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Reliability of older 2 strokes

Old 10-30-2020, 03:50 PM
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Default Reliability of older 2 strokes

Hey All,

I'm ready to move to a boat from my Seadoos, and like many people, I've got two options. Purchase a boat outright, or finance a new one. My purchase price would be 10-12k for a used boat, or approx 60k for a newish boat with payments. Used I would be looking at older quality center consoles or cuddy cabin walk arounds from the 90's, newer would be a Seafox 228 or similar.

I can find boats that will work for what I want in both categories, my main concern is reliability. Obviously no payments and owning something outright is better than payments...That being said, I have an old sea doo 2 stroke that has totally wore me out on maintenance costs, and breaking down out at sea, and I don't want to deal with that with my family on board a boat. I'm very handy, and OCD on cleanliness and maintenance, so if I bought a new(er) boat I am confident it would not disappoint in this area regardless of manufacturer and motor.

If I go used, I'm mainly looking at older two strokes, which historically I don't have good luck with at least in the jet ski world. Are the older outboard two strokes reliable enough to take off shore, or to go camping off an island with for a night? If I go this direction, are there any motors that are recommended to stay away from or look for? I commonly sea Mercury saltwater series, Yamaha salt series, Yamaha HDPI's, and Evinrudes. Engines are in the 150-225hp area. One thing that is concerning is the amount of carbs some of these things have, I'm not trying to rebuild 6 carburetors on an annual basis.

Appreciate your thoughts!

If curious, boat will be used for fishing, diving, spear fishing, taking the wife camping on islands(wife says we MUST have a toilet available...), towing the kids around on tubes and wakeboards, and overall pleasure boating. Between my wife and I we have six kids, ranging in age from 6-12, and would also like to be able to take our four legged family out occasionally as well(although NOT with the six kids at the same time!). The boat will be used in the gulf in the Sarasota area, and I would like it to be able to safely get out to places like Egmont Key as well as offshore to go fishing, probably a max of 10-20 miles on relatively calm days. Not trying to head out to middlgrounds in it.



Old 10-30-2020, 04:04 PM
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Reliability is not a product of the operating principal, 2 strokes break down, 4 strokes break down, diesels break down, any motor can fail for a variety of reasons.
Old 10-30-2020, 04:06 PM
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Originally Posted by RG5384 View Post
Hey All,

I'm ready to move to a boat from my Seadoos, and like many people, I've got two options. Purchase a boat outright, or finance a new one. My purchase price would be 10-12k for a used boat, or approx 60k for a newish boat with payments. Used I would be looking at older quality center consoles or cuddy cabin walk arounds from the 90's, newer would be a Seafox 228 or similar.

I can find boats that will work for what I want in both categories, my main concern is reliability. Obviously no payments and owning something outright is better than payments...That being said, I have an old sea doo 2 stroke that has totally wore me out on maintenance costs, and breaking down out at sea, and I don't want to deal with that with my family on board a boat. I'm very handy, and OCD on cleanliness and maintenance, so if I bought a new(er) boat I am confident it would not disappoint in this area regardless of manufacturer and motor.

If I go used, I'm mainly looking at older two strokes, which historically I don't have good luck with at least in the jet ski world. Are the older outboard two strokes reliable enough to take off shore, or to go camping off an island with for a night? If I go this direction, are there any motors that are recommended to stay away from or look for? I commonly sea Mercury saltwater series, Yamaha salt series, Yamaha HDPI's, and Evinrudes. Engines are in the 150-225hp area. One thing that is concerning is the amount of carbs some of these things have, I'm not trying to rebuild 6 carburetors on an annual basis.

Appreciate your thoughts!

