12 Best Outboard Motors in 2023

Ever since human beings have been traveling on the water we’ve been seeking faster and more efficient ways to do so. From oars and sails to jets and propellers— technology has been adapted to marry speed and efficiency, but in the smallest package possible.

More often, today’s boaters are opting for outboard engines for their “go-fast, get-there” boating needs. And why not? The advantages of an outboard engine are numerous. No through-hull requirement for engine cooling, ease of access for engine maintenance, more horsepower for engine weight, ever-adapting technology for greater fuel economy, relatively simple installation, and an increase in the vessel’s overall maneuverability.

Choosing your first outboard can be an overwhelming task as there are so many options on the market, but fear not; we outline some of the best out there and provide a guide below to aid in your decision-making. Read on!

We’ll start by reviewing different types of outboards and then categorizing each engine by horsepower ranges (small/portable, medium, and large) and highlight their features and benefits.

Sort by your needs:

The budget buy

For those looking on a budget for a little secondary/trolling motor, or for an engine to get your dinghy out to your boat’s mooring and back, the Coleman 2.5 horsepower is a fine option for the task and price. In particular, these are popular on inflatable boats of the cheaper variety.

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

3.9

Things we like:

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    Lightweight Portability
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    Quiet performance
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    Inexpensive

Things we don't like:

  • check-markSmall internal fuel tank
  • check-markReports of fuel valve shut-off closing with engine vibration
Read full review

Where to buy:

Coleman 2 5hp Product Image

Coleman 2.5HP

Reliable Dinghy Motor

This little 5-horse, 4-stroke engine works great as a kicker for your dinghy or a trolling motor for fishing. You’ll get between 3-5 MPH on a 10-foot boat, depending on the weight. While it has a built-in tank, there’s an option to connect an external too. Even though it’s not the quietest engine, it’s  a lightweight outboard motor with a price tag that you can bare comfortably over a few years.

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.5

Things we like:

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    Compact/lightweight motor weighing only 60lbs
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    Quiet operation
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    5-year warranty

Things we don't like:

  • check-markThe flimsy carrying handle makes it cumbersome to transfer from the dock or boat to tender
  • check-markSome difficulty starting
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Where to buy:

Suzuki 4-Stroke 5 HP BF5 Outboard Motor

Honda 5 HP BF5

For More Portability

Next up in the portable outboard lineup is the often overlooked Suzuki DF6A. This little kicker is lighter and easier to transport than its competitors in the same HP range and with durable construction.

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.5

Things we like:

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    Weighing only 55lbs, the large, beefy carrying handle makes it easy to transport and mount this engine
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    Easy to start with manual pull
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    External oil sight

Things we don't like:

  • check-markSmall internal fuel tank
Read full review

Where to buy:

Suzuki Df6A Product Image

Suzuki 6 HP DF6A

It should be noted that Mercury Marine is a branch of the Brunswick Corporation that partners with Tohatsu to manufacture outboard engines. Most small-sized Mercury outboards are rebranded Tohatsu engines, like the 9.9HP four-stroke. That being said, there are subtle differences that prompt us to review the Merc over the Tohatsu. Either engine is a great portable with enough oomph to propel your dinghy adventures.

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

3.2

Things we like:

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    Battery-less EFI (electronic fuel injection) for maximum fuel efficiency.
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    Durable construction
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    Beefy carrying handle
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    The smooth shifter on the tiller (not found on the Tohatsu model)

Things we don't like:

  • check-markLoud at high speeds
  • check-markEngine weight hardly qualifies as portable
Read full review

Where to buy:

Mercury 9 9hp Product Image

Mercury 9.9HP

For Torque and Trolling

If you’re looking for a powerful people-and-gear mover, the Merc 15HP Pro Kicker is worth a look. Its comfortable ambidextrous tiller is the only one on the market and its gear ratio and matching high-thrust propeller make it a top choice in the small outboard category.

