Boat Rigging Part 9: Kicker Installation

Installing a kicker motor on your new rig is actually easier than choosing which brand to go with.

A small auxiliary outboard—or “kicker”—is a great way to provide piece of mind in case of big engine failure. At the same time it provides better fuel economy, slower trolling speeds and reduces hours on the much more expensive main engine. Fortunately the act of prepping and hanging a new kicker engine is much easier than deciding which model is best.

A few simple steps will get you on the water in short order.

Hang It—Hanging the kicker on the boat transom to be sure that full steering movement is free of the main engine or other components of the transom. This may seem like a no brainer, but you’d be surprised at how many times this is overlooked.

Many aluminum boats have a transom that is already set to accommodate an auxiliary motor. Fiberglass boats typically require a bolt-on bracket such as the one pictured on my Ranger 621. Larger boats often require a bracket that allows for travel both down and away from the boat. If you aren’t sure what you need, contact the manufacturer and they can provide the necessary specs.

Once the engine is hung, tighten the supplied bolts on the front of the engine. If possible install two additional through-bolts to eliminate slop at the bottom of the bracket, and to make theft more difficult. On my boat through-bolting is not possible, so drilling and tapping two 1/4X20 bolts accomplishes the same task.

Hook It Up—Electric-start models need to have the positive and negative cables hooked up to the same cranking battery as the main engine. Next, you will need to hook up a fuel line. Many newer boat manufacturers have an extra tie in on the fuel tank that allows attachment of an additional fuel line, assuming you have a 4-stroke kicker.

The fuel line connection at the engine is very easy. Most manufacturers include a kicker fuel line with the big engine. If not, a short section of fuel line, primer ball and appropriate fittings, the kicker can be attached with hose clamps or marine-style crimp sleeves.

If purchasing a fuel line, make sure it is capable of handling fuels that contain ethanol. While all gas lines will eventually break down due to ethanol, some options are much better than others. Do your homework!

Lubricate—I had a family member who ran her car on half of a quart of oil for an extended period of time. Surprise, that didn’t work out so well! The opposite is often the problem with kicker engines. Running them at low rpm’s for long periods of time has a tendency to “make oil”. The worst thing you can do to small 4-stroke engines is to have too much oil in them. Read your manual and fill to the exact amount recommended by the manufacturer. I put in 1-2 ounces less than what’s called for and I feel they runner better and will have less issues. Either way, be sure to keep an eye on oil levels.

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Capt. Ross Robertson

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