism as well.
Tom's Tune Up Projects
1995 Johnson 15 HP
I fondly remember growing up in the 1960's spending summers fishing with my grandfather in southern Indiana. My Grandfather who was a Kentucky coal miner and eventually retired from Chrysler Motor Corporation as a factory worker was viewed by many as mechanically talented. He was also the best fly-fisherman I have ever met. My Grandfather enjoyed his retirement tying flies and maintaining his fishing equipment, including his boat motor in the winter and fishing on most days during the summer. My grandfather repaired small engines in his single car garage during the summer. People came from all around to get their lawnmowers fixed right. I think he did this mostly out of love of tinkering because he certainly did not charge much money for his labor. I remember helping him during the morning and early afternoon working on lawnmowers, cutting grass, tending the garden, or whatever else needed done so that he could be free to go fishing in the afternoon. Upon retirement, my grandfather bought a 16 foot aluminum john boat and a brand new Evinrude 3 hp Lightwin motor which was perfect to take to the stripper pits and go fly fishing along the banks. My earliest memories of boats and motors are from these days. I was always amazed how easy his motors were to start and how well they ran. He also had a Lawn Boy push mower that started every time on the first pull and was the best mower I ever used. I now realize that his Evinrude boat motor and Lawn Boy mower motor were both made by the same Outboard Marine Corporation and were both two cycle motors with many interchangeable parts.
My Grandfather told me, and I remember it well, that "When it comes to motors, if everything is assembled and adjusted correctly then it will run well." "If it does not start or run well, then there is a problem that you have to find and fix or tune up". This is one of the many truths in life that he taught me.
My grandfather was a talented man. He was not a wealthy man, but he got along well and with his talents and accomplished many things. He built several small fishing boats out of wood. He was a skilled carpenter and built several houses. He even built a popup camper long before anyone ever heard of such a thing. He tied his own cork popper flies and kept us all supplied for fishing. He had a great appreciation for the inventions that made his life better. He marveled at his Colman lantern and stove he used for camping. He had a Silvertrol electric trolling motor that was exceptionally quiet for fishing along the banks. His new aluminum boat was light enough for one man to handle loading and unloading from the racks on top of his fishing car. And he was proud of his Ocean City #90 automatic fly reel because he spent most of his time casting a fly rod with in one hand and running a trolling motor with the other. He felt that Mr. Coalman made a good cooler that kept our drinks cold on a hot summer day, and Mr. Evinrude made a wonderful 3 hp Lightwin boat motor that was easy to carry and mount on his boat.
Now that I am in my 40's, I am appreciating the good days I had growing up. I still spend time carrying on the tradition of fly fishing with my father and my children. The equipment we have today is newer, more advanced, bigger, and most of all expensive. I've been fortunate enough to have and do things that my grandfather could never afford but somehow something is missing. I take my daughters and son fishing and like any kids that have the opportunity, they all love to drive the boat. Somehow they are not getting the same experience with the high power, high tech, 4 stroke engine that I have on my fishing boat today. My son and I are in Boy Scouts together and I am a councilor for the Environmental Science Merit Badge. One of the lakes that I want to take the scouts to has a 10 hp limit so I found myself in need of a small motor. A friend of mine realizing what I was wanting to do with the scouts gave me a couple small motors that he said he was too old to pull the rope to get them started. These motors were a 1963 Evinrude 3 HP Lightwin which I immediately fell in love with because it was just like I remember my grandfather having, and a 1958 Johnson 5.5 HP Seahorse. I knew that these were classic motors. These motors along with a seized up 1996 Johnson 15 hp that I have sitting around, given up as too expensive to have repaired, gave me the challenge I needed for a good winter tune up project.
My hope is to document the tune up of these motors by posting pictures and explanations on this website in such a way that it can be a resource for anyone with a similar motor that needs minor repair or tune up. I will list the specific parts and their catalog numbers that I use and tell you exactly what you need. I hope to do these tune up projects with only simple tools and repair manual. You may have one of these old Evinrude or Johnson outboard motors around that you inherited, or acquired. It may or may not run but chances are it can be made to run well with a complete tune up. You can get pretty much any part you need for an old motor through e-Bay or on the Internet in general. If you have an old outboard, you need to tune it up before you put it on a lake and expect it to fire up and run. Without a good tune up, you could ruin a good outing and find yourself disappointed. It only takes about $100 in parts and some dedicated labor to make a small outboard boat motor run as well as it did when it was new. I learned that some of the parts on these motors will need to be replaced, even if the motor was stored properly but for a long time. Some of the replacement parts are far superior to the original parts so replacing them will definitely help your motor. My desire is not to restore these motors to the point that they are show pieces, but rather to end up with something that I can enjoy using for many years. There are people around who fix up old boat motors to the point where they are show pieces and when offer them for sale. One interesting site is http://www.hotboatcharlies.com/. I saw some of his motors at the Indianapolis Boat Sport and Travel Show and they are truly beautifully restored.
It would cost a fortune to get these motors fixed at a boat dealer service shop. In the case of my 15 hp Johnson, I've been told by a couple places that the motor was not worth fixing and they were more interested in selling me a new motor. Other places will tell you that they do not work on motors that are more than 10 or 20 years old. In reality, these motors are easy to tune up and anyone with the time, patience, and minimal mechanical ability can get one tuned up and running well with relatively little expense. Once you complete one of these projects and you fire it up for the first time, you will have a great deal of satisfaction knowing that you made your old Evinrude or Johnson boat motor run well.