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.6

Things we like:

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    ambidextrous tiller
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    The shift lever on the tiller vice on the front of the engine
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    4-blade propeller for greater thrust
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    Power-tilt with 6 trim positions

Things we don't like:

  • check-markThe engine weighs 122lbs making its portability questionable
Read full review

Where to buy:

Mercury 15hp Pro Kicker Product Image

Mercury 15HP Pro Kicker

Portable and Efficient

Yamahas are some of the most common on the market—and some of the most expensive. But a reputation for quality comes at a price and quality is what you will find with Yamaha’s 15HP outboard engine.

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.6

Things we like:

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    Convenient on-tiller shift lever
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    Lighter weight than its 15hp competitors
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    Electric start option

Things we don't like:

  • check-markComparatively loud engine at high rpm
  • check-markExpensive
Read full review

Where to buy:

Yamaha 15HP Product Image

Yamaha 15HP

Electric option

If budget isn’t an option, and an environmentally-conscious outboard engine is a priority of yours, Torqueedo is the leader in the electric-powered outboard engines with long and powerful battery life, durable construction, and thrust capabilities comparable to its internal combustion counterparts. They are also extremely portable and lightweight.

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.7

Things we like:

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    beefy construction materials that are resistant to the elements
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    Powerful lithium batteries
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    Smooth and quiet operation
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    Environmentally friendly
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    Disassembles into 3 parts for easy transportation

Things we don't like:

  • check-markNearly 3x as expensive upfront as a gas-powered outboard
  • check-markRequires battery charging capabilities not included with the engine
Read full review

Where to buy:

Torqueedo Product Image

Torqueedo

Great for Jon Boats and Skiing

The Mercury Racing designs incorporate a shorter shaft/lower unit assembly to lower the engine’s center of gravity ideal for shallow-water performance that anglers seek. For this reason, bass hunters are particularly fond of this model.

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.6

Things we like:

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    Lower center of gravity than its 60HP counterparts
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    Short shaft ideal for shallow water operating
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    Easy maintenance

Things we don't like:

  • check-markHeavier design than other 60HP engines
Read full review

Where to buy:

Mercury Racing 60r Product Image

Mercury Racing 60R

Lighter, Less Maintenance

Suzuki DF70A is the brand’s newest generation of its 70HP models, and the least expensive of the mid-sized motors in this review, incorporating improvements such as EFI and a higher gear ratio to provide greater thrust and reduce prop slip.

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.5

Things we like:

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    Excellent fuel efficiency with Electronic Fuel Injection technology
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    Great value for the price
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    Sleek design in either black or white options

Things we don't like:

  • check-markLoud engine
Read full review

Where to buy:

Suzuki Df70a Product Image

Suzuki DF70A

Pontoon Friendly

Yamaha Marine’s reputation for mid-sized and large outboard motors is proven throughout the industry.  They are lightweight, have easy access for maintenance, and their performance is reliable.

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.5

Things we like:

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    lightweight design
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    Quiet operation
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    Great fuel efficiency
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    Easy maintenance

Things we don't like:

  • check-markMost expensive of the 70HP motors
Read full review

Where to buy:

Yamaha F70 Product Image

Yamaha F70

Power and Maneuverability

The Yamaha F300 Offshore model boasts a “97% for reliability” offshore.  Its construction is lightweight without sacrificing on material quality. It is also available in electric-steering models, eliminating the need for hydraulic lines. With features such as Thrust Enhancing Reverse Exhaust for more efficient performance when operating in reverse, as well as Yamaha Shift-Dampening System to eliminate clunky gear switches, the designers and engineers seem to have thought of it all.

These are popular in the Gulf of Mexico for their performance and reliability. Some serious blue water fishing gets done in boats powered by F300s.

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.6

Things we like:

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    Thrust-Enhancing Reverse Exhaust to minimize prop cavitation and increase performance in reverse–making backing into the slip or off the beach a breeze
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    Digital models have autopilot compatibility
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    Anti-theft options available
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    Powerful alternator to keep all electronics charged
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    Stylish design

Things we don't like:

  • check-markWhile the various computer components make the F300 an operator-friendly engine, its sensors tend to be a point of failure.
Read full review

Where to buy:

Yamaha F300 Offshore Product Image

Yamaha F300 Offshore

Quiet and Efficient

Keeping up with the competition means improving the electronic integration abilities of its engines, and Honda’s BF 250HP delivers. Continuing with its V-TEC (Variable Valve Timing & Lift Electronic Control) to maintain optimum torque throughout the engines range, keeping the mechanic in mind redesigned and repositioned parts for better performance and ease of maintenance, and applying its Intelligent Shift and Throttle (iST) for easy maneuvering and multi-engine operations, the Honda BF250 is a smart, reliable option for a large outboard.

