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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Annapolis, MD

    Default How to save a submerged engine?

    The blizzard hit and my boat sank at the dock. 22 WA. 302 Ford. Bilge lines froze and snow must have weighed her down above the scuppers. Got all the water out and she is floating again but its going down to 10 tonight. Water got up to the manifold and oil ran out so I'm sure the engine is full of water. Tranny too. Batteries still work.

    Can I do anything to help save the engine or do I have to wait until spring and repower? I've read some posts that suggest flushing but I don't see that happening for another month given the temperature.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Atlantic City, NJ area


    I don't know what your situation is but when water isn't an option use kerosene to flush the pan and cylinders then denatured alcohol (to displace the water)then kerosene again you'll need a drum or something and one of the pumps like from Harbor tool. Remember that alcohol burns and there's no easily seen flame. Get the water out and coat as many surfaces as you can. The tranny will be a bear but can be saved. The water may have gotten places that are hard to flush without running. Get the boat out of the water asap and get it clean and running as fast as posible. Don't forget to flush the starter and alternater. Use WD-40 or some other displacing oil on all the electrical parts. JMHO
    1982 20' Cuddy Cabin, 2012 Rebuilt PCM 351 .060 o.s.pistons, Gt-40 heads FWC 1/2sys Edelbrock carb

    That should be every boater's warning. Be safe out there!

    Disclaimer: Any comments made in these posts are just suggestions.... learned from the School of Hard Knocks.... Class mascot: A Knucklehead

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2003
    marco isle florida &lake george n.y.

    Default submerged engine

    I assume youare in salt water so wiring will no doubt take a hit if your engine is fresh water cooled (antifreeze) you may be o.k. with just a top end teardown
    If you are hopefully insured i would turn the whole mess over to them & let them get it back in shape
    What a Bummer Best of luck
    1997 260 express 210 cummins @ Marco isle fl. nov 1996 to dec 2011 (SOLD)
    2004 seaboss 18ft c/c 90hp johnson@ Marco isle fl. (SOLD)
    2005 chris craft 20 ft speedster 5.0 mercruiser @ Lake George n.y.
    2012 Pursuit 31 ft C310 C/Console twin 300 hp Yamaha's @ Marco isle FL
    2014 Skeeter SX200 Yamaha VF150LA SHO @ Marco Isle FL

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Emerald Isle, N.C.


    I have done this many, many times. I just did a 26' Harkers Islander that sunk at the dock. You need to get the boat out of the water as soon as possible. Drain the engine from the pan and remove the plugs. You will have to throw the starter, battery and alternator away and put a new starter on. For now see if the starter works. Use it till it quits. It is no good anyway. . Put the drain plug back in, put in 3 quarts of oil and 3 quarts of diesel fuel. Turn it over till the water stops coming out the cylinders. Fill the cylinders with the same. Turn it over and pour the same down the carb. It will be a real mess but it has to be done. Drap a tarp over the engine so the spray doesn't go all over. Continue turning it over till nothing comes out the plug holes. Put the plugs back in and put in fresh oil. Get it running with some carb cleaner and keep it running. Of course you are running on a 6 gal tank. After it will run on its own, change the oil again. It actually may not need it but I would do it anyway. Run it as much as possible. Put a couple of hours on it in the next couple of days. But you MUST get it running right away. Plan on replacing anything electrical that was hooked up. Empty and clean the gas tank. Replace all filters. Put a garboard drain in and take the boat to the local do it yourself car wash. Pressure wash the mess out the garboard. Curse global warming. Good luck, Jerry
    '89 26' cuddy, 351, GT40P, FWC, QUIK FIX II
    '75 20' open fisherman, 4.3 Mercruiser, QUIK FIX III
    16' Sandpiper, 40 Yamaha, Lil' Quik Fix
    14' Certified Fiberglass, 9.9 Zuke 4 stroke
    1987, 31GS, Lindas Rock

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Wilmington, NC


    I prefer diesel over kerosene, but fill everything to displace the water. In reality if you have the water out of the boat and the engine is up and in the air it probably to the point that you are at a major rebuild and if there is any time on the engine you are probably better off with just going head and repowering. Biggest thing is if there is any salt in the water, all the wiring is toast as well so plan on replacing it all. If you don't replace it now, you'll be replacing it over the next several years.

    If insurance is paying the tab, let someone else throw a new engine in. It sucks, we've been there and done that.
    Instigator 1991 220 Predator - Wilmington, NC
    Formerly Evangeline 1987 20' Shamrock Predator - Murrells Inlet, SC
    MIM 1977 Boston Whaler 17' Montauk - Murrells Inlet, SC
    Rag Time 2004 24' Triton - Murrells Inlet, SC
    Formerly Reel Time 1989 26' Shamrock Predator - Sneads Ferry, NC

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jan 2003


    Call me if you need a hand or my oil pump. Our vehicles are out and the roads plowed so I can get out. You know where to find me if you want someone to suffer with you or just to fish you out if you fall in. The Retriever has sure had some hard luck in storms the last couple of years.

