Your boat’s oil can help reveal various issues


There’s a lot of information in a drop of blood. That’s why every medical professional relies on blood tests as a means of diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could measure the health of our boat motors so easily?

We can. In fact, more and more technicians are looking at engine oil samples to shortcut trouble shooting.

Oil samples

A visit with BoatUS officials provides insight about oil samples and what they indicate. They say some marine mechanics are recommending that oil samples be taken annually to assess engine health and possibly head off costly repairs.

While a single sample doesn’t tell a great deal, it does provide a baseline for future comparison. Even at that, a single sample may show an impending problem.

Actual oil analyses can cost as little as $25 by mail, or at a repair shop that is equipped and well versed.

Useful indicator

Oil samples can include tests, like a spectral exam, which indicates the quantity of metals and additives in the sample, useful for finding excessive wear on bearings, pistons, rings, cylinders and other internal components.

Viscosity is also measured. It is the thickness of the oil at a specific temperature which can show fuel dilution, ineffective oil enhancers and more.

Flash point tests can test the temperature at which oil vapor ignites, something that can indicate contamination.

Oil analysis can also find indications of abrasive solids that are most often the result of incomplete combustion. At the cost of marine engines, it may be a smart move to ask your marine dealer’s service manager about the process, cost, and value of an oil analysis.

Other issues

On another boating issue, actually three issues, one might consider some basic skills either learned or reviewed. No. 1 is trim tab basics, second is the fine art of docking, and the third, how to beach a boat without damaging anything in the process.

Go to — — to view videos on these three skill areas.

Keep in mind that most small boats are not equipped with trim tabs but outdrives and outboard motors can also affect the performance of a boat with small adjustments to the trim, or angle, while the craft is underway.

Good, safe boaters never stop learning.


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Mike Tontimonia has been writing weekly columns and magazine features about the outdoors for over 25 years, a career that continues to hold the same excitement for him as it did at the beginning. Mike is a retired educator, a licensed auctioneer and marketing consultant. He lives in Ravenna, Ohio and enjoys spending time at his Carroll County cabin. Mike has hunted and fished in several states and Canada from the Carolinas to Alaska and from Idaho to Delaware. His readers have often commented that the stories about his adventures are about as close to being there as possible. He is past president of the Outdoor Writers of Ohio and a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America. Mike is also very involved in his community as a school board member and a Rotarian.



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