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Old 20-11-2017, 11:43   #1
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How long can salt water sit in an engine

I see boats on the hook for weeks and months without being moved. They have salt water in their engines. How long before damage sets in?

I looked at an I/O runabout. Did not buy it...yet. If I want to use this boat 3 days in a row is it ok to let the salt water sit in the engine that long?

I would flush the engine after the 3 or 4 days.
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Old 20-11-2017, 11:47   #2
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How long can salt water sit in an engine

For your IO your fine doing as you say.
In truth I donít think most flush regularly, and itís most important in my opinion to flush before you know the Boat will sit unused for a time.
Your IO and most inboard motors have a heat exchanger, itís fresh water in the engine and salt in the heat exchanger.
All outboards that I know of use salt only, and there are some, mostly older inboards that are salt water cooled.
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Old 20-11-2017, 12:01   #3
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Re: How long can salt water sit in an engine

Whether on a hook or in a slip, it's normal for engines to have saltwater in them. Mine and others use a heat exchanger so the water jackets of the engine aren't themselves subjected to it.

Three days you'll be fine with just about anything. Long-term resilience is going to depend largely on the engine and type of preparation the manufacturer gave it for the marine environment. Some engines don't have any preparation and will not last long...but it'd probably be measured in months at the least, not days.

What is the model runabout you're looking at?
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Old 20-11-2017, 12:20   #4
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Re: How long can salt water sit in an engine

My 2011 Mercury 5 hp 4 stroke outboard that I use as my sailboat's main auxiliary engine has been flushed with clean water 3-4 times in 6 years. (about the same number of times as I've changed the impeller)

I usually leave it down (in the water) after returning from a daysail, weekend or vacation cruise for a day or so also.

Many times after I reach my "cruising" destination the outboard stays down while I'm there for a few days

No problems with saltwater so far.

I do try to "flush" it at least once a week though in the saltwater it sits in

This outboard is maybe my 7th or 8th and the first one I bought new. I did the same with the others but at least they weren't attached to a boat in a slip 24-7-365. They were on fishing/ski boats
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Old 21-11-2017, 13:38   #5
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Re: How long can salt water sit in an engine

American V. - it was an 18' Searay. I was driving by and the boat looked clean. I am on the east coast of Florida and do not see many runabouts in this area, so it caught my attention.

The owner said he flushed the engine after every use.

Since I am retired I can see me using the watercraft maybe 5 times in a week, then maybe let it sit 2 weeks. I would only want to flush one time before it sits for two weeks.

It is good to know that salt water sitting in an engine a few days will not hurt the engine.
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Old 21-11-2017, 14:12   #6
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Re: How long can salt water sit in an engine

Sit for two weeks in salt. That will play hell with the sterndrive amd bottom
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Old 21-11-2017, 14:20   #7
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Re: How long can salt water sit in an engine

No, the boat would be used in salt water maybe 4 or 5 days in a week. Each time the boat would be pulled out of the water. Then before it would sit for two weeks I would rinse the boat/trailer and flush the engine. Then tow the boat to storage for two weeks. I would repeat this usage pattern. Kinda get my fill of boating every two weeks.
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Old 21-11-2017, 16:10   #8
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Re: How long can salt water sit in an engine

So, the 45 year old Yanmar in my boat has had salt water in the cooling system every day of that time. Only failed one water pump and an exhaust elbow in that time.
On the other hand, when I was younger (and stupider...) I tried not flushing my 3.5hp Tohatsu outboard to see what would happen...within a year of only occasional use the cooling plate above the cylinder head has exploded as the salt crystalised and expanded within, with the other cooling ways (presumably) are going the same way. Interestingly, 20 years later I still have that outboard and it still goes really well (never flat out for more than a few minutes tho). Evidently at low-mid RPM and on 25:1 (instead of 50:1) fuel it apparently doesn't need a cooling system - saved me changing at least 10 impellers, and in fact I have done nothing to it at all except use it in this time. No flushing no water pump service, not even a new spark plug - cant kill these things with a stick!
PS: I do not recommend the zero maintenance approach tho - just reporting the results in my case...
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Old 21-11-2017, 19:34   #9
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Re: How long can salt water sit in an engine

The best thing to do is find a freshwater boat ramp and back it down there. Start and flush it. Bonus is it gets all that freshwater into all the parts of your trailer that just using a hose doesnít get.
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Old 21-11-2017, 19:49   #10
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Re: How long can salt water sit in an engine

Ok an outboard doesn't have saltwater or fresh water in the engine after use . It drains back out with small pockets in several small places in the heads . The problem for them is the salts that are allowed to dry and collect in various locations and building up in till it actually becomes a problem. I have had my tohatsu 8HP in the water now for 5 straight years just pulled when checking the lower oil for water each spring . No problems( the motor gets run at least once a month in till fully warmed up) still looks like new.
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Old 22-11-2017, 04:41   #11
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Re: How long can salt water sit in an engine

I have see pictures of salt crystallized in the cooling passages of an engine. Typically these are boats kept on a lift on salt water canals me thinks.

I was told there are solutions to help disolve salt deposits in an engine. How you run the solution thru the engine is a mystry to me.

That is an idea, to run the boat in fresh water to rinse the trailer and boat and flush out the engine. I might be able to do that but most of the water that is close is brackish at best. Actually, most of the boats use will be in brackish water, not really ocean salt water. That has to help some. Even if used in the ocean the boat launch is on the ICW.
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Old 22-11-2017, 07:04   #12
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Re: How long can salt water sit in an engine

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Originally Posted by tuffr2 View Post
I was told there are solutions to help disolve salt deposits in an engine. How you run the solution thru the engine is a mystry to me.
A bucket. However, its not 100% successful if the salt crystals have been allowed to form. I spent a week zooming up and down the River Thames with a Yam 115hp 2 stroke on the the back of a rib. Once back home gave the engine a really good service including inspecting the thermostats. I was quite shocked to see lots of salt crystals despite the 20 plus hours of fresh water use at normal operating temperatures. I think the solution is to flush as soon as you reach the dock with either engine muff or the later engines have a flush connection.
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Old 22-11-2017, 07:19   #13
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Re: How long can salt water sit in an engine

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Sit for two weeks in salt. That will play hell with the sterndrive amd bottom
No that's not correct. If the hull and stern drive are protected with antifoul paint and the leg trimmed down to protect the hydraulic pistons if they are below the water level or up out of the way if they are above.

This stern drive rib spent each summer moored in a marina without problem and only needing a new anode each year.

Me doing 29 knots, tides? who cares ;-)
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Old 22-11-2017, 08:04   #14
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Re: How long can salt water sit in an engine

You'll be fine doing what you are suggesting.

It's lack of use that really kills powerboats of that type. I've had ribs with outboards and Fiberglass sportsboats with I/O's, all used exclusively in saltwater.

I spent a lot of time rinsing off with freshwater after use where possible and spraying WD40 everywhere, in order to prevent rusting of every above-water fitting, but in terms of flushing the engines, meh, not really that bothered.

I had some boats in a location where it was easy to do so I did it, I had others located where there was no freshwater on tap so I didn't. I saw absolutely no difference in engine or outdrive maintenance requirements between the two approaches. The main thing is that you use the boat. Get it up to temp regularly, change the fluids annually, you'll be fine.
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Old 23-11-2017, 14:18   #15
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Re: How long can salt water sit in an engine

Your plan look like you'll be fine. You may want to run Salt-away through it several times a year, just to be on the safe side. Otherwise, just keep an eye on the zincs and make sure the out-drive is out of the drink when you tilt it up.
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