Like every body of water, river fishing comes along with uniqUe obstacles: shallow water to maneuver with visible or hidden debris -- added risk if the bottom is rocky. These common risks play a big role in jet motors gaining popularity amongst Michigan river anglers. 

An outboard jet motor sits on the outside of a boat, just as a propped outboard does, and appears the same in many ways. They're different in the way the motors get power, direction, and force. While a propped motor gets its force from prop propulsion, a jet outboard relies on a water pump, which sucks water in and pushes it back out to move the boat forward. This difference is the root of jet motors biggest advantage: shallower water capabilities -- especially useful in river fishing.

Wednesday, 02 December 2015 00:00

In with the Old, Out with the New: Used Motors

It's no lie that things can get pretty quiet around here when the Michigan winter hits. Once winterizing starts to slow down, our mechanics turn their focus over to used motors. We use the winter months to stock our used motor room and shelves with various, dependable, and thoroughly checked motors. Here's a little glimpse into the steps we go through to get these motors back onto the shelves and water-ready for boating season:

Wednesday, 09 September 2015 00:00

Fall Boating Perks

Fall is approaching and it will bring the somber end-of-summer vibes with it. Pack away your swimsuit, enjoy your tan while you have it, and kiss the warm weather goodbye - but whatever you do, don't send your boat in for storage just yet. Summer boating is nearly impossible to compete with, but that doesn't mean fall boating should be overlooked completely; it's still good for something

It's good for your game
With a change in location and bait, fall can be a great time for bass fishing. The colder weather and water temperatures will coax the bass into shallower waters. It's best to use bait that does well in shallower waters: crankbait, spinner bait, or jerkbait to list a few. Because bass are more aggressive in the fall, preparing for cold months with little feeding ahead, they're willing to work for their food - so it will be especially beneficial to use lures that look like the shad that they're feeding on. Regardless of what type of bait you are using, try and mimic the shad with the color.

Friday, 07 August 2015 00:00

6 Necessities for the Perfect Boating Day


#1 Good Weather  
good weatherSome of the most important parts of a good boating day are weather, company, and an ice cold drink. Pay attention to the weather forecast and the rest will follow. When there's nice weather, the friends will find the boat. When the friends find the boat, chances are they will come along with a full cooler. All you need to do is make sure your koozie is ready. 

#2 Pre-Departure Checks
I know, I know: maintenance isn't fun and the water is calling your name. But before you load up your friends and cooler, you should probably make sure your motor and boat are as ready as you are. There are a few easy things you should check before leaving dock. The biggest no-brainer, and probably most important: check your gas level. Nothing like getting stranded to ruin your day out on the water. Also make sure your engine oil and coolant are at a good level, check your anchor rope for chafe or wear, and run your motor to make sure it is having a smooth start up. 

#3 Bragging Rights
Are you packing on the passengers for a ride, maybe anchoring at a sandbar for a little bit? Or are you loading up the wakeboard, skis, and tubes for a day of watersports? Decide this before you pick out which prop you are going to use for the day. One prop could offer better acceleration and hole shot for water sports, while another prop might be better at offering pulling power for packing on lots of friends. Using the right prop will help you optimize your boat's performance, ideal for the perfect boating day, and help you earn some bragging rights along the way. It can't hurt to have another prop handy with the right tools to change it. This can give you options as well as a backup if anything should happen. 

#4 Peace of Mind
Grab enough life jackets, make sure your extinguisher and flares aren't expired, update your registration, and put on your sunblock - quick, easy, and worth it. Peace of mind: check.

boating lights with caption#5 Unknown End Time
Summer is winding down which means the hours of sunlight are too. But, with the correct lights and knowledge of night time boating, you won't have to worry about getting home before the sun is down. The speed and waterskiing may be done once the sun is, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's time to dock. When it starts to get dark, pay attention to your speed. Many places have reduced speed limits for night time, sometimes even an idle speed. With limited sight, it's better to go slower regardless of the rules. Make sure you have the correct lights, that their bulbs aren't dead, and you know how to use them correctly. When driving a car, the solution is always headlights. Boating is very different, headlights can create difficult reflecrtions on the water which makes night time driving trickier. Different colored lights mean different things, so make sure you are aware of what your lights may mean to other boaters before staying out in the dark. 

