Before You Start

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 over 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 an outboard motor in 1909 on a river in Milwaukee.  I wonder if there is any historical marker at that location or if anyone has noted 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 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.  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 with Johnson in 1936 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.


OLE EVINRUDE (1877-1934)

OLE EVINRUDE (1877-1934)



Karl Kiekhaefer

 Karl Kiekhaefer, founder of Mercury Marine Company History

Before you get started, you need to find out exactly what motor you have. You will need to know the year, model and the serial number of your motor 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 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 what year and model it is. The model number is usually on a metal tag attached to the left side of the lower unit.  There are websites 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 from the US or Canadian. Also, the paint color of the motor will help you determine the year.  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 an 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.

Archive of OMC's old model-year website

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 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 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.  In my projects, I have links to where you can buy the specific parts that I used.  Buying from Amazon helps to support this site and fund further projects.  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.

Free Marine Parts Catelogs

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  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 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 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 sawhorse 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 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 production mode, or for a customer, I don't' think I would enjoy it at all.  Since I am doing this for my 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.

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