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Author Topic:   Four-Stroke Valve Adjustment Costs
richvi posted 04-04-2007 10:57 PM ET (US)   Profile for richvi   Send Email to richvi  
The mechanic flat rate for checking or adjusting the valves on my Mercury 60-HP four-stroke is 2- 1/2-hours. That's $232. It runs perfectly. The service writer stated unofficially that they had never seen a new outboard requiring the valves to be adjusted. Do you folks pay $232 to check the valves on a new engine at 100 hours?
jimh posted 04-04-2007 11:16 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Only on four-stroke engines.
bitwrench posted 04-05-2007 12:40 AM ET (US)     Profile for bitwrench  Send Email to bitwrench     
Perry posted 04-05-2007 01:44 AM ET (US)     Profile for Perry  Send Email to Perry     
The valve clearances should be CHECKED at 100 hours but that doesn't mean they need to be adjusted. My mechanic told me he rarely needs to adjust valves on 4 stroke outboards. BTW, when was the last time your car or truck needed it's valves adjusted?
jimh posted 04-05-2007 09:29 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Re the difference between automotive and marine four-stroke engines: I do not recall that automotive four-stroke engines have a recommendation to check the valve clearance every 100 hours. Maybe someone who owns a Honda automobile could check their owner's manual to see if such a recommendation is buried in the instructions somewhere.

I wonder why all these marine four-stroke engines recommend checking the valve clearance every 100 hours.

Kingsteven18 posted 04-05-2007 09:33 AM ET (US)     Profile for Kingsteven18  Send Email to Kingsteven18     
I once bought a 13' for less than that.
Whaler_bob posted 04-05-2007 09:37 AM ET (US)     Profile for Whaler_bob  Send Email to Whaler_bob     
Don't know anything about your particular outboard, but can you do the job yourself? I wouldn't imagine Mercury would make it too difficult to get at the adjustment point since it is something that needs to be checked from time to time.
Might be a good way to learn your way around your engine.
Whaler_bob posted 04-05-2007 09:49 AM ET (US)     Profile for Whaler_bob  Send Email to Whaler_bob     
"I do not recall that automotive four-stroke engines have a recommendation to check the valve clearance every 100 hours. Maybe someone who owns a Honda automobile could check their owner's manual to see if such a recommendation is buried in the instructions somewhere."
My 2003 Honda CR-V owners manual calls for "Inspect valve clearance, cold engine" at 110,000 miles or 6 years.
Liteamorn posted 04-05-2007 11:02 AM ET (US)     Profile for Liteamorn  Send Email to Liteamorn     
I don't think he means every 100 hours just the first 100. Thats a lot of cash every 100 hours, which could translate to yearly.
fairdeal2u posted 04-05-2007 11:45 AM ET (US)     Profile for fairdeal2u  Send Email to fairdeal2u     
My yamaha uses pad..shims. Maintenance just calls for inspection and checking. easy enough to do yourself. Even switching out shims isn't very difficult to learn to do.
The Judge posted 04-05-2007 12:31 PM ET (US)     Profile for The Judge  Send Email to The Judge     
Are the valves noisy....did'nt think so. Drop her in and worry about it say 500 or 2000 hours.
mikeyairtime posted 04-05-2007 01:02 PM ET (US)     Profile for mikeyairtime    
First off 99% of these motors will never have their valves checked just like most cars and will never have a problem. The point of checking them at 100 hours is to "verify" they were set right from the factory and have not changed adjustment. Once they are "verified" at 100 hours forget about them because they wont change. 30 minutes and a feeler guage is all you need to do the job. I hope you guys don't believe the scare tactic rhetoric in the ETEC commercials about "all the maintenance and cost of a four stroke". 5 quarts of oil and a filter costs $20 and takes 10 minutes every 100 hours which is once a year for most people. Think of "all the maintenance and cost" on your car. Lets see buy it, put gas in it, change the oil once every 3000-7000 miles and drive the wheels off it for 150,000 miles. Pretty rough.
Perry posted 04-05-2007 01:29 PM ET (US)     Profile for Perry  Send Email to Perry     
I wonder why all these marine four-stroke engines recommend checking the valve clearance every 100 hours.

