Two-Stroke Nissan Outboard?

Outboard illustrationIllustration: Bill Roche

I saw a two-stroke Nissan Marine engine online, and they say it meets all EPA and California emissions standards. The seller is offshore but will import it for a 10-percent fee. Can I legally import this engine?


John Adey: Nissan Outboards sold here in the U.S. are built by Tohatsu. Your options all lie in the EPA certification. Go to to learn about it.

You will be looking at Marine Spark Ignition certifications by company. I did not see Nissan listed, however, Tohatsu is well represented. It may be that the model you are looking at is not certified in the U.S., but is in use in other parts of the world. There are many engine companies outside the U.S. that choose not to certify all of their models here based on the EPA and/or California requirements. I'd be concerned about service and warranty issues as well as the legality of the transaction.

Nissan Marine recently stopped selling outboards globally, but Tohatsu plans to continue servicing existing motors in the U.S. This would make me extra wary of importing one now.

What's In the Water?

We have a 27-foot Formula with a power windlass. When anchoring, how do we know how much rode we have let out?


Tom Neale: Some power windlasses have a meter that will tell you how much line you've paid out, but I assume yours doesn't. Assuming you're referring to a nylon rode, simply mark your line in increments with surveyor's tape or yellow electrician's tape carefully pulled through the strands. Don't separate the strands too much, and don't use a thick marker, such as a nylon cord, which could, over time, weaken the rode. The increments are up to you and how much line you have and the water depths in which you might anchor.

You can also buy marking labels made for this purpose, with numbers and/or different colors, at West Marine and other chandleries.

We carry 200 feet of chain, and I mark it by tying small white nylon rope in the links every 50 feet, with one at the first 50, two at 100, and three at 150. Because it's chain, the thickness of the marker line doesn't hurt.

Too Fine

I have 318 Chryslers with 10-micron, spin-on Racor filters for each motor. I understand there's now a 2-micron spin-on element. Would I be better with the 2-micron, or with the 10-micron and then the 2-micron behind it, or the 10-micron by itself? Last year, I had trouble with a dirty carb, and I think it was from ethanol. I use an ethanol treatment.


Don Casey: A 2-micron filter for carbureted gasoline engines is likely to give you more trouble than it will save you. Your engines wouldn't notice any particulate matter that is small enough to pass through a 10-micron filter, which, by the way, gets more restrictive as it accumulates filtered matter. When ethanol is first introduced to your fuel system, it tends to function as a solvent to the accumulation of gunk in the tank and lines. This can make clean fuel become dirty fuel in your tank, but a 10-micron filter should render the fuel adequately clean again. A more restrictive filter will simply clog sooner – much sooner. It's worth noting that anything the ethanol breaks loose beyond the filter can end up in the carb.

After this initial cleaning, a steady diet of E10 typically does not cause any problems that a more restrictive filter would impact. Do not use a 2-micron filter as your primary. You can certainly install a two-micron secondary filter downstream of the primary, but I doubt that your engines will benefit significantly from this additional filtering. Boating is costly enough without adding a needless expense. And hassle.

New Rig To Run?

I am preparing my 1982 Irwin 46 to cruise the Caribbean. I have heard you recommend replacing the entire rig after 30 years. Do you also mean the spars, chainplates, and the standing rigging wire as well?


Beth Leonard: If you do not know the rig's entire history or know it's never been replaced, I would recommend replacing everything. The spars should be removed and inspected. It's possible you can recondition a 30-year-old spar, but you should get a professional rigger's opinion on that. The extrusion may still be fine, but you'll almost certainly need to replace all the fittings. Unless you know the wire has been replaced in the last decade, you will want to replace it all. If you can afford Norseman or Staylock fittings, those are easier to inspect and replace while cruising than swaging.

One area that will cause you problems on the Irwin is the chainplates, as these are encapsulated, that is, embedded in the fiberglass, as are the chainplates on many of the Taiwanese production boats of the 1970s and 1980s. While the original idea of encapsulated chainplates was to keep (salt)water out and prevent corrosion, in fact water almost always gets in at some point. Once it is trapped against the stainless steel in the absence of oxygen, crevice corrosion damages the metal. It is a dirty and time-consuming job to remove the interior structure to get at these chainplates. Some surveyors are using thermal imaging to check for moisture in the chainplates that would indicate corrosion. You could have your chainplates imaged, but if you see any signs of moisture, the likelihood that they are compromised makes this a job you should not ignore.

If you are taking the boat offshore, the loss of the rig could be life threatening. At 30 years old, most of the components will be compromised by corrosion and fatigue. The investment in a new rig is cheap insurance.

Soft In The Backside

I have a 1990 Key West center console that's in very good condition. I recently installed a motor rack on the port side of the transom for an electric trolling motor. After drilling four holes through the transom, I saw a small amount of liquid ooze out of the lower holes. The liquid appeared to be a mix of water and sawdust. The holes are 18 inches above the bottom of the hull. How did this liquid get to that height, inside of the transom? Is the wood inside the transom rotted and weak? I was considering a new motor for this boat, but now I'm reluctant to repower a 24-year-old boat that may not be seaworthy.


