Just like everything else in the known world, boat engines have a life expectancy. So even if you buy a boat with the strongest, biggest, most high-tech engine presently available, it's going to die out one way or another. And that's why it's important to know how to check boat engine hours.
There are lots of reasons why you might want to see how many hours an engine has been made to operate. For instance, secondhand boat buyers would do well to look into the numbers to get a better picture of how close their potential purchase is to an engine replacement. Wondering how to measure your boat's engine hours? Here's a quick guide.
How to Check the Hours on a Boat Engine?
It's important to point out that regardless of whether an engine has been manufactured five years ago or twenty years ago, you should be able to find its recorded engine hours. So don't take excuses from secondhand boat sellers who say they can't find the numbers.
So how are boat engine hours calculated? For older engines, the engine hours can be found on the hour meter. Engines manufactured within the last 20 years should have an electronic or computer record displayed on the gauge or the diagnostic computer, and stored in the engine computer.
Keep in mind though that if your boat's still running an older engine with a manual hour meter, then it might not be too accurate. Allow the margin of error to sit between 50 to 100 hours on boats with older engine hour meter instruments, depending on a range of factors including how often the boat has been used and how old it is all together. For newer engines, that shouldn't be an issue since the engine operation measurements will be more accurate down to the hour.
How Many Hours is Considered Too Much?
Now that you know how to check engine hours on a boat, you might be asking what all of those numbers mean. Interestingly, cars will actually outlast a typical marine engine despite being built a little less aggressive than their marine counterpart.
The reason for this is because cars often travel over predictable, flat roads as opposed to boating that requires boaters to traverse more dangerous conditions. This makes boat engines work harder to achieve the same distance.
That said, an average gas engine will run for about 1,500 hours of use before it might need a major overhaul. For perspective, the average boater will use their boat around 200 hours a year. That means marine gasoline engines, when properly maintained and cleaned on a routine basis, may last 7.4 years.
Typically, marine gasoline engines can reach 1,000 hours without a fuss. But as you reach this point, the gasoline engine may start to exhibit signs of wear and tear. If you leave the little sputters and sounds unaddressed, then the gas engine may struggle to max out those remaining 500 hours.
Then again, there are diesel engines. Fitted on boats that need more power, diesel engines are more powerful and longer lasting than their gasoline counterparts in terms of hours. Most experts assess that a diesel engine might last around 5,000 hours. But there are some boaters who can extend their number of hours up to 8,000.
In essence, a well-maintained diesel engine can run for the entire lifespan of your boat (40 years old) if it's constantly tuned up, cleaned, and kept in good working condition. But the less effort you put into maintenance, the shorter your engine's lifespan might be.
The Life Expectancy for Different Engines
There are numerous factors that can affect the number of hours on a boat engine, and its placement on the boat might be one of the most profound. Inboard, outboard, and jetboard engines deliver differences in performance that can affect just how long you can have them around without issues.
According to statistics, a well maintained 2 stroke in board engine can run for about 1,500 to 2,000 hours of use. But then again, that's not set in stone. Boats with an in board engine are most commonly subject to overheating. When the engine is subject to serious heat, its parts can malfunction may even cause fires to start on board your boat.
Proper ventilation, air circulation, and a well-maintained cooling system are vital to keeping in board engines operational and safe, on top of extending its performance life to the maximum limit.
Just like the inboard engines, a 2 stroke outboard engine is estimated to have a service life at an average of 2,000 hours at best, but most of them average just 1,500 hours even with proper maintenance. While ventilation isn't too much of an issue for an outboard engine, wear and tear can seriously damage the machine over a short period of time especially if used in salt water.
Fixing any damages before they get out of hand can help improve the lifespan of the engine. Oil changes are also more frequently needed. You might need to change the oil after every hundred hours. If it's used for salt water boating, you might need even more frequent maintenance.
Generally, a 2 stroke jetboard can log 1,500 to 2,000 hours before any major repairs are necessary, just like its inboard and outboard cousins. The main difference though is that they're less maintenance intensive since they don't have as many moving parts. That means you might be able to max out its life expectancy without having to put in as much effort as you would keeping an inboard or outboard in working condition.
But that doesn't meant they don't require any maintenance at all. Regularly performing routine checks, cleaning, and oil changes are a standard for any engine. Some four stroke engines have been known to clock in engine hour readings of upwards of 15,000 hours with routine oil changes and maintenance.
What are the Average Boat Engine Hours Per Year?
Now, this one's pretty subjective since we all run our boats so differently. No two people will have the exact same number of hours on a boat engine even if they engage in all of the same activities. It still all depends on how well you stick to oil change and routine maintenance schedules.