I wonder where you read that valves on a 4 stroke need to be checked EVERY 100 hours.

gnr posted 04-05-2007 01:43 PM ET (US)     Profile for gnr  Send Email to gnr     
Don't have the manuals here so I can't quote from them but both my Honda ATV and my Wife's Honda motorcycle have "valve clearance check and adjustment" listed as regular maintenance.

Someday I might even check and adjust them. For now, as long as the valve train stays quiet and the yearly compression checks check out I'll just keep on keeping on.

Wait just a minute though!

I also have a Honda 4s kicker. I don't recall seeing any mention of valve clearance checks in it's manual. I'll have to check that out tonight.

While I'm at it I'll check the manual for my Honda generator.

Looks like I'm spending my entire weekend checking and adjusting valves.


gss036 posted 04-05-2007 03:00 PM ET (US)     Profile for gss036  Send Email to gss036     
I have to agree, don't see the need. I have a 15hp Honda that has to have 3000+ hours and runs just great. Also have 2 Honda generators and an 8 hp roto-tiller, none have never had adjustments and run great.
Feejer posted 04-05-2007 05:12 PM ET (US)     Profile for Feejer  Send Email to Feejer     
My Yamaha FJR1300 got one at 6K, then every 24K after that. It cost me $275 for me to find out at 6K that the valves were fine, Thanks Yamaha
Teak Oil posted 04-05-2007 05:26 PM ET (US)     Profile for Teak Oil  Send Email to Teak Oil     
I am not familiar with OHC engines. Isn't there a hydraulic component like in a Chevy V8 that keeps the valves adjusted at all times, or is it a mechanical mechanism similar to an old mechanical lifter V8?
Chuck Tribolet posted 04-05-2007 06:12 PM ET (US)     Profile for Chuck Tribolet  Send Email to Chuck Tribolet     
OHC engines can have either solid lifters that need adjustment
(like my 240Z), or hydraulic lifters that don't (like all three
of my Nissan Pathfinders.

Solid lifters are a little more precise and light, but need
more maintenance.

At least you don't have to do it hot like on the Z.


Tonym posted 04-05-2007 06:37 PM ET (US)     Profile for Tonym  Send Email to Tonym     
The owners manual for a Honda 130 HP states that at 20 hours or the first month “check-adjust” the valve clearance. Later in the maintenance schedule it states that This should be done every year or every 200 hours.

In the foot notes for the item at the bottom of the page it states “These items should be serviced by an authorized Honda marine dealer, unless you have the proper tools and are mechanically proficient. Refer to the Honda shop manual for service procedures.”

The owners manual for the 9.9 HP Honda does not show the requirement for the 20 hour check but does list it as a required service check-adjustment every year or every 200 hours. Tonym

Maximus posted 04-05-2007 07:44 PM ET (US)     Profile for Maximus  Send Email to Maximus     
I believe my old 98 Honda Civic required a 30K mile valve clearance check.

JayR posted 04-05-2007 08:16 PM ET (US)     Profile for JayR  Send Email to JayR     
I've mentioned this here a number of times. A friend has ben spending $400 a year on his Suzuki.
He told me he is buying a new boat and it won't have a 4 stroke. Care to guess what he'll be buying?
Perry posted 04-05-2007 09:06 PM ET (US)     Profile for Perry  Send Email to Perry     
A sail boat?
elaelap posted 04-05-2007 09:23 PM ET (US)     Profile for elaelap  Send Email to elaelap     
I was laughed at and actually criticized by a couple of CW members when I made the mistake of commenting that I brought my boat with its Yamaha F115 four stroke in to the dealership mechanic every couple of hundred hours for a "tune-up." My mechanical knowledge ends at changing oil and knowing that one turns the key clockwise to start the motor, so the mockery didn't bother me at all. In exchange for +/-$200, I'd be given a detailed check list of the "tune-up" work performed and a computer printout with detailed specs showing how I had used my motor since its last service. Valves were 'checked,' the head was torqued, all the fittings were greased, fuel filters checked and cleared, all the nuts and bolts were tightened, the electrical system was gone over and any glitches with the Outrage 18's aging lights and wiring repaired, etc, etc. I know, I know...any idiot could have done some if not most of that maintenance himself and saved a couple of dollars.