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.6

Things we like:

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    NMEA 2000 integration capabilities for easy integration of a wide variety of boat electronics
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    Designed for easy maintenance and mechanical rigging options to appeal to the “old-school” boaters out there
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    Robust alternator for fast charging
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    Smooth, Quiet operation
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    5-year warranty as opposed to competitors 3-year

Things we don't like:

  • check-markMore expensive option than a Suzuki of the same horsepower
Read full review

Where to buy:

Honda Bf250 Product Image

Honda BF250

No Frills Power

You can appreciate Suzuki DF350 for its focus on improving its engine performance when stacked up against the competitors in its weight class. For those not needing all the bells and whistles of computer integration in their outboards, but a reliable engine at a reasonable price, the DF350A can be put on your shortlist.

Our Overall Review

We have thoroughly tested - and read reviews from other experts and users. In summary, this is what we think:

4.5

Things we like:

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    High gear ratio and propeller matching for better thrust
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    Lighter displacement allows for great fuel economy
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    EFI and multi-port injection technology coupled with Suzuki’s Lean Burn Technology
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    Lighter in weight than its Mercury counterpart
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    Quiet, reliable performance

Things we don't like:

  • check-markSome reports of vibrations at low speeds and corrosion
Read full review

Where to buy:

Suzuki Df350a Product Image

Suzuki DF350A

Types of outboards

The most common types of outboards seen on boats today are gasoline-powered internal combustion engines:

Internal Combustion Engines

Two strokes and four strokes

Two-stroke engines complete all cycles of engine operation—air and fuel intake, ignition or power, and exhaust in two strokes or revolutions of the engine pistons.

Four-stroke engines complete all of the steps of engine operation in four separate revolutions of the pistons.

Some benefits of a two-stroke are that it is simpler in design, and therefore a lighter, easier engine to maintain. The power stage occurs each cycle offering greater thrust in a smaller package than its four-stroke counterparts. The fuel efficiency, however, is greatly decreased and its emissions are increased by its gasoline-lubrication oil mixture, making it less environmentally friendly.

In fact, when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was established in the US, policies regulating the emissions of engines were implemented and many manufacturers ceased making two-stroke outboards altogether. Some manufacturers recognized the desire for the lighter weight and higher horsepower demand. So they endeavored to use the same two-stroke technology in the same light package, but with emissions within the specs of the EPA requirements.

Four strokes, while having a more complicated, heavier design owing to more moving parts, are as a whole, more fuel-efficient, quieter, and more eco-friendly. With the growing demand for lower carbon emissions, technology has improved to provide those options in a more compact unit. Truthfully, if you’re willing to read the manual and take the time to look at your engine, the maintenance on a four-stroke engine is quite achievable.

Electric outboards

With increasing awareness about the effects of fossil fuel-powered products on the environment, coupled with the advancing technologies for electricity, solar power, and batteries, recent years have seen a greater demand for electric outboards.

Small/Portable

Horsepower Range: 2.3HP to 20HP

These little outboards are the ideal option as a primary means for propelling your dinghy, kayak, Jon boat, or even small sailboats.  The smaller HP options make great secondary or trolling motors for the fishing folk among you. They are pretty lightweight, making them easy to lift and stow. Some of the best options are as follows:

Choosing an Outboard

So you’re buying your first outboard, congrats!

There’s a lot of information and even more opinions out there on the best brand, size, and horsepower.

So, before you pull out your hard-earned money and give it to an outboard dealer, addressing the following topics for yourself will help narrow down your search and find the right outboard that suits your needs.

