2 Stroke vs. 4-Stroke Outboard Motors

4/2/2020

If you’re a boating enthusiast, you’ve probably wondered about the differences between 2-stroke and 4-stroke outboard motors.

Many people believe that 4-stroke engines are more powerful and that 2-stroke engines are quicker. However, technological advancements have greatly boosted the performance of today’s technology, making the differences between these motors less significant.

Still, both motors possess unique benefits and drawbacks. Whether you’re purchasing a motor or training for a career as a marine technician, it’s important to know how each type of engine works.

Keep reading to learn more! We’ll give you an overview of 2-stroke vs. 4-stroke outboard motors, including the pros and cons of each as well as the technologies’ evolution.

2-Stroke vs. 4-Stroke Outboard Pros and Cons

Technology has dramatically transformed the marine industry over the last few decades, and much of what we once knew about 2- and 4-stroke outboard motors has changed. For that reason, staying current on the latest models and their features is essential.

4-stroke motors used to be much less sporty and performance-oriented than 2-stroke motors. Compared with 4-strokes, 2-stroke motors had quicker acceleration and were smaller and more portable. For many years, they dominated the market due to these features.

Consumers were also concerned about 2-stroke engines’ lack of fuel efficiency, which is why they preferred 4-stroke engines, which were generally more fuel-efficient and also produced lower emissions. 4-strokes also tended to run more smoothly and quietly compared to 2-strokes.

Fortunately, modern manufacturing standards have made today’s 2- and 4-stroke motors more reliable than older models. Both are built to last and power through any adventure, though 4-stroke motors are typically more durable than 2-stroke motor counterparts from the same manufacturer.

When in doubt, do your research online and compare reliability ratings for different motors. It can also help to speak with others in the boating community, since many have likely had personal experience with different types of boat and motor combinations.

Read: Common Boat Engine Problems

2-Stroke Outboard Motors

2-stroke outboard motor engine systems are typically less complex than 4-stroke motor systems. They do not require a valve train and their pistons complete a combustion cycle in 2 movements.

Benefits

Because they have fewer parts, 2-stroke motors are generally smaller and lighter than 4-stroke motors. Lighter weight also allows 2-stroke engines to run faster. As a result, when making a 2-stroke vs. 4-stroke outboard power comparison, 2-stroke motors usually win out.

That’s why these engines are well-reputed for their quick acceleration and speed. They also require less servicing than 4-stroke motors since there are fewer parts to service. Because of the fuel, users only need to keep an oil reservoir in the boat or on the engine, and no oil changes are required because oil is continuously injected into the reservoir.

Drawbacks

Older 2-stroke motor models were noisier and produced more emissions. Many of them burned more fuel and aged out more quickly than 4-stroke motors. To combat this, electronic oil mixing and modern fuel-injection methods are now used to produce little to no exhaust smoke.

Computers have also helped to improve fuel economy and emissions while maintaining 2-stroke engines’ fast acceleration and power. The fuel economy of today's 2- and 4-stroke engines is now comparable.

Read: How to Train to Become a Marine Dealership Mechanic

4-Stroke Outboard Motors

A 4-stroke engine is a common type of internal combustion engine found in nearly all modern cars, trucks, trains and other vehicles. Their pistons go through four movements to complete a combustion cycle.

These engines are fueled by either gasoline or diesel. They also have an oil filter and a self-contained oil cavity within the engine — similar to how it works in a car. 4-stroke engines also usually require an oil change after 100 hours or one year of use.

Benefits

4-stroke outboard motors’ complicated valve mechanisms help them deliver a good balance of power and efficiency. These engines consume less fuel, produce fewer emissions and operate more quietly than 2-stroke outboard motors.

All this contributes to their reputation for dependability, especially since these characteristics help maintain these engines’ longevity. However, it is worth repeating that modern motors, regardless of type, are generally very dependable.

Drawbacks

These engines used to be heavier, less portable and slower. However, modern technology has made 4-stroke motors lighter, more compact and faster.

After all, these are the most common motors found in automobiles. Regarding size, speed, portability and acceleration, 4-stroke engines are now on par with 2-stroke engines. They’re a popular choice, and their performance is constantly improving due to continually evolving manufacturing standards and practices.

Read: How to Become a Marina Manager

Choosing Which Outboard Motor Is Right for You

Ultimately, the choice between a 2-stroke vs. 4-stroke boat motor comes down to personal preference and the type of boat you have. As with any purchase, do your homework online and decide which features are most important to you, whether it’s motor features, weight, fuel efficiency or all of the above. Looking at manufacturer statements and boat tests online can also help refine your search.

The environment in which you use your boat is also a critical factor. For example, when buying car tires, you wouldn’t buy snow tires to drive in Phoenix, Arizona. This same concept applies to your boat’s motor, so always make your decision based on how you use it — for fishing, performance application or carrying heavy loads.

Proximity to your local dealer can also influence product selection. Boaters require nearby maintenance support if the product fails or requires annual service, and the farther the dealer is, the more difficult it is to get this support. You wouldn’t buy a Subaru, for example, if there were no Subaru dealer within 100 miles of you.

Consumers shouldn’t be afraid of modern products. As long as motors are properly maintained, they should operate safely and efficiently. If you’re more comfortable with a specific dealer when it comes to getting service or picking up parts, they might have a motor for your boat.

Read: Different Types of Boat Engines & How They Work

What Does This Mean for Aspiring Marine Technicians?

As an aspiring marine technician, it’s essential to know how both 2-stroke and 4-stroke outboard motors work. These engines can last a long time, so if you pursue this career path, you will likely have to service and repair older models alongside today’s modern engines.

Despite modern advancements, the technologies behind 2- and 4-stroke engines are still distinctly different. That’s why training on each type of product is essential. At Marine Mechanics Institute students train with the fuel systems on both types of engines to prepare for careers in the field.1

MMI students enrolled in the 51-week Marine Technician Specialist training program7 also learn everything from basic engine theory to hands-on technical training for marine product service, rebuilding, troubleshooting and repair. Marine Technology students at MMI complete manufacturer-specific marine technician courses designed to provide them training specific to the following brands:

As the marine industry evolves, so will its engines and boats. To get up to speed and develop the skills needed to properly service and maintain marine technologies, technicians should consider MMI’s dedicated marine technician training!

Wondering what types of careers marine technicians can pursue? Check out our career guide.

Read: Marine Mechanic Median Annual Salary: Top Paying by State Ranking

Learn More About Marine Technology at MMI!

Think you have a better understanding of the difference between 2-stroke and 4-stroke outboard motors? If you want to learn more, consider pursuing a career as a marine technician. A well-structured curriculum like the one at MMI can help you build a strong technical foundation.

Our Marine Technician Specialist Training program is designed for those seeking careers in the marine industry. From inboard gas and diesel to 2-stroke and 4-stroke outboard motors, training covers vital technical topics in marine technology.

To learn more, visit our program page and request information today!

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