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Bunch of water came out of lower unit - DF50 :-(

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  • Bunch of water came out of lower unit - DF50 :-(

    The fun of a used boat continues....
    We got the boat back from the shop after $700 worth of repairs to get the 380 hour DF50 running again (it's on a Macgregor 26M sailboat). Engine seems to run at least now.
    I ran it for 15 minutes to heat the oil and lower unit fluid for changing. Oil seemed ok when I drained that. Then I took the lower unit plug out and a bunch of clear water gushed out and then the milky fluid then cam out slowly. Sure seems like more water than fluid.
    The boat was stored outside for at least 3 years in we all know what water can do in midweste winters - especially after a "polar vortex" two winters ago.

    So basically, I'm wondering.
    How screwed am I now?

    I figure at minimum I need to remove the lower unit and check the gears for rust, wear....etc. Cracks maybe? It did seem that the lower plug may have been installed not all the way too since there were a couple threads visible before I removed it.
    I'm thinking it better be inspected before taking this thing out in Green Bay or Lake Michigan. We had our assed handed to us summer before last when a storm came up (our last sailboat) and had to run out tiny 9HP Diesel full power for a few hours to get back. The motor has to be reliable, or this thing won't leave the driveway.

    Any ideas? Cheer me up? Tell me I'm screwed? Offer me a good price on the boat?


    This is right after the water came out. You can see a drop of water on the lowest part still in the photo. I wished now that I used a different capture bucket on this rather than the motor oil and the lower unit so I could document it better, but I didn't expect this.
    Last edited by tegwilym; 07-08-2021, 06:12 PM.

  • #2
    That’s not good Tom…..

    I suppose that trying to find out how the water got it is step 1.

    The usual culprits are
    - washers not replaced in top or bottom plugs when gearbox oil replaced. Or, not tightened. Hard to be sure but inspection of the washers may give some clues
    - one of the gearbox seals is leaking. Prop or drive shaft. If visual checks dont reveal anything obvious, you need to get it pressure tested.

    If the seal/s are the culprit, then might as well have a look inside while there.

    If seals are OK then the upper or lower plugs may have been the issue. You could take a punt - run some methylated spirits or similar through there, it will absorb the residual water and take it with it as it comes out, then blow warm air thru it to dry it out. Refill with clean oil, new washers, make sure firmly tightened and that the plugs are indeed the correct size and thread. Then spin the prop over out of gear, then try in gear engine running on the muffs (carefully!!!!!!!) and see how it sounds. Check for play.

    If it sounds smooth, I would take it for a run, hour or so, then drain the oil again and see what it looks like. Go from there.

    Good luck.


    • #3
      Thanks. I'll have to inspect the plugs closer. I didn't remove the top one yet, just the bottom when gush of clear water came out of that. That distracted me from going to get the impact screwdriver to get the tight top one off. I didn't see any metal on the cap magnet either, so that's good.
      Turning and pulling/pushing the prop by hand feels smooth, not crunchy and it's solid with no wiggling. I need to find a larger socket to remove it. The crescent wrench just wasn't getting that big nut off. Then I can hopefully reach the oil seal and check that out. I don't have any of the "special" tools mentioned in the manual, so I fear anther trip dragging the beast down to Green Bay for another shop inspection...and more $$ into the hole.
      It's never been in the water yet with us at least. The previous owner (he's about 90 years old) hadn't used it in about 3 years and it was outside in Minneapolis for those winters. I was told in another group that test running on the hose it wasn't enough to really get that much water in it. Seemed that it was mostly water with some foamy light colored fluid that drained out later. I'd have to order the Suzuki plugs since nobody here seems to carry those parts for these motors locally. It took a few calls to find someone in Green Bay that would even touch one of these.
      I did replace the impeller and gaskets, but figure that those areas are both separate areas and shouldn't cross over. So something must be leaking in the gearbox area. How long? Frozen? Rusty? That is the questions.
      Sailing season has just been pushed back again until......?
      Every time I touch this thing I find another problem.



      • #4
        Tom, just in case you are not aware, with Suzuki’s you must NOT run them out of water by connecting a hose to the flushing port. You will destroy the new impeller.

        Get yourself a set of the inexpensive small round muffs with the very soft rubber cups. They work best on the mid range and the smaller Zukes. Plenty of water pressure is then the go.

        If you run it in a drum of water, you need to get it in deep, at least 3-4” ABOVE THE ANTI VENT PLATE so that the water pump itself is submerged. You will know how high it sits in the leg from doing the recent change. So that’s how high the water needs to be.

        Pressure testing the seals isnt hard, google is your friend, you will find videos. Only a couple psi is needed.

        Re parts, this forum has a parts for sale link at the top, just to the right of the red FORUMS label. Ive bought parts from them with no issues.

        Also in the US one of the biggest Suzuki parts suppliers is Brownspoint Mariine, they’re great guys, I found themvery helpful with parts and also re problems too. Worth a call.


        • #5
          Just to clarify, I should say that I was running on the muffs on the hose. It is the double rubber round things on each side with the hose on one side. That's what I meant. I've only run smaller motors (so far) in a large bucket, but just a 3 up to a 6 hp motor. All good there, thanks or checking!
          I do make sure the peeing hole is shooting water too before running it up a bit.
          I'll try the youtube videos. I'm sure I'm probably making this a bigger issue that it really is, but this boat has been nothing but issues so far.


          • #6
            If you decide to take it to the shop you don’t need to take the whole boat just the lower unit. You got lucky with the water not splitting the lower unit maybe you’ll get lucky with the internals on the lower unit…


            • #7
              True! That would let me continue to work on the rest of the boat. It's about a 15 minute job to remove that.
              I'll check the unit closer for any cracks, but maybe they should be very noticeable on the outside of it was.

              Originally posted by Murray View Post
              If you decide to take it to the shop you don’t need to take the whole boat just the lower unit. You got lucky with the water not splitting the lower unit maybe you’ll get lucky with the internals on the lower unit…


              • #8
                If the L/U was cracked one would think you wouldn’t have any oil/water to drain.


                • #9
                  The color of that water/oil mixture was still pretty good. It's when it's clear you have problems. Looks like the plug was leaking, one or the other (top or bottom). Easy fix. Also, if he had water damage he would have all kinds of metal in the drain pan. Tegwilym, I didn't hear you say anything about metal flakes. You would have seen them. I bet one dollar you caught this in time. Change oil and run it 3 hrs and then change it again. First I would run some junk oil through it to flush out the motor case. Use several qts of regular oil to wash out the case. If you don't use Synthetic oil for regular use, shame on you. Save the good stuff for the 3 hour run.