Title:
Methods And Apparatus For Flushing Marine Propulsion Units
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An apparatus and method for flushing marine propulsion units are provided. In one embodiment, the apparatus comprises a basin with anterior, posterior, side walls and a base. The basin is made from a watertight material and has sufficient depth to partially submerge a marine propulsion unit in fluid. The submersion of the unit sufficient to ensure the inlet duct of the unit is under the surface of the fluid. This Abstract is provided for the sole purpose of complying with the Abstract requirement rules that allow a reader to quickly ascertain the subject matter of the disclosure contained herein. This Abstract is submitted with the explicit understanding that it will not be used to interpret or to limit the scope or the meaning of the claims.



Inventors:
Bandur, Mark Alan (San Diego, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/756290
Publication Date:
12/04/2008
Filing Date:
05/31/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
F01P3/20
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20050287881Combined propulsion device and fishing shelterDecember, 2005Hill
20080188146Drive for a pedal powered kayakAugust, 2008Howard et al.
20050014425Drive system for amphibious equipmentJanuary, 2005Wilson
20070087638Stern Unit For Marine CraftApril, 2007Dulgur
20080242164Marine engine exhaust systemOctober, 2008Mckinney
20100035490ADJUSTABLE ROWLOCKFebruary, 2010Ninham et al.
20090130926Vibration isolation system for marine vesselsMay, 2009Jaszewski et al.
20070202756Power push poleAugust, 2007Hardwick
20100041285AUTONOMOUS VEHICLE WITH FUEL CELL AND AUTONOMOUS FLUSHING SYSTEMFebruary, 2010Riggs
20090137164MANUALLY OPERATED BOATMay, 2009Song et al.
20040175997Apparatus and method for tilting and trimming a boat motorSeptember, 2004Johnson



Primary Examiner:
VENNE, DANIEL V
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FOLEY & LARDNER LLP (WASHINGTON, DC, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An apparatus for flushing an outboard marine propulsion unit comprising: a container comprising an anterior wall, a posterior wall, a first and second side wall, and a base, wherein the anterior, posterior, and sidewalls are connected to the base, thereby forming a fluid-tight basin; and a connector affixed to a hole in the first sidewall, the connector suitable for attachment to a fluid source.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the anterior, posterior, and sidewalls are rectangular.

3. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the sidewalls are not rectangular and the anterior wall forms an obtuse angle with the base.

4. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the connector is a garden hose connector.

5. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a shield attached to the anterior wall.

6. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising a dispensing apparatus connected to the connector.

7. The apparatus of claim 6, wherein the dispensing apparatus comprises a container suitable for dispensing a chemical treatment.

8. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the height of the first and second sidewalls and the anterior and posterior walls are sufficient to submerse a cooling water inlet of a marine propulsion unit.

9. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the basin is formed from a single piece of fluid tight material.

10. The apparatus of claim 9, wherein the fluid tight material is plastic.

11. An apparatus for an outboard marine engine comprising: a first and second fluid tight basin, the basins comprising an anterior wall, a posterior wall, a first and second side wall, and a base, wherein the anterior, posterior, and sidewalls are connected to the base, thereby forming a fluid-tight basin, each basin having a connector affixed to a hole in the first sidewall, the connectors suitable for attachment to a fluid source.

12. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein each of the anterior, posterior, and sidewalls are rectangular.

13. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein the each of the sidewalls are not rectangular and each of the anterior wall forms an obtuse angle with each of the bases.

14. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein the connectors are garden hose connectors.

15. The apparatus of claim 11, further comprising a shield attached to each of the anterior walls.

16. The apparatus of claim 11, further comprising a dispensing apparatus connected to the connector.

17. The apparatus of claim 16, wherein the dispensing apparatus comprises a container suitable for dispensing a chemical treatment.

18. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein the height of each of the first and second sidewalls and the anterior and posterior walls are sufficient to submerse a cooling water inlet of a marine propulsion unit.

19. The apparatus of claim 11, wherein each of the basins are formed from a single piece of fluid tight material.

20. The apparatus of claim 19, wherein the fluid tight material is plastic.

21. The apparatus of claim 11, further comprising a length of flexible tubing attached to each of the connectors, the lengths of tubing being further connected to an adapter.

22. The apparatus of claim 21, wherein the adapter is a T-shaped adapter having an inlet and two outlets.

23. The apparatus of claim 21, wherein the adapter is a Y-shaped adapter having an inlet and two outlets.

24. A method of flushing contaminants from an outboard marine propulsion unit, the method comprising: providing a container, the container comprising an anterior wall, a posterior wall, a first and second side wall, and a base, wherein the anterior, posterior, and sidewalls are connected to the base, thereby forming a fluid-tight basin, and a connector affixed to a hole in the first sidewall, the connector suitable for attachment to a fluid source; affixing the fluid source to the connector; placing a portion of an outboard marine propulsion unit into the container; filling the container with fluid until a cooling water inlet of the marine propulsion unit is submersed in fluid; and flushing the marine propulsion unit with the fluid.

