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Outboard Lock
A smaller outboard lock that fits over the mounting toggles.

How to LOCK your Outboard Motor and Keep it Safe

So you just spent a small fortune on a brand new outboard motor and there she sits on the transom of your boat, but for how long?

Outboard thefts are at an all-time high, as is the cost of the motors themselves. Don’t let your new motor become part of ever-increasing theft statistics. While it is true that if thieves wanted your motor bad enough they could probably foil all attempts to secure it, but why make it easy for them? If your motor is locked and secured there is a better chance that the criminal will move on to an easier target. So how can you secure your new motor and deter someone from taking it? There are many things that can be done and the simple fact is that the more you do the less chance you have of losing your motor.

First and foremost is to try and keep it out of sight and in a secure location. If a thief can’t see it, chances are he won’t take it. If the boat is on a trailer then putting it behind a solid fence and/or backed up to an immovable object like a wall or large tree and otherwise inaccessible makes theft more difficult. Enterprising thieves have been known to move a boat or even steal the whole rig to get the motor so it is important that you not only lock the motor up but the trailer as well. Just a small tongue or coupler lock is not enough, however, as they are easy to circumvent, so wheel locks, chains and the like are also recommended. If you are cruising it’s always a good idea to stow your motor off your tender or pull the boat up on its davits. The key is to make it as difficult as possible for the thieves if they do scope out your motor. Many are lazy and will search for easier prey.

Sometimes hiding the motor out of sight is not a possibility. If this is the case you may want to consider a motor cover. An inexpensive canvas cover can hide the fact that there is a brand-new motor under it and makes identifying the motor and its size that much harder. A thief would have to take the time to remove the cover to see what is under it and is less likely to do so than just being able to glance over and identify his next target. Some would argue that a ratty weathered cover is better and can disguise the fact a new motor lies underneath.

Some new motor owners have gone to further extremes to disguise their motors by painting and “scuffing up” the motor to look as if it is a much older outboard. Some have gone as far as painting the whole engine blaze orange or bright colors to make it less desirable and easier to identify (with good results). If you don’t want to go ugly there are also personalized color schemes such as your school colors or anything that will clearly identify your motor and reduce its value on the black market. Don’t forget, though, if you just paint the cowling it is easy to remove and repaint, so don’t forget to do the whole motor.

Locking the motor to your boat is another good option. There are a few purpose-built locks such as bar locks that cover the mounting toggles on smaller outboards and lock in place. There are also special locks made to go over mounting bolts on larger outboards. They all can be foiled but prove to be good deterrents. Another simple solution (that works on all kinds of other marine applications) it to put a small spot-weld on the mounting nut and bolt at the base. This prevents the nut from being able to be turned and removed without first grinding the weld down.

Alarms of various kinds are also a viable option. Companies such as Gost Security Systems and others (to be covered in a future article) offer a wide array of systems and options. Systems can be elaborate, with tracking and smart phone notifications, and some garage-engineered systems can be as simple as a pull pin that triggers an audio alarm. Thieves are also more likely to stay away if a boat is alarmed and identified as such (just don’t advertise which alarm it is because pros will then know how to disarm it).

The key to keeping your new outboard is to make it as difficult and unappealing as possible to a potential thief. One or more of the above deterrents will help and the more of them you deploy the less the chance of discovering a bare transom.

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