#6 Plans to do it Again
Ending a day on the water with plans to do it again is to be expected. Especially after its been the perfect boating day. You can make the plans, but you can't assure your boat and motor will make an appearance without a little bit of after-use care. If you're looking for the bare minimum care: rinse it off and put on the cover. If you want to really take care of it: flush out the motor, check for any leaks, and consider your fuel level. If you're next plans are coming up soon, it's best to fill up the gas tank. If the next ride might not be for a while, try to run through your tank if you can. You boat and motor will thank you.  

boating day

Friday, 31 July 2015 00:00

Boat Maintenance - 3 Spots Not to Miss

Somethings are out of sight, out of mind - a boat's accumulation of bacteria, grease, or odor should not be one of those things. There are a few covered parts of a boat that really need to get some attention in order to keep your boat in good shape. Often, the places you can't see are the places that could use the most TLC; like the live well, bilge, or gunk that collects in your engine. Cleaning and maintaining the cleanliness of your boat and outboard can be easy and worth it. 

Maintaining your engine
All maintenance serves the same purpose; it helps avoid damages while also getting the most out of your outboard's performance. When it comes to boats and motors, a shiny exterior is nothing without a shiny interior. Cleaning your engine is important regardless of what kind of water you are cruising through. De-greasing the inside of your engine and removing all the gunk and dirt should become an annual part of your end-of-season care. Using an anti-corrosive, like WD-40, helps remove all the possibly troublesome grime from your engine.

Once you have a sparkling engine interior, flushing out your outboard with fresh water helps maintain a healthy engine. If you're cruising through salt water, flushing is recommended after every use. Left over salt sitting in your engine can be harmful. Even when going through fresh water, if it is especially sandy or dirty, flushing after use is a good precaution. Flushing is also helpful because it helps your engine cool down. With a set of engine ear muffs and a garden hose, flushing out your engine can be quick and painless. Attach ear muffs to your lower unit so they're covering the pickup, attach the garden hose to the side of the ear muffs, and start flushin'. With the engine and garden hose both running, the water is sucked up by the fuel pump and through the engine. By flushing regularly and keeping up with consistent engine maintenance you can prevent issues before they get too major.

Maintaining your bilge & livewell
The bilge of your boat can have an odor, collect bacteria, or rust and corrode the equipment that sits there. With that being said, it's clear why keeping your bilge clean is advised. Bilges can get dirty and not all sections of the bilge are easy to reach, but cleaning all of the areas you can will make a huge difference.There are different options for bilge cleaner, but going with a biodegradable cleaner can have advantages. Products that aren't biodegradable can harm the water; they require careful use. With a biodegradable cleaner you don't have to be quite as cautious. After applying the cleaner, let it soak before scrubbing: why not let the cleaner do some of the work for you? Letting it sit and soak gives it a chance to de-grease, making the rinse easier. 

How many times have you caught a fish, put it in the live well, took the fish out, and gone about your business? Probably atleast a few times. How many times have you given your live well a good scrub-a-dub? Hopefully at least a few times. Fish aren't clean by any means, so chances are your live well isn't either. Probably one of the easiest things to clean, the live well only requires a little scrubbing with anti-bacterial soap. After washing, especially before boat storage, make sure your live well is dry. Storing a boat with a wet live well, even clean moisture, can easily grow bacteria and reverse your hard work. 

A nice boat can help ensure weekend plans, fresh fish dinners, and bragging rights. A dirty boat, on the other hand, can potentially lead to odorous boat rides or hefty mechanic bills. No doubt keeping your boat and outboard clean will definitely pay off. Stop by or call Van's Sport Center with any questions or boating needs! 

Friday, 24 July 2015 00:00

Suzuki's DF200A: The Whole Shebang

Suzuki Marine brings a lot to the table; motors with lots of power, motors with efficiency, and motors with style. With their DF200A, however, they have combined all those attributes in one outboard. 

slim with spaceIt's powerful

Often when searching for added power you get stuck packing lots of bulky weight onto your boat. That isn't the case with Suzuki's DF200A four stroke outboard. One of the biggest sources for this motor's praise is its power-to-weight ratio. It holds a four cylinder block that can also meet the performance more typically seen in V6 outboards. Its impressive torque at lower rpms and fast acceleration are more typical characteristics for V6 motors, but with an efficiently designed engine like this one you can get the best of both worlds. 

