Boat Makeover

Boat Makeover: 8-hour motor rebuild

My 1996 Mercury XR6 150 blew a piston (pictured) on the second day of the 2018 Bassmaster Central Open on Logan Martin Lake. A friend turned me onto Blackbird Motors Inc., a business in Pennsylvania that provides one of the most amazing services I’ve come across in well over 40 years of writing about and participating in bass tournaments: They can rebuild your outboard in a single day!
Photo: Mark Hicks - My 1996 Mercury XR6 150 blew a piston (pictured) on the second day of the 2018 Bassmaster Central Open on Logan Martin Lake. A friend turned me onto Blackbird Motors Inc., a business in Pennsylvania that provides one of the most amazing services I’ve come across in well over 40 years of writing about and participating in bass tournaments: They can rebuild your outboard in a single day!
I made the four-hour drive to Blackbird Motors from my Ohio home on a cold, drizzly, late November morning. After they removed my block, I could see the damaged piston and peak into the cylinder from whence the blown piston came. The cylinder wall is shredded and some pieces have broken off.
Photo: Mark Hicks - I made the four-hour drive to Blackbird Motors from my Ohio home on a cold, drizzly, late November morning. After they removed my block, I could see the damaged piston and peak into the cylinder from whence the blown piston came. The cylinder wall is shredded and some pieces have broken off.
The piston rod was beyond repair. Note how the other cylinder walls look compared to the damaged cylinder.
Photo: Mark Hicks - The piston rod was beyond repair. Note how the other cylinder walls look compared to the damaged cylinder.
Here’s a side view of the piston rod. It is supposed to be straight.
Photo: Mark Hicks - Here’s a side view of the piston rod. It is supposed to be straight.
The adjacent piston on the other side of the engine block was about ready to go.
Photo: Mark Hicks - The adjacent piston on the other side of the engine block was about ready to go.
Here’s my engine after one of Blackbird Motors’ mechanics removed it from the lower unit.
Photo: Mark Hicks - Here’s my engine after one of Blackbird Motors’ mechanics removed it from the lower unit.
The lower unit remained attached to my boat’s transom throughout this process. The reason Blackbird Motors can rebuild an outboard in one day is that they have a rebuilt block ready to install when you get there. They rebuild roughly 1,000 outboards a year and have the mechanics and machinery in house to do precision work.
Photo: Mark Hicks - The lower unit remained attached to my boat’s transom throughout this process. The reason Blackbird Motors can rebuild an outboard in one day is that they have a rebuilt block ready to install when you get there. They rebuild roughly 1,000 outboards a year and have the mechanics and machinery in house to do precision work.
Mike DeMayo Jr. inspects parts after they have been cleaned in a 200-degree Cuda pressure washer. It removes grime and any metal chips left from a damaged engine. This is the first process in a rebuild. 	DeMayo and his father started Blackbird Motors in 1988. They began rebuilding outboards in the early 70s when they were into boat racing.
Photo: Mark Hicks - Mike DeMayo Jr. inspects parts after they have been cleaned in a 200-degree Cuda pressure washer. It removes grime and any metal chips left from a damaged engine. This is the first process in a rebuild. DeMayo and his father started Blackbird Motors in 1988. They began rebuilding outboards in the early 70s when they were into boat racing.
As necessary, all block surfaces are machined with a Bridgeport dry milling machine.
Photo: Mark Hicks - As necessary, all block surfaces are machined with a Bridgeport dry milling machine.
This is the head of an engine block before being milled.
Photo: Mark Hicks - This is the head of an engine block before being milled.
This is the head of an engine block after being milled. 	If the cylinders need to be bored, this is done precisely prior to milling with an F3 Bridge Bore machine. Cylinder sleeves are replaced, if necessary.
Photo: Mark Hicks - This is the head of an engine block after being milled. If the cylinders need to be bored, this is done precisely prior to milling with an F3 Bridge Bore machine. Cylinder sleeves are replaced, if necessary.
DeMayo studies the readout as the computer assisted Rottler H8500 honing machine hones a diamond finish to achieve the correct finish and size on each cylinder. This ensures the necessary clearances (.0025 to .0045 of an inch) needed for correct piston and ring operations. “Things have to be done right,” DeMayo insisted.
Photo: Mark Hicks - DeMayo studies the readout as the computer assisted Rottler H8500 honing machine hones a diamond finish to achieve the correct finish and size on each cylinder. This ensures the necessary clearances (.0025 to .0045 of an inch) needed for correct piston and ring operations. “Things have to be done right,” DeMayo insisted.
The precision honing machine at work.
Photo: Mark Hicks - The precision honing machine at work.
Bryan Freehling measures a honed cylinder to make sure it meets the proper specs. Freehling runs all the high-tech machinery at Blackbird and has worked there for 10 years. He also has 39 years of experience as an engine machinist.
Photo: Mark Hicks - Bryan Freehling measures a honed cylinder to make sure it meets the proper specs. Freehling runs all the high-tech machinery at Blackbird and has worked there for 10 years. He also has 39 years of experience as an engine machinist.
This is not my engine block, but it shows a rebuilt six-cylinder outboard ready to be assembled at Blackbird Motors. This includes all new pistons, piston rings and bearings. Damaged crankshafts are replaced or repaired with a Gleason welder to buildup material on the journal before grinding it back to proper tolerances with a Sclendum RG-230 machine.
Photo: Mark Hicks - This is not my engine block, but it shows a rebuilt six-cylinder outboard ready to be assembled at Blackbird Motors. This includes all new pistons, piston rings and bearings. Damaged crankshafts are replaced or repaired with a Gleason welder to buildup material on the journal before grinding it back to proper tolerances with a Sclendum RG-230 machine.
