Fishing Trip, Outboard Engine Failure (LONG)

Baldo463

Newbie
Dec 10, 2020
8
4
33
Southern California
Name
Osvaldo
Boat
Looking for one
So this weekend I took my New-To-Me boat out with the family for the 3rd time. Its a 1994 Invader 171 CC with a 2004 Mercury 90hp 4 stroke.

The first two times out we went out of Newport Beach and had a great time. This is my first boat and first time driving one, so yea its been interesting learning to dock and just overall driving the thing. Before our fishing trip to Silverwood Lake this weekend, April 30th, I check the oil and it was clear and beautiful.

Were on the water around 7am and were trolling through Miller Canyon, we knew it was going to be a windy day and sure enough it was pushing us around. So we decided to go to another place, beach the boat, and fish from shore. I head toward the Channel and pick up speed to around 10knt, I can see my 5 year old son is getting a little excited. I pick it up to 23-25k and were cruising for about 10 seconds and then I let off the throttle. While I was expecting the boat to cruise around 10knt, to my surprise it shuts off.

My heart sinks and I reach for the ignition. I try and I try and I try, but it just would not start. I could smell fuel so im thinking maybe its flooded. I decided to give up and float for about 5 mins. After trying to keep my wife and son from being worried, I reach for the key again and it stubbornly starts, but it wasn't the same motor anymore. I picked up speed to 5knt and it sputtered all the way, as we reached 10 knts it died again. At this point, after only being on the water for about 30mins im starting to realize that our fishing trip was coming to an end.

I reach for the key again and I get it going back down the channel toward the dock, but my wife insist that we beach and spend the day on the shore. We find an empty cove on the way back and we beached it for a few hours. I casted a couple rods with anchovies and Garlic nightcrawlers as per a fellow BloodyDecks members recent successful visit to the lake, Drifter023, im not sure if i can "tag" a fellow member. after changing bait a few times we get a bite on the garlic nightcrawler. A nice striped bass. I remove the hook and put another nightcrawler on the hook in the same location, I grab my other rod with anchovie bait on it and swap it out for the nightcrawler and cast it near the same spot as the first bite. no more than five minutes pass and we are Fish ON, with the same rod, another Striped Bass. The adrenaline is overcoming and we are awaiting the next bite but it never comes.

We decided to leave right around noon. I turn the key and it it take a few tries to get it started, were cruising back at 5knt. If i tried to go faster it would shut off. So now were limping back to dock, there was a little traffic so I shift to Neutral and the engine dies. It would not Idle so were going in circles at 5knt until I saw my window. Docking and getting the boat on the trailer was a success. To my surprise my wife starting talking $h*t about how the other boaters were slow to launch and such novices. If she only knew how nervous I was throughout the trip.

I get home and check the oil and sure enough its bad. Milky bad.
Im guessing its a head gasket, why else would there be water in the oil. I have never had any sort of car failure, I take care of all my cars and maintain them well. I used to think, how the hell could anyone blow a head gasket in a car? Now its me in that seat and when it comes to Outboard Engines, I dont even want to touch a bolt.
Is this engine worth diagnosing/saving/selling as is?
Im ready to buy another outboard and get back on the water within a couple weeks. Im even considering buying a kicker engine to get us around the lake. At least we can go back to our newly discovered cove and have a good season.

So if anyone is selling an outboard under 60-115hp 4 stroke shoot me a message.
Also, what should i do with the Mercury?

Thanks for reading and any suggestions,
Ozzy

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2Fisted
2Fisted
I had a similar situation with a 2003 mercury 115 4 stroke. Head gasket, cracked oil pan assembly. Take it to Advanced Marine in Costa Mesa if a new motor is not in the budget. They are first class no BS mechanics.
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Charts

Nothing demonstrates hope better than fishing.
  • Aug 22, 2015
    282
    100
    San Diego
    Name
    Charts
    Boat
    arima sea explorer 16
    Welcome to boating! Can't help with the engine questions but just want to offer encouragement! We've all had adventures like the one you had! If you kept your cool , kept thinking, and kept your family calm (and still having fun by the sounds of it), you are well-equipped for this hobby!

    You'll learn a lot about engines (and everything else) and the feeling of confidence and competence will grow, and days like the one you had will make the many others where you end the day drama-free so much more satisfying.

    Keep asking. Keep learning. And make sure you have a towing plan and a good VHF radio if you're heading out to the ocean.
     
