It is the nightmare of every outboard-owning boater: you’re tooling along when you hit a log or the bottom, your outboard motor mount isn’t as tight as you thought, and suddenly the engine hops right off the transom and goes overboard. Yikes!! Or, maybe you got a bad case of butter-fingers while walking down the dock, and your portable powerplant fell into the water. The same worst-case scenario can arise if your boat sinks in the slip, and your powerhead slips beneath the surface of the water.
Whatever the cause, if your outboard gets an unexpected saltwater bath you’re going to need to take fast action to save it. The process is called “pickling” the engine, and if you do it right – and quickly – you can salvage that engine without any future problems.
Quickly, however, is a key word in the above paragraph. You need to pickle the engine within an hour of removing it from the water, or corrosion inside the engine will kill it dead. So it’s best to learn how to do this process ahead of time. Essentially, it consists of flushing the engine with diesel fuel, and flushing and drying accessory parts like the starter and alternator. To learn the entire process, check out this video on How to Pickle an Outboard. In it, I’ll give you blow-by-blow instructions after I drop an outboard overboard, and then go through the entire process. In the end, by the way, I start it up and run the engine – proving that pickling can, in fact, save your outboard if you’ve lost it overboard – or dropped it from the dock, or submerged it in the slip.