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Lake guy

Dumb question - no air filter?

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Hello everyone, I'm new to power boat ownership and am learning as I go.  I bought a used 2003 230SSi with a 5.0 Mercruiser in April 2016 and after paying for maintenance at first, I am undertaking it myself this year.   I'm an experienced auto mechanic who knows his way around a chevy smallblock.  One of the key differences I have noticed as I plan to do maintenance work is that there is no air filter on the engine..!  There is something on top of the intake called a spark arrestor, but why wouldn't Mercruiser install a proper air filter?  I have always understood that one key to long engine life was a clean air filter.  What is different about a boat vs. car environment that eliminates the need for this?

Thanks in advance!

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Boat engines don't operate in a dusty environment. They just need a spark arrestor in case  of a backfire. 

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I disagree that a spark arrestor is a car filter made of metal.  It is NOT A AIR FILTER. It is only a BACKFIRE suppressor to help prevent fuel vapors in the bottom of the boat from igniting most of the time.

  The surface area of the screen is nowhere close to the amount of a pleated car air cleaner surface area.

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A boat is not a car ... no fine dust on water, only occasional debris fly under the boat's hood. The flame arrestor acts as a more than adequate air filter for this environment. It needs to be cleaned occasionally to remove what it had filtered from the incoming air. FWIW ... from VP operator's manual:

Flame Arrestor
Clean the flame arrestor every 50 operating hours.

  • Clean in solvent, air dry, and inspect for damage.

  • Replace if damaged.

  • Reinstall flame arrestor; make sure unit is securely fastened.

  • To prevent fire and explosion in the engine compartment, the flame arrestor must always be in place, properly secured, and undamaged. 

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