According to industry experts, private recreational boat owners will run their vessel anywhere between 50 to 100 hours a year. But there are people who can average around 200 hours per year especially if the boat is rented out or used for commercial fishing.
There are loads of factors that can affect the number of hours of an engine, including the location of the owner, and the kinds of activities they enjoy. Climate and weather patterns also play a role, since people in colder regions may have to keep their boat in storage for several months each year.
How Many Hours are Too Many When Buying a Used Boat?
So you're on the used boat market and you're looking to get your hands on a boat that's worth buying. Aside from the quality of the boat, the power of the engine, the ease of handling, and all of the shiny aftermarket accessories and features that the boat owner installed, it's imperative that you make sure it has low hours.
Asking for how many hours the engine has been in use could tell you more about its history the kind of use that the boat has been subject to. According to industry experts, you should draw the line at around 1,000 hours for a recreational boat that's 10 to 15 years of age. Anything more than that would be bilge, so to speak. If the owner has clocked in a thousand hours over a history of just 2 to 3 years of age, then that should be a major red flag and may be a sign of overuse or misuse. Avoid this kind of deal.
On average, a log of 600 on 800 hours on a boat engine that's 10 years old is considered low hours and should be a sweet deal. And if there's nothing wrong with the other parts of the boat, you should consider yourself face to face with a bargain.
But what about a boat with low hours that has been taken to the water fewer times versus a boat with three times the hour reading but has been tediously maintained with routine oil changes and more? In this case, fewer hours might not be a better choice since boats that sit for too long in storage are prone to corrosion.
A boat owner that refuses to share information about engine hours might be hiding a dirty little secret. You should be careful of dealing with sellers who refuse to share such important information.
Signs That Your Engine is Nearing Its Final Hour
While the amount of hours might be a good indication of how far boat engines have left to go, it's worth remembering that no two engines are ever the same. Some of them can last longer or shorter than others despite being exactly the same in terms of make and model. So it helps to check for the telltale signs of a failing engine, and these include:
Most of the abnormal noises you'll hear will happen when you start the marine engine, but it's not uncommon to hear random sounds during operation and while you're underway. Rattling, wheezing, or sputtering noises are indicative of potential internal damage or clogging.
The quality of the smoke that comes out of the exhaust can tell you loads about the condition of your engine. Black smoke can mean engine overload, restricted air supply, a problematic fuel injector for a diesel powered engine. If you see blue smoke, it might be indicative of worn out piston rings, broken valve guides, or loose oil seals that causes other fluids to leak into the fuel, thus producing blue smoke. Check the bilge for oil leaks in this case. White smoke might be caused by a leak of water or air into the engine.
You might be able to get your boat started without a fuss and may even find yourself halfway to your destination, but then the marine engine suddenly stops. Although you might be able to start again without a problem, this often dangerous issue could point to more serious damages inside.
Increased Fuel Consumption
An engine that's not running as it should will consume more fuel to keep running. That's because it puts in more effort to stay on and to operate, so you might notice your fuel consumption becoming more and more voracious over time.
This could just be the result of a few loose parts, but more often than not, violent vibration indicate possible issues with the engine as a whole. If your engine vibrates to the point that you can feel the movement from your place at the helm, then it might be high time to have it checked.
Of course, the ultimate sign that your engine is no longer working is that it doesn't start all together. To make sure that it isn't the battery that's the problem, all of your instruments should light up when you stick the key in the ignition. If the battery is out of juice, you won't be able to turn on any electrical instruments and lights.
What Happens to an Engine That's Exhausted Its Lifespan?
So lets say your boat has exhausted its marine engine's number of hours and the thing has essentially given up. What does that mean for you? Well, there are a number of options for boat owners who want to repower their boats. The first and obvious choice would be to repair the existing engine.
In some cases, it might not be more than simply taking out a few parts and replacing them with new and updated spares. But in most cases, an engine that has reached its lifespan's limit might need a major overhaul. This involves completely disassembling the engine and piece it back together while cleaning, repairing, or replacing any damaged parts.
Another option would be to replace the marine engine all together. This can seem like a good choice if you really want to give your boat more power, but an engine replacement might actually cost you more than your boats present market value. So it's important to weigh the expense to gauge whether or not it's actually worth it.
When's the Last Time You Checked Your Engine?
Yes, your engine has a lifespan. So if you were unsure as to how many boat engine hours your machinery can churn out, this quick guide should tell you all you need to know. Understanding how many hours your engine can take and knowing the signs of an engine that's close to its end should help you prepare for the future and make the necessary repairs and replacements before it gives up completely.