If curious, boat will be used for fishing, diving, spear fishing, taking the wife camping on islands(wife says we MUST have a toilet available...), towing the kids around on tubes and wakeboards, and overall pleasure boating. Between my wife and I we have six kids, ranging in age from 6-12, and would also like to be able to take our four legged family out occasionally as well(although NOT with the six kids at the same time!). The boat will be used in the gulf in the Sarasota area, and I would like it to be able to safely get out to places like Egmont Key as well as offshore to go fishing, probably a max of 10-20 miles on relatively calm days. Not trying to head out to middlgrounds in it.
Try not to look at 2-strokes through the lens of a jet ski. Those things tend to be unreliable by nature. Especially the ones I've owned what with having to get keys reprogrammed regularly if they even start at all that is. In a vacuum, an old 2-stroke would be perfectly reliable but the variables come with how the previous owners have treated the engine over the course of its life. A less than perfect 2-stroke will tend to act up more than a less than perfect 4 stroke. I guess what I'm really saying is you're going to have some issues pop up eventually with 15-20 year old engines regardless of what they are. Age is age I'm afraid. Don't feel bad about it though, alot of the guys with new engines still end up sending their stuff off for repairs under warranty. Might not cost them out of pocket but it costs them in time.
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Old 10-30-2020, 04:06 PM
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Depends on how old and which 2-strokes. IMO the computer controlled 2-strokes were less reliable than the older mechanical and carbureted ones.
I have a 90yamaha. It's 20 years old. I don't even know how many hours are on it. All I know is I run it once in a while and put oil in it and it keeps running. I have not rebuilt a carb on it in the 10 years I've owned it. I haven't even changed the plugs. I asked my mechanic about it last time he did work on the boat, and he told me "not broke, don't fix it". Its cranks on first try and runs like a top. That's kind of how they were back then. Just don't let them sit forever and they keep running.
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Old 10-30-2020, 04:10 PM
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I had a 2002 Yamaha 250hp two stroke and a 50hp Yamaha two stoke and they were reliable. Changed spark plugs and lower unit oil regularly and used fuel line filters.
Keep the zinc's up to date. The only issue I had was the tilt/trim motors corroded on the 50hp. Engine was reliable.
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Old 10-30-2020, 04:27 PM
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I did a lot of research in this sphere and my conclusion was that the Yamaha OX66 and HPDI were the most reliable of the 2 strokes circa 2000-2003. Sure, like anything they require some maintenance but for the most part they're bulletproof. The HPDI can be scanned to get engine hours so you know what kind of use it's had. The other benefit is that they're relatively inexpensive to replace if you do have a catastrophic failure and don't want to change out your rigging.
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Old 10-30-2020, 04:32 PM
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Find a low hour ox66 and you will be good to go. I currently have a 200 ox66 on my sailfish and while I'd love a quieter 4 stroke, I just can't do it. This motor is very reliable and so easy to work on with little maintenance. I was concerned about fuel consumption on offshore trips but I'm consistently seeing 2.4 to 2.6 at cruise.
Old 10-30-2020, 04:33 PM
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I had a Suzuki EFI 2-stroke. It never failed and I never ever thought that maybe I should not make that 30-50 mile trip because my engine might crap out. It was bullet proof. Just keep up with required maintenance And you should be golden.
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Old 10-30-2020, 04:55 PM
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Etec G1 .....yeh has computer but has been as reliable as any of the several old school carb motors I've had
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Old 10-30-2020, 08:26 PM
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Thanks All.

I must admit I'm surprised by these responses. Would it be safe to say that reliability isn't the main factor between a 2 stroke and a 4 stroke then? I've just been so put off by my jet ski 2 strokes as far as reliability I wouldn't ever dream of taking one off shore without a rescue vessel. The thought of going to an older boat with a two stroke is a concerning thought for what I want to use it for, but I do see them around all the time. I'm hopeful the comment about not comparing the boat motors to skis is advice worth running with.

I'd love to live without a boat payment, and I can add all the new tech that I'm after (12" Simrad, misters, power poles etc) to any of the used boats I'm looking at. The other option I've thought of is to try to find an old boat with a bad motor and only finance a repower, the problem with that plan is the only boats I'm seeing without motors or with blown motors are beat to crap.

I'm also one of the weirdos that absolutely loves the smell of the 2 strokes, so the oil burning smell isn't necessarily a bad thing IMO(although environmentally I know it is...).

