Today’s well-built boats are made to last. That means repowering—or updating the engine—will eventually need to happen if your boat is a long-term investment. What is more, preowned boats need repowering sooner than new boats. In either case, repowering extends the life of a boat regardless of age. That’s a good thing, and so are the choices that can make your boat perform even better.
Beyond the obvious cost factor, other questions should be considered. Packaged boats come standard with a specific horsepower, which can be lower than the maximum rating. Do you want more speed and performance? You can repower with the maximum horsepower and enjoy the benefits. Those include greater performance and possibly even better fuel economy.
Here are other factors to consider when repowering.
You update home and personal electronic devices with the latest technology, so why not upgrade the controls of the boat? Some controls sync with the motor so you can monitor and control the entire system on a touch panel display. An example is Mercury Marine’s SmartCraft. The benefits are total vessel integration through a complete suite of digital technologies. Those include Digital Throttle & Shift (DTS) to digital gauges, sensors, alarms and other onboard electronics. Put another way, SmartCraft’s intuitive features can make controlling the boat easier.
If your budget allows it, consider updating to digital gauges and instrumentation. Digital gauges allow synchronization with total monitoring and control systems like SmartCraft. They aren’t just for large vessels. SmartCraft is available for Mercury engines 40HP and larger. Analog gauges retain their simplicity for quick reading. Those are compatible with all engines. An example of digital instrumentation is Mercury’s VesselView, which is designed primarily for saltwater boats with two or more outboards. VesselView allows you to display engine information, genset, sounder and much more. You can see rpm, speed, fuel flow and efficiency, temperature, trim and more. Up to four engines can be monitored with the intuitive, "at-a-glance" LCD screen. The VesselView suite of multifunction displays come in 4”—9” glass touchscreen versions.
At the very least, update the fuel hoses with new Coast-Guard approved, ethanol-resistant hoses. It’s not the front and center of repowering, but update the batteries if you also upgrade to more power-needy digital control systems. Some newer outboards with integrated power steering and high-pressure fuel delivery systems also may require more battery power. Check the engine manufacturer’s specifications or ask your dealer for more information about updating the electrical system.
Should you update with the old guard twostroke or the newer fourstroke outboards? In the early 2000s, fourstrokes were deemed as the next coming of outdoor motor technology. Fourstroke outboards are quieter, idle smoother and are very reliable. Fourstrokes pollute less and get better fuel economy. In the early 2000s, they were associated with being heavier and requiring more service, though. Two- and fourstrokes are now approaching parity when it comes to weight and maintenance. The decision on which to repower with is easier. The fourstroke’s lubrication system has an oil pan and filter. With twostrokes, a drive train is unnecessary because valve trains (camshafts, belts, chains) are nonexistent. With fewer moving parts, the twostroke is lighter in weight and offers a quick, powerful holeshot. Internal engine parts are lubricated from oil mixed into the fuel. Decide based on which technology meets your expectations for performance and value.
If the boat is compatible, a joystick is a wise investment. Mercury Joystick Piloting turns any pilot into a seasoned pro, regardless of docking skills. You can use the outboard system’s joystick to move the boat sideways, at an angle or even maneuver the boat through close quarters without having to use the throttles. The system really shines in current and windy conditions at the marina. Another cool feature is Skyhook, which uses information from the GPS system to keep the boat in place. It’s great for docking and even better for fishing. Skyhook can keep the boat in position without having to move the boat using the outboards. This is especially useful when drift fishing.
These are only a few of the questions you will face when repowering. Keep in mind that marine engines of today are packed with technology, which means there are many options available for repowering. Visit your nearest Bass Pro Shops/Cabela’s Boating Center for friendly, helpful and expert advice on all your repowering needs.