But dig it, with my very limited mechanical skills I sure liked the secure feeling--valid or not--I got when I was fifteen miles off shore north of San Francisco in eight foot swells and the breeze kicked up a little. That 'wasted' couple of hundred bucks for a perhaps unnecessary tune-up paid and repaid itself in peace of mind many times over. And factored against the total cost of buying and running my boat for 760 hours in three years, these occasional maintenance costs didn't seem particularly burdensome. Oh yeah, my motor ran absolutely flawlessly for all that time, whether through good luck, good Yami design, or because of the "tune-ups" and my oil changes every 70-80 hours; I'll never know.


Buckda posted 04-05-2007 09:34 PM ET (US)     Profile for Buckda  Send Email to Buckda     
Tony -

Amen to that sentiment. While it is a fun excercise to compare costs of "recommended maintenance" over a motor's lifetime, and it may be an important economic consideration for some boaters, for most, it is simply the cost of "peace of mind" when you're offshore and that motor back there means the difference between getting home in time to cook your catch for supper or spending a cold night at sea or worse, on the beach.

Whatever motor you buy, I don't personally recommend skipping the recommended services, whatever they may be. My 4-stroke FORD motor in my tow vehicle has had recommended maintenance/service and has provided trouble-free operation for 144,000 miles and counting (knock on wood).

I hope to say the same in terms o longevity for my Evinrude motors, which will also receive all recommended service.

You can't get out and walk maintenance of your outboard motors is of extreme importance...damn the costs.


nydealer posted 04-05-2007 10:03 PM ET (US)     Profile for nydealer  Send Email to nydealer     
Verado engines have a maintenance free valve train. The 75-115 show check and adjust valves at 400 hours.
FRSam posted 04-05-2007 10:40 PM ET (US)     Profile for FRSam  Send Email to FRSam     
I just brought my 150 Montauk into Reno for a 100 hr service on the 60 hp EFI four stroke big foot. Quoted $500.00...OUCH!!! I pick up the boat tomorrow. Hopefully I'll be able to afford gas home after paying the final bill.


mikeyairtime posted 04-06-2007 12:07 AM ET (US)     Profile for mikeyairtime    
I started as a motorcycle mechanic toped out there, then jumped to cars topped out there, then jumped to city buses topped out there, then jumped to Caterpillar tractors topped out there then jumped to spacecraft and topped out there and if something better comes along I'll go there. I've got the certs you've heard of and some really cool spacecraft ones you haven't and even a doctor of diesels from GM. My dad was an engineer with two left thumbs and four tools to his name, pliers two screw drivers and a hammer so I didn't get it from him. Want to know the secret of how I did it? Get the shop manual and carefully follow the directions. All it takes is a little time and a lot of patience and care. Your mechanic doesn't have any magic voodoo that anyone here doesn't posses. This applies only to those of you who make less than $100 an hour. The rest of you don't care anyhow.
brisboats posted 04-06-2007 11:43 AM ET (US)     Profile for brisboats  Send Email to brisboats     
This is why I love my old two strokes, they are simple (like me) and I am not at the mercy of a certified wrench and his diagnostics at the local boat mart. I do not go off shore but I do have a pretty secure feeling everytime I turn the key or pull the rope. I guess that feeling comes from knowing the motor has performed flawlessly 100's if not 1000's of hours prior and has been properly maintained. Even more security is felt knowing that if some calamady should come my way on this particular day I have the ability to fix it.

I do understand where Tony and the others are coming from though. For example I often have an insecure feeling about my computer. I do not know how to repair it and therefore have purchased every warranty and protection I can. When a problem arises I have no problem letting an expert diagnose and repair it and I am glad to pay for the service. I have no interest in learning how to service the computer it is simply a tool that I use and need to function as promised.

If I were to buy a motor like I do a computer I probably would buy a reputable four stroke and let a professional be in charge of the care and feeding. So nothing against four strokes heck I even have a few bearcats just don't use them and therefore trust them...yet.


