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Salvage Your Submerged Outboard, Part 2

Salvage Your Submerged Outboard, Part 2

In Part 1 of this article, we wrote about the initial steps when rebuilding an engine which spent some time under water. Naturally, the sooner you get it out of the water, the better. However, as we mentioned, you shouldn’t do it if you haven’t prepared everything else, or you risk rusting your engine and potentially ruining it completely.

In most cases, it’s best to hire a professional to do this. There are plenty of ship repair companies in San Diego, so you are spoilt for choice. Make sure that you check the credentials of the company before you hire them.


In Part 1, we described the initial steps in rebuilding a water-damaged outboard engine. Here’s a brief recap. Once you get it out of the water, you need to hose it down with fresh water to remove the salt. Next, you remove the alternator and the starter and rinse them individually, followed by through hosing down. All of the parts are full of water, so the next step is drying them off as soon as possible.

Flushing the Engine

Now the engine is free of salt and as dry as you could make it. However, there are still places where water is pooled. That’s why you need to flush the engine. The way it’s done is with diesel fuel. The idea is that the fuel will displace all of the water out of the system. Oh, and this part can get messy, so if you are trying this by yourself, make sure that you have a bucket or something bigger under the engine. Professionals have specialized tools and equipment for these situations.

Unlike what most people think, you’re not starting the engine. Not just yet. Instead, you need to use a squeeze bulb to squirt diesel into the air intakes. Keep doing that until the diesel starts flowing out of the spark plug holes. If you don’t have a squeeze bulb, a turkey baster will serve the purpose.

After that, repeat the process with the crankcase, and every other part of the engine. Reverse the process. Start pumping oil through the spark plug holes until it pours the other way. Replace the lowest sparkplug and pump more diesel in; repeat the process until you’ve replaced all of the spark plugs. Manually crank the engine a few times, just to spread the diesel equally around the engine. Take the spark plugs out again and let the diesel drain out. The engine itself is now clear of water and safe from corrosion.


Finally, the fuel lines will need to be flushed as well. Even the smallest amount of water in these lines can render all of your effort worthless. Simply disconnect them from both ends and flush them out with diesel. The same goes for the internal fuel tank (f your engine has one).


You’ve done all you could. The only thing that’s left to do is assemble everything except the spark plugs and hope for the best. Hook it up to a battery and turn it a few times to get the diesel out of the cylinders. Now you can replace the spark plugs and start the engine. Don’t forget to hook up the cooling system, too.

Final Touches

If you’ve been successful, your engine will start normally. Make sure it runs for at least 20 minutes to evaporate any water that may have stayed hidden somewhere. Turn the engine off and let it cool. Once it’s cool, spray every surface, wire, and metal bit with a corrosion inhibitor. You should change the oil after 10 hours of operation, just to be on the safe side. 

That’s the second part of the process, read the first part here. This is a relatively complicated process which requires a certain level of skill. If you’re not sure you can do it yourself, don’t risk ruining your outboard engine. There are plenty of ship repair companies in San Diego. However, PCE has over forty years of experience with marine engineering and maintenance. Contact us today for additional information.

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