Outboard Motors Guy Fishing

Intended Use:

One of the first determining factors to consider before purchasing your outboard is the vessel’s intended use. Are you using it on weekend fishing trips? Does it need to be capable of covering a lot of distance? Perhaps it will be used on a utility boat. Will it be used in freshwater or salt? Will it remain on your boat’s transom or does it regularly need to be removed and stored? Will it be required to move a lot of gear?

For cruisers, that includes cabin cruisers as well as some bow riders, efficiency and noise might be relevant.

Size and Weight:

This one seems obvious, but it bears examination. How much real estate does your boat transom actually have and what size engine or engines can you fit on it? If you desire more than one engine, which options have the best integrations for multi-engine controls? Will it require an outboard with the longer shaft option or a shorter one?

Center console boats operating in bigger surf need to consider this point. Take a look at the Boston Whaler boats–mostly equipped with Mercury engines–to see the profile for motor and purpose.

For portables: how much can you reasonably lift for engine transport and installation mechanically unassisted?

outdoor-motors-speeding-boat

How Much Horsepower? 

While it is tempting to want to purchase the sleekest looking engine with the greatest horsepower, many boats will have a maximum horsepower safety rating. It is important to know this number when shopping as it is dangerous to exceed the vessel’s designed horsepower, and most dealers won’t knowingly sell you an engine that does.

Conversely, it’s important not to aim too small when choosing your engine’s horsepower compared to your boat’s maximum rating so you don’t lose efficiency.

Budget: What is your maximum budget? Taking into account the answers to the above categories, make a list of the outboards which provide the most value and are within your maximum budget.

Common outboard terminology 

Below are a couple of definitions to have an understanding of before making your outboard purchase. Knowing the details of an outboard’s specs and how they benefit you with how you intend to use your engine, will only aid you in making the best selection.

Gear Ratio: gear ratio is the number of crankshaft turns in relation to the number of prop shaft rotations. If an engine has a gear ratio of 2:1, it means that for every 2 rotations of the engine, the propeller turns one time. A 1:1 gear ratio means the prop shaft turns each time the engine does. While it might seem like you would want the prop to turn each time the engine crankshaft does, engines require reduction gear to maximize the torque and the efficiency of propellers based on their pitch and diameter.

Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI): a batteryless method of injecting the appropriate fuel-air mixture directly into the piston chamber for ignition by the spark plug. This method of fuel injection increases the engine’s overall performance, reduces fuel consumption, and eliminates the need for a carburetor, which can get clogged and dirty.

Carbureted Engine: An engine that uses a carburetor to inject the proper mixture of fuel and air into the engine cylinders. While most newer engines have incorporated EFI, some traditionalists still prefer a carbureted engine for its easy troubleshooting and maintenance over a computer system.

Engine Displacement: this refers to the swept volume of the cylinders of an engine, usually measured in liters. Engine displacement is related to the amount of torque and horsepower an engine is capable of, as well it’s fuel economy. Larger engine displacement=more power (but also higher fuel consumption).

Taking care of the machine: Basic Outboard Maintenance

Regardless of what brand-name manufacturer you choose, the life expectancy of any internal combustion engine will greatly rely upon the quality and timeliness of its routine maintenance.

Take care before initial break-in and subsequent normal use to read the provided manual, and layout your engine’s maintenance schedule.

Some consumable items which should always be kept on hand are oil filters, manufacturer-recommended oil,  appropriately sized spark plugs, and fuel filters.

Some routine maintenance items which should be checked before they become a problem

Oil: Check the oil dipstick ideally every time the engine is run.  Look for changes in oil color, adequate oil level, and metal shavings or debris in the oil.

Outdoor Motors Checking Oil

This is good practice, especially after an engine break-in period as gears and pistons straight from the factory will lose tiny metal particles from the friction created from running for the first time. These particles, if left in the oil can reduce the engine’s service life,

If the manufacturer suggests changing the oil every 100 hours, it may pay in the long term to halve that interval for the first oil change.

When changing the oil, precautions should be taken to avoid spilling oil into the environment.

Some tools to make this process easy and clean are a manual vacuum pump:

Or if working with a portable engine, remove the engine from the transom and place it on a service rack.