It's intelligent
With three different sensor systems and qualities that lead to great fuel economy, this motor has an engrained sense of efficiency. It has a water detection system which increases the moto'rs reliability; especially beneficial with the threats posed by increasing amounts of ethanol in fuel. Along with the water detection, it has a knock and O2 sensor. Both of these sensors send information to the ECM that helps optimize the engine's performance. It uses the Lean Burn technology which allows this motor to optimize the fuel-to-air mixture and provide improved fuel economy. This motor optimizes performance, optimizes fuel use, and optimizes reliability with sensor use -- I told you it was intelligent.  

It's sleek
This outboard offers power, fuel economy, low-end torque: all packed into one sleek external body. The DF200A is lightweight and slim, weighing in at 498 lbs. The lighter weight of this motor widens the range of boats that it can call home. Older boats are often confined to lighter 2 stroke outboards, but this light 4 stroke model poses as a more powerful option. Also, because of its slim profile it would be a good motor for twin-engines. 


Whatever you are looking for in a re-power the DF200A is definitely one to consider. It'll give your boat a new look, your rides more power, and you a motor you can count on - all in one shebang.

better in water pic

Changing your motor's oil is no different from any other maintenance work; keeping up with it consistently will help avoid damages and better the longevity of your motor's life. Maintaining clean and full oil in your boat can help keep the engine running smooth for a lot longer. A lubricated engine makes for a happy engine--and a happy owner

oils photoHow Often to Add Oil
Depending on what type of outboard you are running, oil maintenance will be different. With 2-Stroke outboards the oil goes straight in with the fuel which means there is no changing, per say, just re-adding. With 4-stroke engines the oil is kept separate and the engine doesn't burn through it the same way 2-Stroke engines do, so you have to change it rather than just add more. For most 2 Stroke outboards the fuel to oil ratio is 50:1, so for every 50 gallons of fuel you use, you should add 1 gallon of oil. Older engines may differ in required oil ratios, depending on their year. For four stroke outboards, it is recommended that you change your oil every 50-100 hours or, to simplify, once a year. Depending on the frequency that your motor is used, it may be beneficial to change oil more often.

What Type of Oil to Use
When picking out the best oil for your outboard there are advantages to using brand compatible oil. Outboard branded oils are specially formulated for that brand of motors. When using Evinrude's XD oil in an ETEC, for example, you are assuring that your oil is meeting your engine's standards. All outboard brands make outboard oil and it is manufacturer recommended to use your outboard's brand for best results.


synthetic versus conventional


It's an ongoing discussion: is conventional or synthetic oil better for your engine? Sometimes it just depends on preference. Conventional is a mineral based oil while synthetic is chemically created, or man-made. Conventional oil is cheaper than synthetic oil, but in the long run sometimes synthetic can be cheaper. Your engine will burn through less oil when using synthetic which can make the extra expense worth it. If you're looking for something in the middle, there is also a synthetic blend. A synthetic blend is a mix of conventional (30%) and synthetic (70%) and it offers some of the benefits from synthetic at a lower price. 

Tips For Changing Your Oil
Taking your boat into a service department for an oil change is quick and well worth the time and money spent. However, with the right tools and information about your motor, changing your oil yourself can be worth it as well. Here are a couple of tips for changing the oil in your 4-stroke outboard yourself.  

1. Run your engine first
This one small step will make a huge difference.  When oil is cold it gives the dirt and grime a chance to settle and get left behind, but when oil is hot it suspends the contamination and allows for it to be removed with the oil. Running the engine beforehand also makes it easier because heating up the oil thins it out, making it easier to drain. Run your engine for about 5 minutes before changing the oil and you won't regret it. 

2. Prepare for disposal and drips
When changing oil it is very important to be cautious of oil spills. Before changing your oil, you should make sure that you have something ready to catch drips and old oil for disposal. If draining your oil by removing the drain plug, a garbage bag (or two) can be attached to your motor for direct disposal. Lining the trash bag with a cardboard box, in the place where the bag and outboard meet, makes for a more spill free draining. On top of that, you can use absorbent mats or rags to help catch unexpected drips and spills. 

new gvb

3. Out with the bad...(filter too!)
There are different methods to ridding of the contaminated oil. The simplest, yet sometimes messiest, way is to remove the drain plug and let it pour out. This way can be easy, but catching the old oil and disposing is not as simpleas other methods. Another option is to use a manual hand pump or other systems that can come with an attached container for disposal. Usually these manual tools get to the oil through the dipstick tube of your engine. When you're changing your filter, it's beneficial to change your filter as well. A lot of grime can build up there, might as well kill two birds with one stone. 