FRSam posted 04-06-2007 12:09 PM ET (US)     Profile for FRSam  Send Email to FRSam     
mikeyairtime my hats off to you - but it just seems in this day and age unless you have the diagnostic equipment the back yard garage mechanic is outta luck. Not to mention I know nothing about motors / engines.

The other problem I see is that in order to maintain the Mercury warranty, mine is a 5 year warranty, one is required to have the motor serviced as outlined by Mercury at a Mercury certified dealer.

And no I'm not making $100.00 an hour - more like I'm loosing $100.00 an hour for every hour of work done on the engine.

My bottom line is owning a motor which I can count on - as someone pointed out...once out you can't walk home if it breaks down on you. Peace of mind isn't cheap...


elaelap posted 04-06-2007 12:27 PM ET (US)     Profile for elaelap  Send Email to elaelap     
While I'm a complete ignoramous when it comes to gasoline engines, I can find my way around dacron/canvas, three strand line, small stuff and whipping twine, splicing fids, sculls, wood, fiberglass, emergency swages, and other things needed to get a sailboat home, or at least out of trouble, if the need arises. CW members howled with laughter several years ago when I casually mentioned how nice it would be if some sort of loose-footed sail on an unstayed mast could be rigged on a classic Outrage 18 skiff, to maybe use for silent downwind trolling and to have as a final emergency back-up, redundant to one's kicker or twin outboards. Wouldn't make much sense on a small lake or river, but at sea I still trust the wind more than even the most well-designed motor, as a last resort anyway. I keep thinking that maybe the best small fishing boat for me would be a classic dory with a small outboard, oars, and a mast/sail on a tabernackle. Hmmm...maybe that's next on my list; sure wish Boston Whaler made something like that.


mikeyairtime posted 04-06-2007 12:37 PM ET (US)     Profile for mikeyairtime    
The point I'm trying to make is that with a shop manual and simple hand tools anyone can learn to "check" their own valves. Your mechanic is charging you a bundle for a valve adjustment that doesn't get done in 99.9% of the cases. There's a tolerance window that the valves need to fall between that they hardly ever go out of durring the life of the engine.
richvi posted 04-06-2007 02:16 PM ET (US)     Profile for richvi  Send Email to richvi     
Basically, the service writer also was saying that the valves almost never (99.9 percent) need adjusting. Good to hear a mechanic confirm it. I don't hear any noisy valves.
FRSam posted 04-06-2007 05:55 PM ET (US)     Profile for FRSam  Send Email to FRSam     
Tony right now my back up / auxiliary is a 6' oar...I'd opt for the wind anytime!!! Show me the way.... ;-)


elaelap posted 04-06-2007 06:28 PM ET (US)     Profile for elaelap  Send Email to elaelap     
Hey Pete,

Nothin' wrong with that oar as a back-up. Last year I was out with my boat partner Matt (who's a certified river rafting guide among other things) in our "new" Revenge 21 with twin ancient Johnson 70 two smokers. Both motors gave out as we neared our slip, and Matt didn't bat an eye; just grabbed a paddle he had brought aboard for just such an eventuality and calmly rowed us into our slip. Luckily it was slack tide and the wind wasn't kicking up much, but an oar or even a little paddle is better than nothing in extremis.


where2 posted 04-08-2007 10:39 PM ET (US)     Profile for where2  Send Email to where2     
Mikey's got it right as usual. My first automobile was a 1970 VW Beetle, Adjust valves at every 3k mile oil change. My second car was a 1980 VW Scirocco, shimmed valves & overhead cam, Adjust valves every 30k miles. My third car a 1990 VW Corrado never needs it's valves adjusted because they are running on hydraulic lifters with an overhead cam (at 180k miles, it needs new hydraulic lifters).

My dad bought a 2001 Yamaha F50HT (Four stroke, 50Hp, High Thrust) back when it was current model year. We hung it on the back of his 1961 houseboat (not trailerable, don't ask what the dealer said about mounting it). As expected, dad reads the owner's manual, and it says check all this stuff, and adjust the valves at 100hrs. Being that the engine hangs on the back of the non-trailerable Houseboat, he buys the Yamaha Factory Service Manual. Being a retired jet-aircraft engine electronics technician, he knows which end of the wrench works, and has enough tools in his garage to disassemble any chassis between a walk behind lawn mower and the 38' motorhome in his driveway (yes, he bought the chassis manuals for the GM truck chassis under the motorhome).