25. The method of claim 24, wherein the anterior, posterior, and sidewalls are rectangular.

26. The method of claim 24, wherein the sidewalls are not rectangular and the anterior wall forms an obtuse angle with the base.

27. The method of claim 24, wherein the connector is a garden hose connector.

28. The method of claim 24, wherein the container further comprises a shield attached to the anterior wall.

29. The method of claim 24, wherein the container further comprises a dispensing apparatus connected to the connector.

30. The method of claim 29, wherein the dispensing apparatus comprises a container suitable for dispensing a chemical treatment.

31. The method of claim 24, wherein the height of the first and second sidewalls and the anterior and posterior walls are sufficient to submerse the cooling water inlet of the marine propulsion unit.

32. The method of claim 24, wherein the basin is formed from a single piece of fluid tight material.

33. The method of claim 32, wherein the fluid tight material is plastic.

34. A method of simultaneously flushing contaminants from two outboard marine propulsion units, the method comprising: providing a first and second fluid tight basins, the basins comprising an anterior wall, a posterior wall, a first and second side wall, and a base, wherein the anterior, posterior, and sidewalls are connected to the base, thereby forming the fluid-tight basin, each basin having a connector affixed to a hole in the first sidewall, the connectors suitable for attachment to a fluid source; affixing the fluid source to the connectors; placing a portion of an outboard marine propulsion unit into each basin; filling each basin with fluid until a cooling water inlet of each of the marine propulsion units is submersed in fluid; and flushing the marine propulsion units with the fluid.

35. The method of claim 34, wherein each of the anterior, posterior, and sidewalls are rectangular.

36. The method of claim 34, wherein the each of the sidewalls are not rectangular and each of the anterior wall forms an obtuse angle with each of the bases.

37. The method of claim 34, wherein the connectors are garden hose connectors.

38. The method of claim 34, wherein the basins further comprise a shield attached to each of the anterior wall.

39. The method of claim 34, wherein the basins further comprise a dispensing apparatus connected to the connectors.

40. The apparatus of claim 39, wherein the dispensing apparatus comprises a container suitable for dispensing a chemical treatment.

41. The method of claim 34, wherein the height of each of the first and second sidewalls and the anterior and posterior walls are sufficient to submerse the cooling water inlet of the marine propulsion units.

42. The method of claim 34, wherein each of the basins are formed from a single piece of fluid tight material.

43. The method of claim 34, wherein the fluid tight material is plastic.

44. The method of claim 34, wherein the basins further comprise a length of flexible tubing attached to the connector, the length of tubing being further connected to an adapter.

45. The method of claim 44, wherein the adapter is a T-shaped adapter having an inlet and two outlets.

46. The method of claim 44, wherein the adapter is a Y-shaped adapter having an inlet and two outlets.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention generally relates to marine propulsion units. More particularly, the invention concerns methods and apparatus for flushing marine propulsion units.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Marine outboard propulsion units are prone to difficulties that result from their very design. These units, while designed, to operate submerged in water, are prone to corrosion and marine debris buildup from being submerged for significant periods of time. It is advantageous to keep the propulsion unit free of contaminants such as salt, and marine growth while not in use. Consequently, routine maintenance on these units often involves flushing the units, typically with fresh water on a regular basis. This maintenance vastly extends the useful lifetime of the propulsion unit.

A typical marine propulsion unit may have an inlet duct, or port, on a side of the unit where fresh water may be drawn into the unit and circulated to flush the unit of debris. A typical flushing apparatus is attached to this duct, and a supply of fresh water attached to the flushing apparatus. An engine that powers the propulsion apparatus may then be started and the fluid circulated to flush debris. One significant limitation with these apparatus is that they typically do not provide a flow of fluid sufficient to keep the apparatus cool. When the propulsion engine overheats, the user may terminate the maintenance before the propulsion unit has been properly flushed, leading to a limited lifespan for the device.

Another limitation of these types of apparatus is that they are typically designed to only flush one marine propulsion unit at a time. In twin unit applications typically, this type of maintenance must be accomplished on both units. This significantly increases the amount of time necessary to accomplish this critical task. Some apparatus are known that can simultaneously flush two or more marine propulsion units, but these units may suffer from the potential overheating problem discussed above. Additionally, many marine propulsion units discharge flushing fluids from a position above the inlet duct.