5. with the good
After you've drained your old oil, its time to fill 'er back up. Before doing so, know how much oil your outboard needs, draining out after overfilling can be a pain. This information can be found in the owners manual. Once you got that lucky number, remove the filler plug, pour in the new oil, and check the level using your dipstick.

If your outboard seems like it would be an easy change, save yourself money and time by doing so yourself. However, there are always service departments ready to help. Don't hestitate to contact or stop in to Van's Sport Center with any boating needs!

Monday, 15 June 2020 00:00

Kicker Motors - The Perfect Sidekick

Kicker motors, also known as spare outboards, are motors that sit next to a bigger, main outboard and can serve a couple of different purposes. They typically are seen in the 10hp or less range. The simplest use for a kicker is as back up. In events where your main outboard fails, and you don't have The Hulk to paddle you ashore, a kicker is a great thing to have. For more recreational needs, it can be used to steer sailboats. This is more often seen in southern areas, such as Florida. In northern areas, such as Michigan, Kickers are more commonly used for trolling. When you're trying to catch those salmon and trout in Lake Michigan, a kicker will come in handy. They allow you to slow down to a trolling speed. 

kicker with borderKickers and trolling motors may seem to be one in the same because of their very similar purpose. However, there are big differences that set them apart. There are advantages to a trolling motor; they run on battery and can provide pull from the front (with a bow motor) which can provide better control. However, that doesn't mean it is always your best option. There are advantages that come with a kicker outboard that may just give trolling motors a run for their money. A kicker outboard is not only great for trolling, but it also provides a great backup for when your main outboard is failing. If you try to use a trolling motor as a secure backup, it would require having spare batteries. Batteries put heavy weight on a boat and take up space; with a kicker motor you don't have to worry about those--you get the accountability of a back-up outboard without needing a backup battery for the backup. Kicker motors provide a way to troll, while also providing a better sense of security. 

Initially, the kicker can be a little bit pricier than alternative trolling options. But after that sometimes-painful purchase, they have qualities that make them cost effective. First and foremost, using a kicker motor helps you save on gas. Trolling with a kicker offers great gas to time ratio, which helps save on the gas you would have been using with your main outboard. Along with gas, they help prevent putting unwanted hours on your main outboard. By preventing wear and tear on your main outboard, you maintain the longevity of your main outboard. In addition, a little extra bonus: if both your main and kicker outboard are compatible, you can link up gas tanks so you don't have to fill separately. 

tie bar picture with captionWhen using a kicker motor, there are a few different steering options. A lot of kicker motors will come with a tiller handle; a tiller handle is an easy way to steer especially when it comes with the motor. However, there are a few other options that allow you to move further away from your motor while on the go. The cheapest and simplest way would be using a tie bar to connect your kicker to your main outboard. Although it can be the cheapest option, it can make outboard maintenance a little more complicated. Auto-pilot is a pricier way to steer your kicker, however it offers a lot of advantages. Auto-pilots are great at keeping you on course and adjusting to different conditions. With a little wind, the auto-pilot will correct itself to keep you on track without having to fight against it yourself. Hydraulic is the fourth steering option. Hydraulic is a much easier and effective way to connect your two motors with more options. 

Most outboard brands offer smaller horsepower motors that can be used as kicker motors. Mercury has a ProKicker FourStroke series that is light weight, fuel efficient, and offers great portability. The Yamaha T9.9 also gets great reviews when being used as a kicker motor. The T9.9 offers longer tiller handles for easier steering. It's a great motor for trolling with slightly bigger boats. Suzuki has a DF9.9 motor that is great as a kicker, comes with a power till and EFI (Electronic Fuel Injection).


A big part of picking out a kicker motor is preference. With the right knowledge of your options and what you want, you're well on your way to finding the kicker motor that fits your needs.  Don't hesitate to stop in and let us show you what we, and our selection of motors, have to offer!

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