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by Max Wawrzyniak - St Louis, Missouri - USA


Onboard Spares 'n Tools

People who know that I run 1950's outboard motors often ask me what onboard spare parts and tools I carry.

(Actually, nobody ever asks, but the marketing experts tell me that if I say others are interested, then you might be interested too.)

click to enlargeThis is the tool and spares "kit" that I carry onboard the AF4. Everything fits inside a plastic container that is kept underneath the spashwell at the stern. This particular container makes better use of the space available than a typical tool box would.

(click images for larger views)

The tools and spares that I carry aboard a boat will vary depending upon the circustances. For example, if I am at a messabout based out of a campground, where cruises will be short and in the immediate area, I see little need to carry other than maybe a spare shear pin or two (see propellers column) along with the tools necessary to install them. Usually, a large pair of pliers will remove the cotter pin and propeller nut, although an adjustable wrench might be kinder on the "flats" of a threaded prop nut. With other boats involved in the group nearby, there is little chance of a breakdown leaving one in dire straits. The 14 foot 1956 aluminum Crestliner boat that I take to antique outboard motor meets usually represents this level of preparedness. You can be sure that I will have tools and maybe some spares in my pickup truck, but I will carry little in the boat on the short 10 or 15 minutes excursions that are the usual activites at these meets. I might also carry a spare propeller, but that is about it.

One can fit quite a bit of crap into these plastic containers

click to enlarge

Those familar with the function of a shear pin (see propellers column, again) might question the necessity of carrying a spare propeller, but as someone who has had the rubber cushioned hub of a propeller fail, allowing the blades to spin freely on the hub, I think it wise to carry the prop. Having (2) props also allows one to have both "speed" (high pitch) and "power" (low pitch) props to use with different loads.

The other extreme of preparedness is when one is traveling long distances through remote areas or without the company of other boats. In these circumstances, more tools and spares are called for, and I generally keep my AF4 cabin skiff stocked to this level of preparedness. I have a full set of wrenches and sockets, several screwdrivers; regular, "needle-nose," and locking (Vicegrip) pliers and a few other misc. tools.

click to enlargeSpare propeller and propeller nut, with shear pins and cotter pins in the pill jar. In the center of the photo are several lengths of brass rod of varying diameters. The hacksaw can be used to cut shear pins of any length needed from the brass rods. Since I often run different engines, the rods and saw allow me to custom-cut a shear pin for just about any old OMC outboard. If you have but a single engine, all you need to carry is a few pins that will fit your engine. Note the worm-screw hose clamps binding the rods together; it is sometimes handy to have a few extra camps onboard.

I suppose that I should point out that the tools carried should be in SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) "inch" sizes and not metric.

Spare parts kept aboard the AF4 consist of a propeller, propeller nut, cotter pins, shear pins, a couple of sparkplugs, a few short lengths of different size fuel hose and a couple of spare "in-line" fuel filters, and a water pump impeller. One advantage of the older OMC engines is the interchangebility of some replacement parts; for example, the pump impeller that I carry fits both the 1957 Johnson 18 hp that I usually run on the AF4, along with the 1956 Johnson 10 that I use on the boat on lakes with 10 hp limits. The spark plugs also fit both of those engines and also the 1955 Johnson 5 1/2 hp engine that serves as an auxilary engine. The pump impeller, however, will not fit the 5 1/2.

click to enlargeA couple of spark plugs, some fuel hose in different diameters, a pair of "in-line" fuel filters (which I use on all of my old outboards), and a waterpump impeller. Also shown is a spare cap for a pressuriezed remote fuel tank (the tank isn't going to hold pressure if you lose the cap overboard) along with a spare hose quick connector for a pressure tank. The wire ties sometimes come in handy for "jury-rigged" repairs.