Tom Neale: This is an answer I don't like to give, but unfortunately you probably have the very serious problem of wood coring in your transom having become saturated with water. This can be caused by water leaking into the coring through poorly sealed screw or boltholes, cracks, and other causes. It weakens the transom and must be repaired. And it can migrate upward and spread. The repair can range from rebuilding the transom or just scooping out the bad part and filling it. I would use products and recommendations from the West Epoxy system. You may be able to determine the extent of damage by tapping, but only if you know what you're listening for. A good boatyard should have people who know. This is usually a job that requires well-qualified professionals to make a prognosis and do the work. Do not use the boat or put a new outboard on until you repair it.

Common Ground

To what should a sailboat electrical system be grounded? My Wharram has a Yamaha outboard to which everything is grounded, but I've been experiencing problems with my new Garmin 50s GPS shutting down. When I checked, I was told that the problem might be low voltage. So now I'm wondering about my current ground being adequate since the motor is seldom in the water. I've been told by an electrician friend that a poor ground is almost as bad as a short?


Don Casey: Let's start with the basic electrical connection. Your GPS needs to be connected to the positive pole and the negative pole of the battery that powers it. A fuse as close to the positive pole as practical is required to protect the wiring, but beyond that, the circuit is exactly like that of a flashlight bulb deriving its power from a dry cell. You need a circuit from the battery to the appliance and back to the battery.

As a practical matter, because boats have multiple appliances on multiple circuits, the positive cable from the battery typically goes to a fused distribution panel that feeds the various circuits. The negative connections from each appliance go directly back to the negative terminal on the battery, usually through a conveniently located terminal block connected to the battery's negative post with a heavy cable. This ground terminal can be located on the engine, but grounding electronics to the engine can be less than desirable.

Do not misinterpret here. Where there's an engine-mounted charging source, it requires both positive and negative connections to the battery. And a "ground" connection from the minus battery terminal to the water through the engine theoretically holds the negative side of the battery at zero potential. However, this presumes a connection between the engine and water, which a flexible shaft coupling or a tilted outboard both defeat.

The problem with your GPS is likely related to low voltage due to extra resistance through the engine ground connection or to voltage fluctuations introduced by the charging circuit. Try connecting the negative lead from the GPS to the negative battery terminal, NOT through the ground connection on your engine. The best way to do this is with a terminal block on or near the negative post of the battery. If your battery is fully charged, this should eliminate your shutdown problem.

None of this should have any effect on the batteries, except that if you use the outboard just to negotiate your channel, your 80-watt alternator will be inadequate to maintain full charge. Leaving batteries in a discharged state soon damages them, so I am going to assume you have another charging source for keeping them fully charged. I also suspect you could benefit from a more complete explanation of charging and circuits, not to mention some answers to electrical questions you are likely to have in the future, all to be found in Sailboat Electrics Simplified, available from your library or bookseller.

The Pump That Won't Quit

I have a 1995 Sea Ray cruiser. When I turn the breaker on to power my freshwater pump, it will turn on and continue running even after I turn off the water in the sink. It stays on until I manually turn off the breaker. I have checked for leaks and have not found any water dripping. Help!


Tom Neale: There are several things that could cause this, but most likely you have a bad pressure switch. They only last so long, and it's a common failure. You didn't say the type of pump you have, but usually these are easy to replace and don't cost a fortune. You can usually find them at West Marine or other chandlers. Generally, they just twist off, or you may have to remove some screws. You'll need to disconnect and reconnect the wiring from the switch. It will help to see what your pressure switch looks like, and take the pump brand and model number to the store.

Photo of a water pumpIf your water pump is cycling on and off frequently, you may have a bad pressure switch, or a leak.

Depending on your pump, you could also have a leaking valve or diaphragm, which allows water to flow backward into the feed plumbing, thus reducing the pressure and causing the pump to continue to run, although you don't see the leak. This can usually be repaired by the user, although you'll probably have to disassemble the pump. The valve kits will also probably be at West Marine.

Pull out your manual and it should have a drawing showing these parts and how to replace them. If you don't have a manual, go to the website of the manufacturer and they should have a manual that you can download as a PDF. But remember, a pump that old may need replacing just from general aging.  

— Published: April/May 2015

Meet the Experts

Photo of Beth Leonard

Beth Leonard BoatUS Magazine's technical editor, Beth Leonard, grew up powerboating, waterskiing, and fishing on Lake Ontario. Since 1992, she and her husband have completed two circumnavigations on two sailboats, doing all maintenance themselves. They also installed the systems on their 47-foot aluminum sloop. Beth has written The Voyager's Handbook, the how-to bible for offshore sailors, and hundreds of technical articles.

Photo of Tom Neale

Tom Neale
He's cruised long distance with his family for most of his adult life. He can take apart and fix almost every system aboard, has written two books, filmed a two-set DVD on East Coast cruising, written for top marine magazines, and has won nine first-place awards from Boating Writers International and many awards for his technical writing.

Photo of Don Casey

Don Casey
One of the most consulted experts on boat care and upgrades for 30 years. He and his wife cruise their 30-footer part of the year in the eastern Caribbean. His books include Don Casey's Complete Illustrated Sailboat Maintenance Manual, and the recently updated This Old Boat, the bible for do-it-yourself boaters.

Photo of John Adey

John Adey
The president of the American Boat & Yacht Council, John has been in the industry since 1990, with experience from a yacht brokerage and boatyard to owning a marine supply store. He and his family sail their classic 1976 Irwin ketch, a boat he completely restored.


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