Ensure you have an appropriate container to catch the old oil as it drains as well as some petroleum product diapers and rags handy should you have an accidental spill.

Remove the oil drain plug on the side of the engine (see engine manual), just above the engine’s lower unit. Once removed, the engine oil will start to drain out into your waste oil container.

Once the oil is completely drained, replace the plug and tighten. Make sure to recycle your old oil at an appropriate facility. Most auto body shops provide this service.

With the plug securely in place, open the oil fill cap and place a funnel in the opening. Using a grade of lubrication oil recommended by the manufacturer, slowly fill the engine with oil. Do not exceed the capacity indicated in the manual.

Outdoor Motors Engine

Spark plugs:  The spark plug(s) is a common item that ought to be inspected and replaced at regular intervals. These little cylindrical pieces provide the tiny spark which ignites the fuel-air mixture during the ignition/power cycle of two and four-stroke engines.

There is one spark plug for each cylinder in a given engine. They are relatively inexpensive and it’s always good to have extras.

Over time, the plug can develop carbon build-up which can prevent the plug from sparking and the fuel from igniting. It’s one of the first places to look when troubleshooting “failure to start” and acceleration issues.

The picture below shows what the carbon build-up on a spark plug looks like with the plug removed from the engine.

Outdoor Motors Sparkplug

In this case, just a small wire brush to clean the carbon was required to get the spark plug clean and the engine running again.

Outdoor Motors Spark Plug And Fuel Filter

Gap distance: each engine has a specific distance between the ground electrode and the center required for proper ignition. If this distance is off, the power cycle will not function properly. Use a gap tool, feeler gauge, or caliper gauge to measure the distance and compare it to the manufacturer’s requirements.

In the case that the spark plug has worn and the gap distance has increased beyond the manufacturer’s ignition system specs, you can adjust the gap by gently bending the ground electrode (curved metal arm) to the required distance.

Spark plugs should be inspected every six months and replaced annually.

Flushing the Engine:

Saltwater can do a number on metal components and engine parts. And since most of the outboards listed above are water-cooled, if you operate your boat on the ocean, saltwater is run through that cooling system, inviting corrosion to start.

To prolong your engine’s service life, it is good to flush it with fresh water after each use in saltwater ideally, or before the boat will be taken out of service for an extended period.

Couplings to conduct a fresh-water flush can be purchased:

Just mount your engine on an outboard service rack such as these:

…Or leave it on the boat on a trailer out of the water.

Attach the flush coupling to the water intake on the engine’s lower unit.

Connect a garden hose to the coupling and turn it on.

Start the engine and let it run for several minutes, flushing the freshwater through its intake and internal components. Your engine will thank you!

Fuel maintenance: a gasoline engine will only run well if it is fed well. An often overlooked factor of engine maintenance is taking care of the fuel you put in your outboard. It’s easy to forget to treat your gasoline with a stabilizer when filling up, and if not used in a timely manner, the fuel can degrade and the engine will not function, or it will run rough.

If you’re able to, mix 50% or more fresh gasoline with the old gasoline to run your engine and use up the old gasoline.

Electrolysis: another factor that becomes an overlooked maintenance item is electrolysis. Electrolysis “refers to the passage of electricity through an electrolyte” (Calder, 486). It can occur when two dissimilar metals are immersed and the current is passed through the metals leading to the transfer of electrons from the “less noble” metal to the “more noble” metal. The result is the corrosion of the less noble metal.

To combat this effect, manufacturers outfit their engines with a “less noble” metal attachments, usually made of zinc, as a “sacrificial anode.” As electrolysis occurs, the zinc corrodes, rather than the important components of your outboard engine, like your propeller and prop shaft .

Outdoor Motors Metal Attachments

In the picture above, you can see the early stages of corrosion on the zinc/sacrificial anode located above the propeller on an outboard motor.

For the sacrificial anodes to work, they need to have contact with naked metal. There must be no paint separating contact between the zinc and the metal surface.

These zincs should be changed for new ones when the corrosion has gotten to an advanced stage.

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