That 5 1/2 is sort of a "spare" as well. I have never had to use the spare engine to get to where I was going but I still like to carry it on the AF4, which is fitted with a lifting bracket for it. The 5 1/2, featured in the first "Start to Finish" series of columns, replaced a 3 hp that really did not have the power to handle the AF4 in wind or current. Also, the main engines use pressureized remote fuel tanks (see pressure tank column) as does the 5 1/2, whereas the 3 hp used an engine- mounted, gravity-fed fuel tank that required me to carry a small portable gas can for refueling it. The 5 1/2 can be run with the main tanks.

click to enlargeA cheap set of "combination" (open-end and box-end) wrenches, screwdrivers in both regular and phillips types, with several sizes of each, and a small set of socket wrenches. Pliers in "regular," locking, and needle-nose varieties, and an adjustable (Crescent) wrench. That's a set of "feeler" gauges next to the needle-nose pliers, for setting spark plug gaps and ignition point gaps.

The Crestliner is not set-up for a spare engine, but then I rarely travel far from "home base" in that boat I always carry a paddle in both boats, and last spring I used the paddle in the Crestliner to good advantage when I "blew-up" the 1940 Johnson I was running that day. I was upwind of the dock and not too far out and managed to "sail" back to the marina using the paddle to steer and to control leeway.

click to enlargeMisc. items: spare boat plugs in the (2) different sizes used on my AF4: extra batteries (AA size) for the little flashlights that I have onboard, a starter rope to be used if the recoil starter on an outboard fails, electrical tape, teflon plumbers tape (used to seal the threads on the cheap plastic garboard drain plugs I installed on the AF4), and a pill bottle containing some spare hardware for the bimini top.

As previously mentioned, most of the engines I run use pressureized remote fuel tanks, and each tank has it's own fuel hose permanently mounted. Remote tanks for outboards equiped with fuel pumps often have a quick connector at both the outboard and also on the remote tank, allowing one fuel hose to be used with two or more tanks. I will not leave the dock for all but the shortest cruises in the friendliest of waters without at least (2) fuel hoses on board, even if I only have one remote tank. The fuel hose assembly is easy to damage, especially the primer bulb of fuel hoses for fuel pump-equiped engines. I have had "O" rings in quick conenctors tear, destroying the seal and preventing the fuel pump from drawing fuel from the tank. Countless rubber fuel hoses have been cut by bouncing tackle boxes, deck chairs, and other gear. Since the hoses are permanently clamped to pressure tanks, I prefer to carry (2) small tanks rather than one big tank, which not only provides redundent hoses but also redundant tanks, as old pressure tanks, inherently more complicated than fuel pump tanks, are a bit more prone to problems.

click to enlargeMy suggested tool kit for anyone running a 1950's/ 1960's OMC outboard: a set of combination wrenches, an adjustable wrench, locking pliers, (2) different sizes of both regular and phillips screwdrivers, electrical tape, spare fuel filter (if your engine uses one, and it should), and spare prop., prop nut, shear pins and cotter pins.

A word about spark plug fouling, where the inner end of the spark plug becomes so caked with carbon and other crap that it doesn't spark any more, and the engine doesn't run any more. Decades ago, this was a common problem with outboards. Fouled plugs rarely occur today, as modern 2-cycle oils burn very cleanly and leave few deposits behind. I have not fouled a spark plug since 1994, although I do make a habit of replacing the plugs every year or two, whether they need to be replaced or not. It is still a good idea to carry spare plugs, however, on the longer trips. Although a fouled plug can be removed from the engine, cleaned, and reinstalled, one would be suprised by the number of cleaned plugs that accidentally end up dropped into the deep.

The ultimate spare; a complete second engine. Of course, it adds weight, takes up space, and is an added expense.

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A final note: A person who has resurrected an old outboard purchased at a garage sale or flea market will have an advantage on the water if and when trouble occurs over a person who has never cleaned the carburetor or replaced the fuel lines or adjusted the points on his outboard. Being familar with your engine can eliminate much of the mystery of dealing with engine problems on the water.

A little practical mechancal experience can be the most usefull "tool" one can possess on a boat.

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