Before you get started you may want to do some reading on the history of Evinrude and Johnson Outboards. I found the following articles fascinating, especially the stories about Oli Evinrude who created an entire industry nearly 100 years ago. Understanding Oli Evinrude and his work developing the two cycle marine engines will give you a great appreciation for the evolution of these motors. One of the articles below tells about how Oli Evinrude tried out his first prototype of a outboard motor in 1909 on a river in Milwaukee. I wonder if there will be any type of historical marker at that location or if anyone will note the 100 year anniversary of such a historical event. I have family in Milwaukee and you can bet that one of these days, I am going to take a small boat and the the oldest motor I have and find that location so that I can putt around just to say I was there. I plan to read more on the history of boat motors. I found out that the Johnson Motor Corporation was started by some brothers in Terre Haute Indiana. This is only 60 miles from where I live! Oli Evinrude has a son, Ralph Evinrude, who also was instrumental in the development and testing of outboard boat motors. Ralph Evinrude combined Johnson and some other companies to form the Outboard Motor Corporation which is known today as OMC. Karl Kiekhafer started Mercury Marine in 1940 and that company is still going strong today. Mercury is also responsible for many of the advancements in two-cycle outboard boat motors.
Before you get started, you need to find out exactly what motor you have. You will need to know the year, model and serial number of your motor in order to be able to buy the correct parts and not have to return them for a refund. A good parts dealer will not want to sell you anything for your motor unless they know exactly what you have. Guessing at the model and year just does not work. It is surprising to how easy it is to forget the year of your boat motor. If you acquire an old boat motor, chances are you don't know exactly what year and model it is. This critical information is easy to determine if you can locate the motor model and serial number plate which is usually attached to your motor in one or more places. There are web sites you can go to and learn how to derive information from the model number such as the year, whether it is electric or rope start, short or long shaft, and possibly other features like whether the motor is US or Canadian. Once you have identified your motor, you can get a sense of how many and what years that particular motor was produced. This will be helpful when it comes to locating parts because the parts for other motors may also work on your motor. I learned a lot by searching e-Bay for similar motors and reading what the sellers had to say about them. The is also a good way to get idea of what they are worth. As you start to dig through e-Bay, you may even start to see some parts that will fit your motor being offered at a good price.
I found it helpful to get some books on the subject of maintaining outboard motors. It was helpful to read about how two cycle outboard boat motors actually work. The more I read and understood, the more I appreciate just how beautifully simple these machines are. Go to your local library and look in the reference section where you will find service manuals and general outboard motor repair books. A service manual which covers your specific motor is always helpful.
You will want to find some good resources. I found out that the NAPA chain of auto parts stores offered a marine parts catalog and to my surprise, they had a lot of the parts I needed in stock at the local distribution center. Another auto parts store CarQuest has their "Sierra Marine Parts Catalog" which is the same thing with the same part numbers that NAPA users. Finding out what parts are needed was a challenge. Once I knew what I needed, NAPA was able to get them quickly. You also want to find a good OMC marine parts dealer. I generally do not like to buy stuff at the boat dealer and pay their high retail prices but there are some things you can only get there. There are several places on the web where you can shop for marine parts. You need to be sure you know that what you are buying is actually what you need for your outboard motor. The problem with these dealers is that they are orientated toward selling parts for a wide range of motors. One of the things I hope to accomplish with this site is tell you exactly what marine parts you need to tune up particular outboard motors. Another thing to do is look up in the phone book and see if there is a boat salvage yard near you. I found one on the south side of Indianapolis which is a short drive from I live and enjoy going there just to look around.
There are several good discussion boards where experienced mechanics are willing to answer questions for do-it-yourself repair people just because they like to help. One site is particular that I like is http://www.iboats.com/cgi-bin/ubb/ultimatebb.cgi I learned a lot from reading questions from people like me who want to fix up their old boat motor. I was amazed the first couple times I posted questions and got back good answers within minutes, even late at night. Some of these guys on the discussion boards are actual marine mechanics with many years experience. They seem to like helping guys like me out by offering answers and advice. As with anything in life, you may have different people offer different solutions.
It is also helpful to locate a locate a local mechanic or experienced friend who would be willing to bail you out if you get into something that is over your head. In my case, I have a friend who use to own a LawnBoy shop. He also worked at a marina in his youth and had to repair many rented outboard motors. There are many tricks that can be used to make the job of tuning up these engines easier. You will not find many of these tricks in a service manuals because they may not be the textbook solution.
Arrange a good place to do the work. In my case, I have a garage and basic tools. I made a motor stand with some $5.00 saw horse brackets and a couple 2x4's. I made my motor stand plenty wide and with extra long legs so that when I clamp my outboard motor to it at a comfortable height. When I do projects in my garage, I like to set up a folding table to lay out parts and tools and dedicate that table top to my project until it is completed. I may have other projects on other tables going on but I do not like to get my projects mixed up.
Don't be in a hurry. Hopefully you are doing this for your own enjoyment and satisfaction. For me this is a winter project which I hope will keep me out of the house, away from the TV, and tinkering for several weekends and evenings. If I get to the point where I need a part, I will simply stop, maybe do some cleanup work, and go out and get the part I need before continuing. If I were to work on these motors on any kind of production mode, or for a customer, I don't' think I would enjoy it at all. Since I am doing this for my own enjoyment and satisfaction, I consider working on these motors to be a hobby and I can take all the time I want to do the job right.