Swapping out old outboards isn’t as simple as you may think, but it’s worth the effort and expense to upgrade to high-tech digital motors.
Father Time has no mercy. He wields his scythe and eventually everything, animate or inanimate, gives up the ghost. Your generous maiden aunt, your favorite dog, even your outboard motor—all tend to expire at the worst possible moment. Nothing you can do about the first two, but the third? Totally under your control. Swap your middle-aged outboards while they’re still firing on all cylinders. You won’t be buying just new engines, you’ll get new technology, too.
In the past decade, outboards have gone high-tech. They have digital brains under their cowlings, digital controls at the helm, active throttle adjustment and auto trim for skippers sick of fiddling with rocker switches. They’re fuel-efficient, less polluting and ultrareliable. Repower now, especially if it’ll add a few extra horses, and your boat will be faster and burn less fuel.
However, there is reason to approach a repower with caution: Swapping outboards may seem like an easy deal—unbolt the old, bolt on the new, hook ’em up and go—but most of the time there’s a lot more to it, at least if you want to get the most out of digital motors and protect your investment at the same time.
Is It Time?
When is it time to repower? Mike Praolini, service manager and repower expert at Nautical Ventures, a boat/motor dealership and service facility in South Florida, said he’s seen plenty of four-stroke outboards with 2,000 hours on the meter, and some super-wellmaintained motors with nearly 5,000 hours. Nevertheless, some Nautical Ventures customers change their motors when the warranties run out, so they’re always covered. (Motor manufacturers love those guys!) That’s new motors every four or five years, on average, while they’re still attractive as trade-ins. The market is strong for late-model, well-maintained used outboards, Praolini said. Swapping outboards while they’re still in their prime costs a few bucks,
Today’s outboards have a wealth of new technology under the cowling.