    I would pull the plugs and turn it over to make sure it doesn't hydrolock and hit it WD or fogging spray while the plugs are out. If you can do that and get the oil changed so you can run it tomorrow you might be OK. But it is going to be tough work out there in these temps. If you have power maybe a drop light with high watt bulb will heat the oil enough to pump it out.

    And don't sweat the wiring. Mine sank to the deck with no electrical problems at all. JMueller already knows this, but for the rest of you the water here isn't very salty - especially in the rivers. It is barely even brackish in the rivers this far up the Bay.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Long Island, New York

    Exclamation Submerged Engine First Aid

    Did you take some pictures of the submerged boat and contact your Insurance Company?

    You must drain the (salt?)water and remaining oil out of the crankcase.and refill it ASAP!
    It shouldn't be frozen, but if it is get some heat lamps and/or a heat gun on the oil pan to defrost it.

    Drain and refill the Trans. with fresh oil ASAP

    Remove the battery(s) and replace them if they were under salt water.

    OVERFILL the crankcase with 2 quarts of Marvel Mystery oil and 6-8 quarts of 5/30 motor oil. Remove and replace the oil filter.

    Remove all of the spark plugs and see if you can turn the engine over BY HAND with the fan belt, front crankshaft nut or with the teeth on the flywheel and a screwdriver.

    While turning it over by hand have somebody slowly pour some Marvel Mystery oil (or ATF) down the open throttle Carb until you see a some of it coming out the spark plug holes, then stop pouring but keep turning the engine over by hand a few turns.

    If the seawater was over the Carb, take it off and have it rebuilt ASAP.

    Remove the valve covers and pour oil over everything. Do it slow so that it drains down as you pour.
    Replace the valve covers.

    Go buy some wire drying stuff of your choosing, I'm partial to WD-40, and spray everything including the Distributor, Coil, Starter and Alternator and all exposed wiring. You have to drive all the water out of everything electrical. You might want to remove the starter and alternator if they were submerged and get them rebuilt.

    Turn the engine over by hand every few days until you get the Carb, Starter, Alternator and Batteries back in.

    Drain the oil again and refill it with the correct amount of the proper motor oil.

    Reinstall the Carb, Starter, Alternator, Batteries, etc.

    Before you install the new spark plugs, turn the engine over with the key to pump out any remaining Marvel left in the cylinders and this will also move oil around and build some oil pressure.
    Do not skip this step or the engine will hydro-lock! TURN OVER WITHOUT THE SPARK PLUGS!

    Install the new spark plugs, wires, distrib. cap and rotor and see if it will start.

    Don't think that I forgot anything

    PS: Using Kerosene or Diesel can make certain seal materials swell and eventally leak, I prefer using a light motor oil and Marvel. Some "Old Timers" that I know used ATF. The end result is the same no matter what you use as long as it displaces the water as soon as possible.

    Best of Luck to ya!


    31 Grand Slam
    2-6BTA 250 Cummins

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2003
    Eastern Shore, Va.


    Lots of great advice here. But the single best piece of advice, IMO, is:

    Quote Originally Posted by Quik Fix View Post
    But you MUST get it running right away.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Annapolis, MD


    Thanks guys for all the advice. My biggest problem is the temperature. It was 16 here this morning and the dock is surrounded by ice which goes well out into the river, so no way she is coming out of the water for a few weeks. Plus, most of the stores are closed due to the blizzard. I did take some pictures and will contact my insurance company. As Greatdog knows, the adjuster knows me so well he knows my dog's name!f
    Tom, my son is playing between periods at the Capitals v Pens game today so I'm off to DC. Should be back by 3. Will get a light on her and try and get the oil pumped out.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Sep 2009


    I'm sorry to hear about your luck. There is some great advice here and I applied the same techniques when I had a blown head and my hydrolock issue. Mine was a much less exstensive intrusion than yours, but it was mentioned on here earlier what a mess pickiling will create. Any time I had even a little water in the bilge, the oil coating the inner hull surfafce would swish arround coating everything. It was such a mess even just doing electrical projects as the wires were coated with oil. I just got done flooding my bilge with CASTROL SUPERCLEAN. This stuff works great! It's not a cheap way to wash anything, but I did a complete "Spring cleaning" job with 6 gallons of it.

    In order to preven having to go through that mess, particularly considering how cold it is, I would try to find some oil absorbent padding and get a bunch of it. Whatever compond you use to displace water will blow all over the boat. I don't think I even need to mention that atomized kerosene, dielsel fuel or even oil is combustable. You will want to catch as much of it as you can and do everything possible to keep the mess down to a minimum. You're going to have enough to clean up as it is. Having all of that oil washing about will just compound the issue. Good luck!
    1990 200 Open
    "Our Karma"

    Blood on the deck is a good thing, as long as it isn't your own!

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