The first thing you want to do after you pick up your new boat and outboard is go fishing, or at least take the new rig out for a shakedown. But what outboard manufacturers want you to do is carefully read through the engine owner’s manual, especially the section on the recommended break-in procedure.
Different engines require different measures, but nearly everyone knows the general routine. A typical break-in procedure usually calls for something like running the engine at idle for the first 10 minutes. Then you can run it at varying speeds, not to exceed half-throttle, for the next hour. For the next two hours you’re typically allowed to get on plane at full throttle, but must immediately pull back to at least three-quarters throttle. Again, vary the engine speed, and don’t run wide-open for more than a minute at a time. Finally, for the next seven hours of the engine’s young life, you can operate it at varying speeds across the throttle range, but keep full-throttle runs to five minutes or less.
Sure, it may seem like 10 hours of torture when all you really want to do is have fun—preferably at wide-open-throttle. But there’s a good reason to baby your new outboard along. Our friends at Mercury Marine explain:
“Engine break-in is performed to manipulate certain surfaces within the engine. Even with current machining processes, there may still be some irregularities on machined and honed surfaces.
“The break-in process allows the engine to wear down the high spots of these irregularities, and essentially provide a smoother surface before the engine experiences the rigors of normal use. The main areas of break-in focus would be the cylinder walls, cam lobes, clutch engagement surfaces, and gear engagement surfaces.”
In short, breaking your outboard in right will help it maintain tighter tolerances and better lubrication of moving parts, ensure smoother operation, and prolong engine life. So, break out the manual and follow the steps specific to your new outboard. Surely, it’s a small inconvenience when you consider the many years of enjoyment you’ll reap in return.