Further, in the process of flushing a propulsion unit, additives to the flushing fluids are desirable. There are many additives that are typically used in this process, they may include chemical additives to reduce corrosion, reduce salinity, soaps are sometimes added to improve the fluids ability to clean the propulsion unit. A number of these additives are colored to allow a user to quickly determine when the additive is present.

Therefore there exists a need for an improved apparatus and methods for flushing debris, impurities from outboard marine propulsion units.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides an apparatus and methods for overcoming some of the above limitations. In one embodiment, a container is provided that consists of anterior, posterior, sidewalls and a base. The container, or basin has sufficient depth to allow a marine propulsion unit to be submerged in a flushing fluid to a point above its inlet duct. The container, or basin, additionally has a connector affixed through a fluid tight opening in at least one sidewall. The connector is suitable for connection to a standard garden hose or other source of fluid.

In an embodiment of a method herein provided a marine propulsion unit is lowered into a basin, a fluid source is connected to the basin and flushing fluid in supplied until the fluid level is above the inlet duct of the marine propulsion unit. The engine is then started in flush mode where the propeller is not engaged. Fluid is drawn from the basin through the duct. The fluid source is continually supplied until the marine propulsion unit is properly flushed of debris, and salt water and other contaminants.

In still a further embodiment, the basin is constructed with a deflector to prevent fluids exhausted from the flushing process from entering the basin and potentially contaminating the flushing fluid.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Various embodiments of the present invention taught herein are illustrated by way of example, and not by way of limitation, in the figures of the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 illustrates various views of a flushing apparatus consistent with various provided embodiments;

FIG. 2 illustrates a flushing apparatus consistent with various provided embodiments,

FIG. 3 illustrates portions of a flushing apparatus consistent with various provided embodiments;

FIG. 4 illustrates the operational flow of a provided method;

FIG. 5 illustrates the operational flow of another provided method; and

FIG. 6 illustrates an embodiment of a flushing apparatus.

It will be recognized that some or all of the Figures are schematic representations for purposes of illustration and do not necessarily depict the actual relative sizes or locations of the elements shown. The Figures are provided for the purpose of illustrating one or more embodiments of the invention with the explicit understanding that they will not be used to limit the scope or the meaning of the claims.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

In the following paragraphs, the present invention will be described in detail by way of example with reference to the attached drawings. While this invention is capable of embodiment in many different forms, there is shown in the drawings and will herein be described in detail specific embodiments, with the understanding that the present disclosure is to be considered as an example of the principles of the invention and not intended to limit the invention to the specific embodiments shown and described. That is, throughout this description, the embodiments and examples shown should be considered as exemplars, rather than as limitations on the present invention. Descriptions of well known components, methods and/or processing techniques are omitted so as to not unnecessarily obscure the invention. As used herein, the “present invention” refers to any one of the embodiments of the invention described herein, and any equivalents. Furthermore, reference to various feature(s) of the “present invention” throughout this document does not mean that all claimed embodiments or methods must include the referenced feature(s).

Routine maintenance on marine propulsion units is vital to the operational longevity of the devices. One time consuming maintenance that must be performed each time a unit is used is the process of flushing the propulsion unit of debris, marine growth and salt. This is especially important when the marine propulsion unit has been operated in saltwater, since salt can accelerate corrosion, and therefore early obsolescence, of the units. It is important to flush the propulsion units after use to extend their useful lifetime. It is additionally advantageous to introduce chemicals, such as detergents and corrosion preventatives into the unit while flushing.

Current flushing apparatus, while somewhat effective, suffer significant limitations. Among these limitations are the limited amount of flushing fluid that passes through the unit may cause the unit to overheat during the flushing process. Significant overheating can reduce the useful lifetime of the unit, and an operator may be inclined to abort the flushing process prematurely when temperatures rise. Premature abortion of the flushing process may provide insufficient cleansing and undesirable effects may result.

In one embodiment, illustrated in FIG. 1, an apparatus is provided to overcome this an other limitations. The illustrated apparatus comprises an anterior wall 10, a posterior wall 20, two sidewalls 40 and base 30. The illustrated apparatus is typically fluid tight and may be constructed of any fluid tight material, such as plastic. On at least one sidewall 40 is attached a connector 50 which penetrates the sidewall 40. In one embodiment, connector 50 is a garden hose connector. Connector 50 may be any connector suitable for connecting a fluid source to the apparatus. As illustrated in FIG. 1, posterior wall 20 may be curved to facilitate the placement of a marine propulsion unit into the basin. In an exemplary embodiment, sidewalls 40 may be rectangular with a height sufficient to give the basin appropriate depth to partially submerse a marine propulsion unit to a point above its inlet duct. (as shown in FIG. 6).

