Marine Engine Surveys

What is a Marine Engine Survey? 

A marine engine survey is an in depth mechanical inspection of the engine(s) on a boat or yacht. This is not an inspection that just any surveyor can perform. To conduct a proper mechanical survey on marine engines the surveyor needs to have professional marine engine technical training, factory specific engine training, hands on mechanical experience, (service, troubleshooting, and repair), and continuing education on the engines the surveyor is inspecting. Without proper education, experience, and mechanical knowledge of the engines many things can be missed which can cause an owner or a prospective buyer of a vessel thousands of dollars in unseen damages, overdue maintenance or even the replacement of a faulty engine that appeared to run properly. 

As a certified marine engine technician in many different outboard and inboard engines, I can inspect the engines in detail. I understand how they work and what to look for to give my customers a detailed assessment of the engines I am inspecting. This includes a list of the findings and recommendations based on the results of the sea trial and inspection. 

The inspection process and testing of the engine's components during a marine engine survey are the following: 

  • Sea trial (running the engines at wide open throttle, backing the engines down, and hard over turns to inspect the steering assembly)
  • Compression testing
  • Borescope viewing of the cylinders and pistons
  • Inductive testing of the ignition systems
  • Infrared thermal imaging of the engine blocks or powerheads and transmissions to ensure proper temperature anomalies throughout the engines while running
  • Computerized marine engine diagnostics (includes dynamic testing, static testing, and component activation of the engine's components - to learn more about marine engine diagnostics click here)
  • Inspection of the steering assembly
  • Inspection of the engine's electrical actuators or hydraulic systems
  • Oil analysis to search for unusual wear metals and foreign substances in the engines
  • Testing of the fuel to search for phase separation, excess water or Ethanol in the fuel
  • Proper rectified and regulated voltage to insure the engines are charging the batteries when running
  • An overall visual inspection of the engine to look for things such as galvanic corrosion, back probing, worn timing belts, proper belt tension, proper wiring connections, improper previous repairs, etc. 

If requested or recommended, I can conduct more advanced inspections and testing during the marine engine survey or analysis. I can also provide diagnosis or determine the mechanical failures. These advanced inspections and testing I can perform are the following: 

  • Digital data testing (on NEMA 2000 and CAN bus data systems)
  • Stray current testing
  • Battery load testing
  • Vacuum testing
  • Leak down testing
  • Electrical parasitic draw
  • Carbon monoxide testing
  • Fuel analysis
  • Coolant analysis
  • Mechanical failure analysis

*Note: Advanced engine inspections require more effort, time, analysis, and sometimes disassembly of the engines. Typically these advanced services require extra charges.

Below are some of the findings from marine engine surveys and engine failure analysis work I have conducted in the past: 

Vacuum testing of a fuel tank due to a faulty anti-siphon valve

Oil in the cylinder of a Yamaha F250 outboard engine from a damaged "o" ring during a marine engine survey

Water in the lower unit of a Yamaha F350 outboard engine with excess gear filings on the magnetic plug during an outboard engine survey

Low compression testing of a MerCruiser 5.7 Liter inboard engine during an engine survey

Fouled spark plugs causing the engine to idle rough during a marine engine survey

A badly damaged ring seal on the lower unit of an outboard engine from a previous hard grounding discovered during an outboard engine survey

Infrared thermal image of a Yamaha outboard engine running with a hot spot from a lack of water circulation in the powerhead

Testing the level of the head of a Mercury EFI outboard engine from leaking ring seals that caused a failure in this outboard engine

Phase separated and contaminated fuel in the fuel rail of a Yamaha OX66 outboard engine

Detonation damage on the piston head of a Honda 140 HP outboard engine from running old, phase separated fuel through the engine

Fuel pressure testing of a Yamaha two stroke outboard engine during a fuel diagnosis

Fuel taken from the primary fuel filter (on the left) and fuel taken from the VST (on the right) of the same Mercury two stroke outboard engine which confirmed a faulty oil pump

Below are videos from actual marine engine surveys I have conducted in the past: 


As you can see from the photos and videos above, a proper marine engine survey or analysis can save a prospective buyer or owner thousands of dollars and unecessary headaches. These inspections give peace of mind and more than pay for themselves.

I am currently certified on Yamaha, Mercury, and Honda outboard engines and MerCruiser inboard engines. I have specific factory and technical trade school training on Evinrude, and Suzuki outboard engines and BRP, Yamaha, and Volvo gasoline inboard engines. I attend yearly annual training from factory training schools throughout the United States.

My combined training, education, and technical certifications can be found here.

Please contact me if you would like to arrange a marine engine survey or engine analysis at (561) 255-4139 or via my contact page here. I would be more than happy to discuss it with you and can combine it with a pre-purchase and valuation survey for a prospective buyer.

Capt. John Banister, AMS®
SAMS® Accredited Marine Surveyor
ABYC® Standards Accredited
Yamaha Certified Outboard Marine Technician
Mercury / MerCruiser Certified Technician
Honda Certified Outboard Engine Technician
USPAP® Certificate on Appraisal Standards
ITC® Certified Level III Thermographer
USCG Licensed Master Captain
Member SAMS®, ABYC®, IAMI®, & NFPA®

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Suenos Azules Marine Surveying and Consulting • Palm Beach Gardens, Florida