As Mikey points out, it's not rocket science (although he's apparently a rocket scientist). A good technical school (night class) program in your area can probably teach anyone on this list which end of a wrench to use, and give you enough confidence to turn the wrench without asking "Am I turning it the right way?". Valve clearance checking is pretty basic, and a very well worn non-factory Volkswagen service book entitled "How to Keep Your Volkswagen Alive" (Author: John Muir) could describe the concept of valve clearance checking in enough detail to give you a basic understanding of what it is you are checking and why it matters to a four stroke engine. The science of applying the basic knowledge to your particular outboard engine comes from the Factory Service Manual for your outboard engine, once you have an understanding of what it is you are checking with that shim. Oh, you may need special tool #4133, but once you buy it, you own it, just like that Factory Service Manual.

I neither pull down $100/hr, nor do I service everything I own. I've come to a happy medium where I own the service manual and read it before I take something to a mechanic to service. I've turned my own wrench enough to know when a mechanic is blowing smoke, or knows precisely what they are talking about. You may not need to adjust the valves at 100hrs, but knowing what is involved by reading the service manual gives you the heads up to know that it is not just a simple lift of the engine cowling to check the valve clearances, and the $232 is truly a reasonable cost for the length of time necessary to perform that service.

brisboats posted 04-08-2007 11:38 PM ET (US)     Profile for brisboats  Send Email to brisboats     
John Muir was a genius in my opinion and a true example of the adage that the master is the great simplifier. I drove VW's throughout my youth and always had his tattered manual along for the ride. Cleaning the generator armature with a nail file or setting points with a matchbook cover and making a static timing light out of a common tailight bulb were some tricks that he taught me through his books. The VW's being air cooled liked the valves a little loose and they must be adjusted dead cold. Easy enough, you just check them at each oil change (3k) and there was no need to listen for a noisy valve because over the noisy coffee grinder air cooled four you probably won't hear them.

The mechanical principles on a four stroke outboard are the same and checking valve clearances should be a relatively straight forward task. However it seems that the manufacturers of new technology outboards would like the consumer to believe that only a dealer can perform the magical manipulations necessary to keep the high tech masterpiece operating at it's peak efficiency. If Mr. Muir were still alive I am sure he could easily write a manual to remove the mystery from any procedure concerning a high tech outboard and simply walk you through it.


PeteB88 posted 04-08-2007 11:54 PM ET (US)     Profile for PeteB88  Send Email to PeteB88     
Man, I remember that book - got one when I had my 68 VW with electric rear window defroster I'll have you know and did the same, made me a timing light, stowed metric tools and the old manual with me. What a great book that was. Ain't no big deal adjusting valves if you take your time, triple check your work and maybe get someone to help you the first time. I want to do the 99 Camry and should, no experience with the shims someone earlier in the thread referred to.

I will check 06 Accord manual tomorrow for value adjust interval recommendations.

brisboats posted 04-09-2007 08:57 AM ET (US)     Profile for brisboats  Send Email to brisboats     
Pete, you may want to check. I believe Muir also wrote a similar guide to the Hondas. He had the vision very early that Honda would become in the 1980's and 90's what VW was in the 60's and 70's.


ESP posted 04-09-2007 09:38 AM ET (US)     Profile for ESP  Send Email to ESP     
Probably the only thing in common with piston aircraft engines and outboard 4 stroke marine engines is that they are both expensive, but that aside, most aircraft engines recommend an annual or 100 hour valve clearance inspection. Bad clearances can, and do, lead to very expensive cylinder/valve assembly repairs and sometimes to catastrophic in-flight engine failures.
boatdryver posted 04-09-2007 10:28 AM ET (US)     Profile for boatdryver  Send Email to boatdryver     
Another thing in common between aircraft engines and marine engines is how hard they both are working at cruise compared to automotive engines.

One big difference, though, which allows us to cut corners and indulge in do-it-yourself mechanical jobs is the lack of certification requirements in boating and the very beneficial fact that if our marine engine quits on us we don't (usually) start losing altitude. :)


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