In other embodiments, sidewalls may not be rectangular and posterior wall 20 may form an obtuse angle with base 30. One advantage of an embodiment where posterior wall forms an obtuse angle with base 30 is that a user may lower a marine propulsion unit into the apparatus with ease since the posterior wall may be formed in a way to facilitate its entrance and placement within the basin. This advantage is additionally provided by an embodiment where the posterior wall is formed in a manner to better fit a marine propulsion unit. In a further illustrated embodiment, a deflector shield 60 is installed on posterior wall 20. One advantage of this embodiment is that when fluids have circulated through the propulsion unit and are discharged, they will be deflected by deflector shield 60 and the fluid will not enter the basin and contaminate flushing fluids. Other embodiments (not illustrated), may comprise a filter attached to connector 50 which prevents large debris from entering the basin.

An embodiment of an apparatus for simultaneously flushing multiple marine propulsion units (2 shown) is illustrated in FIG. 2. In this embodiment, two (or more) basins are constructed with anterior walls 10, posterior walls 20, and bases 30. In this embodiment, each basin has a connector 50 placed through one sidewall 40 to facilitate the introduction of flushing fluids into the basin. In one embodiment, a single fluid source 10 may be connected to connectors 50 through a manifold 60 (illustrated in FIG. 3). In this manner a single fluid source, such as a garden hose may provide flushing fluid to multiple flushing apparatus.

In another embodiment, illustrated in FIG. 3, a chemical dispensing apparatus may be placed inline with the fluid source. The chemical dispensing apparatus may comprise a removable container where chemical additives may be placed. In this embodiment, the container may comprise a suction tube that draws the chemical additives into the fluid flow as the fluid moves into the flushing apparatus. In other embodiments (not illustrated) the container may comprise a filter where solid additives are deposited to be dissolved by the fluid. Further embodiments illustrated in FIG. 3 include a manifold 60 for use with a multiple propulsion unit apparatus. As illustrated manifold 60 may comprise a T-shaped manifold to divide fluid flow into two streams, or may comprise a Y-shaped manifold for the same purpose. In some embodiments, manifold 60 may additionally include one or more valves to restrict the fluid flow leaving manifold 60.

One embodiment of a provided method is illustrated in FIG. 4 where flow begins at block 80. In block 80 a container is provided. As discussed above, the container contains an anterior wall 10, a posterior wall 20, two sidewalls 40, and a base 30. The dimension and shape of the container is as described in the above embodiments. The container additionally comprises a connector suitable for connecting a fluid source to the container. In block 90 a fluid source is affixed to the connector and fluid introduced into the container. Flow continues to block 100 where a marine propulsion unit is partially submersed into the container. The submersion is sufficient to ensure that the inlet duct(s) of the marine propulsion unit are under the flushing fluid. Flow continues to block 110 where the marine propulsion unit is flushed with the fluid.

In like manner FIG. 5 illustrates another embodiment of a provided method. In this embodiment multiple containers (or basins) are provided in block 120. The use of 2 basins in this embodiment is purely exemplary and the invention is not limited to using only 2 basins. In block 130 a fluid source is affixed to one or more of the basins and fluid is introduced into the basin. In block 140 a marine propulsion unit is partially submersed into at least one of the basing. Like the above embodiment, the propulsion unit is submersed far enough into the fluid to ensure the inlet duct of the propulsion unit remains submerged. In block 150 the submerged unit(s) are flushed with the fluid.

As discussed above the basin(s), also referred to herein as containers may be constructed of any fluid tight material such as plastic. Additionally, in some embodiments, they are formed from a single piece of water tight material.

Significant efficiencies may be realized by using the apparatus and methods provided herein. These efficiencies may extend the useful life time of the marine propulsion units thereby reducing overall costs of operation.

Thus, it is seen that an apparatus and methods for flushing marine propulsion units are provided. One skilled in the art will appreciate that the present invention can be practiced by other than the above-described embodiments, which are presented in this description for purposes of illustration and not of limitation. The specification and drawings are not intended to limit the exclusionary scope of this patent document. It is noted that various equivalents for the particular embodiments discussed in this description may practice the invention as well. That is, while the present invention has been described in conjunction with specific embodiments, it is evident that many alternatives, modifications, permutations and variations will become apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art in light of the foregoing description. Accordingly, it is intended that the present invention embrace all such alternatives, modifications and variations as fall within the scope of the appended claims. The fact that a product, process or method exhibits differences from one or more of the above-described exemplary embodiments does not mean that the product or process is outside the scope (literal scope and/or other legally-recognized scope) of the following claims.