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    TheBoyScout

    Thanks doesn't buy gas...
    Nov 13, 2014
    304
    207
    San Diego
    Name
    Ray
    Boat
    Bayrunner Baja 23 "Rough Rider"
    Damn I would have turned back right away and not beached the boat. What would you have done if you couldn’t start it on the beach? What if weather got rough and your boat flipped? Not trying to lecture but that’s what would be going through my mind. Also you could have a hole in your water jacket if there’s water in your oil
     

    Baldo463

    Newbie
    Dec 10, 2020
    8
    4
    33
    Southern California
    Name
    Osvaldo
    Boat
    Looking for one
    Thanks for the advice, Charts, I do have BoatUS, luckily I haven't used it. I also have the VHF, but honestly I haven't even tested it. Next time im in ocean waeters im gonna test it. This experience really opened my eyes up to having a back up plan. At least a kicker motor.,
     
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    Baldo463

    Newbie
    Dec 10, 2020
    8
    4
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    Southern California
    Name
    Osvaldo
    Boat
    Looking for one
    TheBoyScout, I hear you, We planned the trip for weeks, so I struggled with ending the trip so quickly. So beaching seemed reasonable at the time. In the end we made it back. At least i know now that having a kicker would have at least prevented me from using a bad engine to get us back to the dock. Edit, I forgot to ask what is a water jacket?
     
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    jondavies

    Newbie
    Jan 30, 2012
    31
    11
    Pasadena
    Name
    jon
    Boat
    Sea Ox
    Take the boat to a good mechanic and get a full diagnosis before you make a decision to repower, which is going to cost a lot.

    Apparently, there's high demand for new/good used outboards at the moment so you might have to wait a while if you go that route (six months+, I hear).

    Hopefully a good mechanic can fix you up and get you back on the water for more family adventures. Good luck!
     
    B
    Baldo463
    I have reached out to a couple shops and they all have wait time. I think a kicker motor is my best bet. I was looking at 2021 90hp for 10k, seems like a reasonable price for peace of mind, just not ready for that yet. Ive been wondering what is "repowering" does that mean remove an engine and install a new one, connect cable and make it water ready? i mean how much does a "re-power" cost and what does it include?"
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    RodRage

    Share the stoke!
  • Sep 7, 2017
    2,480
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    Surf City Ca.
    Name
    Huntington Hillbilly
    Boat
    Chaparral 224 Fisherman
    Damn I would have turned back right away and not beached the boat. What would you have done if you couldn’t start it on the beach? What if weather got rough and your boat flipped? Not trying to lecture but that’s what would be going through my mind. Also you could have a hole in your water jacket if there’s water in your oil
    Don’t want to sound harsh I’m glad you guys made it home safe but river lake or ocean anything can go wrong at ANY givin time and as a captain you’re responsible for the safety your crew "FIRST" the last thing I would’ve done was beach and fish, You seem to take it lightly that you got back and everything was OK but dude once in a while stop and think about the things that could’ve went wrong, if I were you after the fix I’d run it solo or with another knowledgeable friend a few times and get the bugs out before taking the family . Again, I don’t mean to be smart ass but as a 30 year boat owner Ive done n seen a lot of stupid shit because of inexperience and or bad decisions. Very cool your wife likes to go on the boat I’m jealous but at the same time if my wife went on the boat with me we would would most likely be divorced.....
     
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    KID CREOLE

    I Post A Lot But I Can't Edit This
    Sep 19, 2003
    3,523
    1,880
    60
    San Pedro, Ca.
    www.yayacalls.com
    Name
    Stefan
    Boat
    Grady White 263 Chase
    So just a firm bit of advice, never put off dealing with a fuel leak to spend time on the beach to salvage a trip.

    You have multiple issues going on here. get on you tube or Google and start looking for videos with your problems and look for a good mechanic if you for already have one
     
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    NaClAddict

    Member
  • Jul 18, 2008
    549
    422
    torrance
    Name
    Greg
    Boat
    22 glasstron
    If your family is willing to stick with it they’re game. Get that boat to a good mechanic and diagnosed. It’s probably fixable and if not worth at least 1k in parts right now. Sounds like you’re mechanically savvy, you may only need a new motor, it is modular.
     
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    Baldo463

    Newbie
    Dec 10, 2020
    8
    4
    33
    Southern California
    Name
    Osvaldo
    Boat
    Looking for one
    Thanks for all the Advice Everyone, I forgot to post a picture of the oil. I think its funny when the consensus suggest to find a good mechanic, I mean how exactly does one do that? Word of mouth I assume?

    Im working out of town this week in Merced, Ca. I saw a boat shop while driving to work, so I decided to stop by and asks a couple questions. First thing I ask is if he can do a head gasket on a 2004 Merc 90, and about how much would that cost? The man running the shop says, "I Dont Know, Ive never done one" So that was a RED FLAG for me right away.

    I have an appointment to get it looked at. In the meanwhile im gonna try and pick up a kicker to get me on the water, PLus it wont hurt to have one in the future.