Now, that being said, aside from compression is there anything else to look out for with an older 2 stroke boat motor? Obviously I'd pull the cover and look for signs of neglect/corrosion etc. I suspect I'm opening an entire other thread with this question and am happy to do so, as it probably goes down the path of trim tabs hydraulic steering throttle cables etc etc...
Old 10-30-2020, 08:54 PM
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Freshwater only 2 stroke would be better, but any motor that is 20+ years old can not be expected to be super reliable, so if you want extra reliable for family use then buy new, this from a guy that has a 2002 Mercury 200 hp Carbed 2 stroke. It’s reliable enough for me but does require decent amount of maintenance. Also, they don’t like to sit, the more used the better they are.
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Old 10-30-2020, 09:14 PM
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People are confusing reliability with longevity, lots of motors are reliable, that's what was asked, not how long you have had your motor, a modern EFI 4 stroke is a joy to own and operate, they are also pretty reliable, just like old carby 2 strokes, but, the old 2 stroke is not such a joy to own.
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Old 10-30-2020, 09:23 PM
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Originally Posted by noelm View Post
People are confusing reliability with longevity, lots of motors are reliable, that's what was asked, not how long you have had your motor, a modern EFI 4 stroke is a joy to own and operate, they are also pretty reliable, just like old carby 2 strokes, but, the old 2 stroke is not such a joy to own.
This is an important distinction, thanks for bringing it up. I don't mind PLANNED maintenance, I don't mind taking care of things and using kid gloves with older equipment, but I don't like tempermental equipment. For this purchase, I can't get something temperamental or else it will defeat the entire purpose of the purchase. I suppose worst case scenario I could always repower after I bought it, but that would also defeat the purpose of purchasing something to own outright. If I'm going to have payments I want the Seafox 228, that thing is purrrty....(In fairness I have only been computer shopping though, so that opinion is subject to change!)

Case and point: with my old Sea Doo it is an incredibly robust motor(717), but it is temperamental as hell. So something can be robust in that it doesn't have major mechanical failures, but it can also require a tow every other time you take it out over something stupid...
Old 10-30-2020, 09:24 PM
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Originally Posted by leonreno View Post
Freshwater only 2 stroke would be better, but any motor that is 20+ years old can not be expected to be super reliable, so if you want extra reliable for family use then buy new, this from a guy that has a 2002 Mercury 200 hp Carbed 2 stroke. It’s reliable enough for me but does require decent amount of maintenance. Also, they don’t like to sit, the more used the better they are.
What kind of maintenance does it require? And is the maintenance planned or are you frequently left either at the dock or on the water without a running motor?
Old 10-30-2020, 09:42 PM
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Depends on how they were cared for.

I have 2 Lawn Boy 2-strokes to cut our grass. The older one is a 1976, the newer one is a 1985. Both run perfect.
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Old 10-30-2020, 09:43 PM
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The maintenance on a 2 vs 4 that’s 20 years old is not going to be much different. 20 year old engines are going to have non planned issues pop up. Even the “bullet proof” ones will have components fail from age or use at some point.
Old 10-31-2020, 01:56 AM
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First thing first 2 stroke jetski are notoriously unreliable so I can understand your frustrations because they straight up suck. The most reliable 2 strokes I've seen are the yamaha ox66 saltwater series. They are bulletproof. Hpdi are not too bad either I guess and I would say the johnson ocean pros late 90s were very reliable as well. Just look for one with moderate hrs and maybe some updated maintenance because after owning a few 2strokes that approach the 20 year mark they tend to start needing some parts updated and replaced. There are definitely some to avoid. I also wouldn't hesitate on buying an evinrude e-tec. Overall I now have 4 strokes and enjoy them better because I always hated dealing with carburetors. I was in the same situation you are with a used boat 2 years ago and ended up buying a used boat and repowering it to a new engine , it was still cheaper than a new boat and fiberglass don't go bad really. I now sold that boat to upgrade in size

Last edited by Captainhaug; 10-31-2020 at 02:03 AM.
Old 10-31-2020, 03:28 AM
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I had one of those ultra reliable v4 yammie 115 2 strokes and six months into ownership it put a rod through the side of the block. Put on a remanufactured powerhead but still it was always a bit of a pain to cold start, smoked like a chimney and hated idling. Went for a newer boat with an EFI 4 stroke and suddenly its smokeless effortless starts and quiet smooth idling, so much better for fishing and just less stress generally. Age is one thing but the move from carbs and chokes to EFI is not to be ignored.
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Old 10-31-2020, 03:49 AM
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If you are only considering the mechanical components, an older 2 stroke in good condition is as rock solid as a new 4 stroke - maybe even more reliable.
The issue with the older 2 strokes is electronics and components made of rubber. Fuel likes, fuel pump gaskets, coils, and other electrical and rubber parts are prone to have problems.

All of that has been replaced on my old 2 stroke and it runs factory new and is extremely reliable...now. When I first got it, I had a few issues that prompted me to just buy all new fuel components from the tank to the carbs and new electronic parts. Replaced everything on one weekend and I'm confident in it's reliability now.
Old 10-31-2020, 04:25 AM
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Buy a used boat you like with an older 2-stroke cheap and repower it with a modern 4-stroke.

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