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Old 14-08-2021, 14:12   #1
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Are propane outboards worth considering?

I am considering a Mercury or Tohatsu propane outboard. Every time I convince myself to order one I read another negative review. It seems people either love them or hate them. There didn't seem to be any middle ground.

Does anyone have any first hand experience with either of these?

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Old 14-08-2021, 14:23   #2
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Re: Are propane outboards worth considering?

I have a 5hp Lehr that I've owned for a few months. I like it well enough. It goes surprisingly far (about an hour) at moderate throttle on a 1lb bottle. With a fitting, I can refill 1lb bottles off my boat's propane tank. It's nice not to haul and store yet another fuel. The motor starts on the first pull, and I don't worry about ethanol damage or the sun baking fuel deposits onto the carb guts. It is no quieter than a gas outboard, but there is no exhaust smell either. None. Other than those, I can't think of any way that this motor is any different from a gas motor of equivalent horsepower.
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Old 14-08-2021, 14:32   #3
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Re: Are propane outboards worth considering?

I really do not see any advantage. They are not terrible, they work fine. The technology is easy.

But for a cruising boat who is ACTUALLY cruising, propane is a PITA as an engine fuel. In terms of volume (which is what counts on a boat) it requires a LOT more space for the same energy as gasoline.

In more remote places getting it is a real hassle, it is almost always available, but not close to the water. I put up with it as a cooking fuel because we can get some when ever it is easy because we can carry 6 months of cooking gas in three ten pound bottles.

If I needed to source a pound of propane for every hour of dinghy operation, I'd be tearing my hair out.

For people who's idea of cruising is a couple weekend trips a summer, that's not an issue.
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Old 14-08-2021, 14:43   #4
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Re: Are propane outboards worth considering?

We have a 5 HP Tohatsu. We don't use it on a regular basis so not having the carburetor clog is a benefit. Once on the transom of the dinghy and hose connected, it takes a couple minutes for the propane to make its way from the external tank to the engine. After the first start, it typically starts on the first pull from then on. Weight wise, it's comparable to a gasoline powered four-stroke. If I had my choice, I'd prefer to have a two-stroke though. At sixty pounds, moving it to/from the stern rail to the dinghy can be awkward.
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Old 14-08-2021, 14:45   #5
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Re: Are propane outboards worth considering?

billKny,

How do you store the gasoline for your dinghy? I've always been uncomfortable about that. I don't like propane either but its easier to store (at least in my opinion).

Gary
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Old 14-08-2021, 14:56   #6
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Re: Are propane outboards worth considering?

We cruise for about 3 months at a time. The FL Keys to the Outer Banks, N.C. and the Bahamas is our usual cruising area so getting propane should not be a problem, I hope. I was more concerned with reliability. Difficulty starting was the usual complaint for those who don't like them but I suspect that poor procedure/air in the line is the real problem.

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Old 14-08-2021, 15:25   #7
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Re: Are propane outboards worth considering?

We have a Lehr 5hp.. Issues: corrosion and finding parts as the company is out of business
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Old 14-08-2021, 15:53   #8
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Re: Are propane outboards worth considering?

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Originally Posted by seafarer31569 View Post
billKny,

How do you store the gasoline for your dinghy? I've always been uncomfortable about that. I don't like propane either but its easier to store (at least in my opinion).

Gary
We carry the 6 gallon tank of dingy gasoline on deck. We carry a spare 2 gallon tank in the vented propane locker. On an three month cruise we will often use all this fuel, but every fuel dock you visit will have gasoline to refilling is not an issue.

When we get back from our cruise we give away any unused gasoline. It is always appreciated.

Our outboard usage is very sporadic, often unused for 9 months at a time so some years the fuel passages to the jets need to be cleaned but the convenience, power , range, etc of the gasoline outboard have convinced me that it's the best choice.

Using a gasoline outboard and carrying fuel has worked for us for 35 years on this boat, and the motor we have now is 21 years old and runs great (2 stroke Merc).
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Old 14-08-2021, 16:24   #9
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Re: Are propane outboards worth considering?

Do you know how many propane outboards I've seen cruising Mexico and the Sea of Cortez?

Zero.

Now that doesn't mean a few are not out here since we first came down in 2007, but they are in such small number that I would worry about finding qualified people to work on them.
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Old 15-08-2021, 08:14   #10
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Re: Are propane outboards worth considering?

We are currently using a 2 stroke Mercury 2.5hp that we bought in 2004. Never did like carrying gasoline on the boat though. I recently ordered a larger inflatable so I was going to upgrade the motor while I was at it. I do have concerns with the propane motor such as availability of fuel, but since life is a compromise I'm just trying to make the best decision. I'm usually wrong, especially when I over think things.
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Old 15-08-2021, 08:30   #11
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Re: Are propane outboards worth considering?

You could switch to Aspen fuel which has a 5 year lifespan, and avoids the carburettor gumming issues.


Allan.
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Old 15-08-2021, 10:56   #12
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Re: Are propane outboards worth considering?

I have a 5 HP Tohatsu propane engine. It is the HARDEST starting outboard I’ve ever owned.
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Old 15-08-2021, 11:46   #13
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Re: Are propane outboards worth considering?

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I have a 5 HP Tohatsu propane engine. It is the HARDEST starting outboard Iíve ever owned.
I think you need to clean your carburetor and check that spark is strong.

Did this on my Merc 5 hp & cured all problems.

Apollo Wayne
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Old 15-08-2021, 11:55   #14
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Re: Are propane outboards worth considering?

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I think you need to clean your carburetor and check that spark is strong.

Did this on my Merc 5 hp & cured all problems.

Apollo Wayne
The problem has been there since new. Two trips to the dealership and the problem persists. I will try your carb advice.
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Old 15-08-2021, 12:10   #15
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Re: Are propane outboards worth considering?

Ouch! If it's been there since new & dealer can't fix, I'd suspect something not right when assembled at factory.

If in warranty demand fix or replace, out of warranty, most likely, you're on your own, but the carb rebuild & spark check is a start, also a compression check.

Opps, just saw you have a propane version, should be the same, but a heart to heart talk with a certified mechanic is really in order, although I do suspect a carburation problem or spark problem still.

Apollo Wayne
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