Petrol outboards and portable engines

Small in size and portable by nature, it is easy to forget that portable engines can still cause death and serious injury if basic precautions are not taken. Follow our advice to stay safe.

Caravan LPG refrigerators on boats with petrol engine have caused numerous explosions when the low-level permanent flame of the fridge burner ignited stray vapours. So don’t risk using one!  Choose electric refrigeration which is suitable for marine use.

  • Avoid refuelling any portable engine or tank aboard the boat; take it to the bank and a safe distance from any boats or other sources of ignition.
  • Remember that on hot sunny days, or where the container is warmer than the surrounding air, more petrol vapour may be released under pressure when you undo the cap or seal.
  • Never use any bowl, bucket or other open container to carry or transfer petrol or mix in 2-stroke oil.
  • Stow any portable engine with integral fuel tanks containing petrol, in a self-draining, vapour-tight and fire-resistant locker or on open deck, but never over or near deck boards where, if leak occurs, dripping petrol or stray vapours could find their way through into the boat’s interior.
  • Don’t use petrol-powered equipment within the boat. Most portable equipment engines produce high volumes of the deadly toxin, carbon monoxide, in the exhaust gas.
  • For the same reasons, avoid running petrol powered tools for long periods near doors, vents, windows and hatches. Never run generators on the boat, or on the bank close to such openings. If you can smell exhaust fumes in the boat, it could mean the cabin is also filling with deadly carbon monoxide.
For further information to help avoid the serious risk from carbon monoxide poisoning. See our advice here Exhaust fumes
There is also a risk from the electricty produced by generators. See our advice here Shocked_90x90
  • Outboards and generators need routine maintenance. This includes checking for any tell-tale signs of dampness indicating fuel system damage that would otherwise be hidden.
  • Portable fuel system components will not last forever and frequent connection and re-connection will take its toll. Expect to replace tired and damaged items with suitable proprietary components as part of your routine maintenance regime.
  • Don’t modify your portable fuel system from that which is supplied by the manufacturer or proprietary component supplier.
  • Before starting off on any trip also check for any damage, weeping fuel or tell-tale signs of ‘fuel’ dampness as well as portable fuel tanks, hoses and connections.

 Next: Spare petrol safety tips »