Here’s another six-cylinder block ready for assembly. A rebuilt engine block from Blackbird Motors is on par with a new one.
Photo: Mark Hicks - Here’s another six-cylinder block ready for assembly. A rebuilt engine block from Blackbird Motors is on par with a new one.
Stan Lapinski, a 25-year Blackbird employee, lubricates a block prior to installing the pistons.
Photo: Mark Hicks - Stan Lapinski, a 25-year Blackbird employee, lubricates a block prior to installing the pistons.
These engine blocks have all been renewed and are ready to be assembled. Blackbird has many engine blocks on hand. If they don’t have one for your outboard, they can usually get one and have it rebuilt before you get there.
Photo: Mark Hicks - These engine blocks have all been renewed and are ready to be assembled. Blackbird has many engine blocks on hand. If they don’t have one for your outboard, they can usually get one and have it rebuilt before you get there.
These rebuilt blocks are for Mercury Verado 4-stroke outboards.
Photo: Mark Hicks - These rebuilt blocks are for Mercury Verado 4-stroke outboards.
Evan Nolte is in charge of assembling Mercury Verado engines.
Photo: Mark Hicks - Evan Nolte is in charge of assembling Mercury Verado engines.
This reworked Yamaha block is ready to be assembled.
Photo: Mark Hicks - This reworked Yamaha block is ready to be assembled.
This is my rebuilt motor prior to reinstalling it. The starter, flywheel and all other components were stripped off my damaged block and installed on the rebuilt block. Blackbird also rebuilt the fuel pump, the water pump, (including a new impeller in the lower unit). In addition, they drained the lower unit oil and filled it with fresh oil, replaced the thermostats and the poppin’ valve, which prevents excessive water pressure from damaging the engine. 	This is standard procedure for an 8-hour rebuild at Blackbird.
Photo: Mark Hicks - This is my rebuilt motor prior to reinstalling it. The starter, flywheel and all other components were stripped off my damaged block and installed on the rebuilt block. Blackbird also rebuilt the fuel pump, the water pump, (including a new impeller in the lower unit). In addition, they drained the lower unit oil and filled it with fresh oil, replaced the thermostats and the poppin’ valve, which prevents excessive water pressure from damaging the engine. This is standard procedure for an 8-hour rebuild at Blackbird.
My rebuilt motor from the other side. Blackbird rebuilt my carburetors, complete with new valves and gaskets, after cleaning the components in a specialized machine that vibrates the cleaning solvent. 	When Blackbird rebuilds a fuel-injected outboard they perform ultrasonic injector cleaning and test each injector’s spray pattern and flow rate with a GB 800 Fuel Injector Cleaning/Testing System to ensure top performance. 	These procedures are also standard with Blackbird’s 8-hour rebuild.
Photo: Mark Hicks - My rebuilt motor from the other side. Blackbird rebuilt my carburetors, complete with new valves and gaskets, after cleaning the components in a specialized machine that vibrates the cleaning solvent. When Blackbird rebuilds a fuel-injected outboard they perform ultrasonic injector cleaning and test each injector’s spray pattern and flow rate with a GB 800 Fuel Injector Cleaning/Testing System to ensure top performance. These procedures are also standard with Blackbird’s 8-hour rebuild.
Larry Evans installs my rebuilt motor outside. It is late in the afternoon on a dreary day. Almost finished.
Photo: Mark Hicks - Larry Evans installs my rebuilt motor outside. It is late in the afternoon on a dreary day. Almost finished.
Evans makes a final inspection to make sure everything is where it should be.
Photo: Mark Hicks - Evans makes a final inspection to make sure everything is where it should be.
The final step was to break the ice in the testing tank outdoors and hook my outboard up to a dynamometer. This machine allows the mechanics to test the engine under a load.
Photo: Mark Hicks - The final step was to break the ice in the testing tank outdoors and hook my outboard up to a dynamometer. This machine allows the mechanics to test the engine under a load.
The dynamometer also allows the mechanics to make final adjustments to the carburetors and carburetor linkage. 	The cost for the rebuild was $4,000, plus tax.
Photo: Mark Hicks - The dynamometer also allows the mechanics to make final adjustments to the carburetors and carburetor linkage. The cost for the rebuild was $4,000, plus tax.
Blackbird Motors also rebuilds outboards for resale. Part of this process includes refinishing the motor’s exterior, which includes sandblasting and bodywork where necessary. This lower unit and engine support are being prepared for fresh paint.
Photo: Mark Hicks - Blackbird Motors also rebuilds outboards for resale. Part of this process includes refinishing the motor’s exterior, which includes sandblasting and bodywork where necessary. This lower unit and engine support are being prepared for fresh paint.
DeMayo inspects one of the outboards that has been rebuilt and is ready to sell. These finished engines look showroom new and come with a one-year power head parts warranty.
Photo: Mark Hicks - DeMayo inspects one of the outboards that has been rebuilt and is ready to sell. These finished engines look showroom new and come with a one-year power head parts warranty.
New decals are a nice finishing touch on all fully rebuilt motors. Blackbird Motors is also a Platinum Mercury Dealer so you can buy a new or rebuilt outboard from them. They work on all makes of outboards, but most of their work is done on Mercury and Yamaha motors. For more information contact:</p> <br> Blackbird Motors Inc. Boatmotortrader.com 877-983-2537.
Photo: Mark Hicks - New decals are a nice finishing touch on all fully rebuilt motors. Blackbird Motors is also a Platinum Mercury Dealer so you can buy a new or rebuilt outboard from them. They work on all makes of outboards, but most of their work is done on Mercury and Yamaha motors. For more information contact: Blackbird Motors Inc. Boatmotortrader.com 877-983-2537.