    3A3C5021-A16A-409E-A25D-5EB46C28D11F.jpeg
     
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    Baldo463

    Newbie
    Dec 10, 2020
    8
    4
    33
    Southern California
    Name
    Osvaldo
    Boat
    Looking for one
    Could be fuel. Check your filters. See what’s coming out the other end.
    Before I discovered the milky oil I checked the fuel, because I thought for sure it was Fuel or an Ignition problem, But the Fuel filter was clean. I talked to a Repair shop and they asked if the color of the oil was dark or light, I responded with Light. He then says, "that it could be a stuck thermostat". Due to condensation being stuck in the engine, the engine not being able to get hot enough and would not be able to burn the condensation. I mean that makes sense. But im still thinking its the gasket, and hopefully no pockets or holes in the cyl head. Im taking it to them June 5th.
     
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    NaClAddict

    Member
  • Jul 18, 2008
    549
    422
    torrance
    Name
    Greg
    Boat
    22 glasstron
    How hard/expensive is that thermostat? If you’re mechanically savvy it may not be that hard. I use a couple mechanics who would rather talk to me for 15 min than pick my pocket. Youtube is your friend. I’d look into that thermo and also poke into your year/make/model engine for any known maintenance heavy areas.

    That is some weird fizzy oil. Send a sample off. I wouldn’t chase a head gasket unless you’re sure it is faulty unless you just want to pull, inspect, reinstall.

    Kicker is a huge peace of mind, I suggest one that can charge batteries. I know pocket power sources are great but it’s one more thing to forget. A small oYT board you can lift off could be used on a dinghy or use an electric troller. Even though pop had a 20’ we still killed it on our zodiac in Newport!
     
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    michael e. bingham

    I Should Upgrade My Account
    May 26, 2015
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    Pura Vida
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    Pura Vida 30' Custom Panga
    Sounds like ypu are going to be lots of family outings , don`t throw good money to repair ypur motor unless its minor , spend the money and put a newer or new motor on and enjky fishing and boating without the stress of wondering if ypu will get back to the dock , its a good looking rig you have
     
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    Crowman

    Almost A Member
    Mar 3, 2017
    158
    172
    20
    Northern California
    Name
    Crowman
    Boat
    YES
    This can be a common problem and here's what more than likely is. There's always stuff floating in water ocean or lakes that get sucked into your engines cooling system. The thermostat opening is small even with it open all the way and the small crap logjams at the thermostat blocking it from opening or closing properly. When its jammed open and can't close it cools your block too much and the oil can't get hot enough to evaporate the condensation that accumulates in it making it milky. It's an easy fix as the thermostat cover has normally 2 bolts holding it to pop it off, pull the thermostat out to clean and inspect it and if OK reinstall. When I do my yearly maintenance on my 115 and 9.9 Honda's I always pull them to clean out the crap that got jammed in there during the year. Had to replace the 9.9 thermostat this year as it was stuck open making the oil milky after one trip after changing the oil. If your not mechanical find a good one to take it to and I bet he'll have that motor running like new with a good annual maintenance tune up. Don't think the worst possible thing that happens to an engine 99 percent of the time it's just a minor fix. One more thing when a situation happens like you had with the motor acting up YOU are the captain responsible for the lives on board YOU need to make the decisions not listen to your wife with no experience or other people on board.
     
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    OILAGER

    Hecho en Estados Unidos
    Apr 27, 2006
    2,345
    939
    M Class Planet / Riverside
    Name
    Wayne
    Boat
    Grady White 228 Seafarer "GOTTA GET'M"
    If your oil was clear when you checked it before this last trip and it looks like that after going what, 2 miles at the most, it sure seems like a head gasket. It probably started to sputter and shut down because the oil got too thin and was creating too much friction heat between the pistons and the cylinder walls, not too far from from seizing completely. When it cooled down the expanded piston/rings contracted enough to get it started. Do a compression check, very easy to do but not definitive on outboards where the exhaust is submerged. A possible bad head gasket doesn't always show up in a compression test if the leak is between the water jackets and oil galleries.
     
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    Baldo463

    Newbie
    Dec 10, 2020
    8
    4
    33
    Southern California
    Name
    Osvaldo
    Boat
    Looking for one
    OK, little update. So first thing this morning, I checked the thermostat and it started opening up around 155, I checked another location with the Spring/valve and there was some gunk in there so I cleaned it and I put it back. Checked all the spark plugs and the lowest one seemed to have a clear liquid around the threads.

    Drained that ugly Oil, but I am hesitant to waste 6 quarts of OIL. Should I put the new oil and see if I have ignition?

    Also took a sample of the gas and poured it into my newly emptied Titos bottle. There is a noticeable amount of water and some gunk at the bottom, so now im looking at getting a water separator with a valve on it, so I can pump the water out.

    Any suggestions on what to do next? Im thinking of "draining" any water/fuel that may be in the bowls. I noticed a brass screw on the bowl, is that where I drain it from?

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    John Murray

    Newbie
    Dec 19, 2017
    5
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    San Rafael CA
    Name
    Jmurray
    Boat
    Sport Craft cc
    I wouldn't worry too much about that much water in the fuel, you should be running an inline fuel/water separator between your tank and motor if you aren't already. Ive got a strong feeling its a head gasket issue.
     
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