Choosing the Best Boat Engine Oil
Boating and fishing are popular activities for people across the nation, with the 2013 Special Report on Fishing and Boating indicating that 47 million Americans went fishing in 2012, 46.8 million participated in a boating activity and 21.2 million owned a boat.
Most anglers work full-time and have precious little time for fishing. To maximize their time on the water, they need lubricants that protect their motors from wear despite challenging operating conditions.
Much like automotive engines, marine motors are becoming more advanced and tougher on oil. Four-stroke motors are becoming lighter and produce more low-end torque than before. They’ve largely closed the performance gap on two-stroke motors. In fact, sales of four-stroke motors are on the rise, while two-stroke sales have declined.
Boat Engine Options
Boat applications can be broken down into four primary methods of propulsion. Available in both two- and four-stroke designs, outboard motors are self-contained units (engine, gearbox and propeller/jet drive) that mount outside the hull of the boat; inboard motors are enclosed within the hull; sterndrive (inboard/outboard) designs situate the engine forward of the transom, with the drive unit outside the hull; and jet motors propel the boat by drawing water into a pump and ejecting it out the stern. According to the 2013 Special Report on Fishing and Boating, 53.1 percent of boats are powered by outboard motors, while 16 percent feature inboard motors, 15 percent have sterndrive motors, 3.3 percent have jet motors and 12.7 percent are not motorized.
Demanding Operating Conditions
Marine motors are characterized by high-rpm operation that can shear the molecular structure of oil and reduce its ability to protect against wear. On average, a marine motor propelling a boat 30 mph operates at 5,000 rpm,while an automotive engine at 60 mph operates around 2,000 rpm. The added heat and stress invite wear and deposits. Heavy deposits can cause piston rings to stick. Stuck rings lead to compression loss, which reduces power. Stuck rings can also lead to catastrophic piston scuffing.
The marine operating environment creates additional challenges for oil. Marine motors are constantly exposed to humid air. The moisture the motor ingests increases the likelihood of corrosion compared to automotive engines. Water-cooled marine motors also run at lower temperatures than air-cooled engines, so moisture in the oil doesn’t evaporate as readily. Plus, when the motor is shut down for the day, moist air continues to enter the engine as it cools, increasing the risk for corrosion, especially if the oil doesn’t contain anti-corrosion inhibitors.