Staying In ’Toon: Oil Change Time!

Boating Tips and Observations with Sky Smith

April 2023 Feature Scott “Sky” Smith

Anyone remember this song line, “And up through the ground come a bubblin’ crude. Oil that is, black gold, Texas tea.” Yep, that’s the song from the TV series Beverly Hillbillies that ran for nine seasons starting in 1962. The song is talking about oil and how valuable it is. Of course, they’re talking about crude oil before it is refined into a product that we consumers use, but it is still valuable.

In fact without oil, our engines wouldn’t run very long. And without oil our connections, cables and fittings would be sticky or stuck. Oil in some form keeps our boats going.

Just think about it: the oil lubricates all the gears and moving parts, plus it collects the heat and helps cool the internal components of the engine and it helps move micro (and sometimes bigger) particles out of passageways and gears and into a filter. It is a multi-purpose necessary part of an internal combustion engine. It doesn’t matter if it’s an inboard or an outboard; the engine needs to get lubricated during its operation. Oh, and let’s not forget the two-cycle engines; they might not have any oil stored in a crankcase, but they still require oil to be mixed in the fuel or injected into the engine to help reduce friction and aid in cooling.
Okay, I may be oversimplifying it a bit here, but I do believe that the engine oil is one of the most important components in an internal combustion engine.

It is one of those things that many of us ignore. How often do you change the oil in your engine? How often should you change it? That depends on who you talk to. I have been told from 25 hours of use to 50 hours of use, to once a year or at each change in season. Oh and once I heard, “No need to change because the owner uses synthetic oil and it never breaks down.”

Okay, here is my two cents’ worth. I believe any oil, dino (dinosaur…get it) or synthetic needs to be replaced because it collects particles from wear, dirt and the chemical components break down. Sure, some oils might last longer than others, but in the end, it’s pretty cheap to just change the oil and replace it with fresh every now and then.

Now we are back to the “how often” questions. I think the minimum should be 25 hours of use and maximum of 50 hours of use. Problem is not many of us really keep track of how many hours we use our boat unless we have an hour meter installed.

Oh, here’s another tip: keep a log of your operational hours. If you ever want to move up in the size of boats or go after a captain’s license, it’s kind of nice to have a log book of what, where, when and how much you have been boating.

Back to oil. In my case our boat is in the water for basically six months of the year (during the boating season) so I usually change the oil in the spring before I put the boat back into the water. For me it is a once a year time frame. Now if for some reason I am putting on more than 50 hours in a season, I would look at changing it again during the boating season. Sometimes it can be close, so I might break my own rules and go a bit longer.

It’s important to make a comment here about warming up your engines. Sailors were notorious for starting their engines, getting out of their slip or off the mooring ball and putting up the sails as soon as possible because it’s well, a sailboat. But they never really let the engine get warm. Power boaters are a bit different; we are under power usually for long enough to get the engine warmed up.

If you start the engine, run it a short period of time and shut it off, condensation inside the engine doesn’t ever get removed. So it causes corrosion and acids to build up in the engine and in turn in the engine oil. So this means that short operation means more oil changes. The key is run the engine long enough to get all the temperatures up into the “green” operating area.

Change the oil yourself, or schedule it with a shop. But it’s not like car oil changes where you wait with a cup of coffee in the waiting room; it often takes longer, so start planning now if you haven’t already.

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