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If you've owned a boat with an outboard motor knows, you know the feeling: You back down the ramp, you turn the key – and nothing happens. It's time to troubleshoot.
When the engine won't start
Sometimes, even after regular use, that outboard motor engine won't start. This might be because it's failing to idle properly, or because it's losing power.
Go down the following checklist to figure out why your motor isn't starting:
- Check the fuel tank, and if it's empty, fill it.
- Look at the fuel lines to make sure they're not kinked.
- Make sure the fuel filter isn't obstructed. If it is, the fuel system might be contaminated with dirt or water.
- Check to make sure the throttle is in idle, and if it's not, return it to idle.
If each of those potential problem areas checks out, you might need to replace your spark plugs.
When the engine won't turn off easily
The easiest thing to check here is the propeller. Make sure seaweed or other debris isn't fouling it.
If the fuel system is contaminated with dirt or water, you'll probably have to clean it out. You might have to replace the spark plugs, as well.
When it's losing power
Power loss issues can include, as stated before, the spark plugs, fuel system and fuel filter.
But you might also have to take a look at the oil system and water intakes, to make sure neither is obstructed. Obstructions in the oil system or water intakes could cause the cooling system to malfunction.
When you can't move forward
If the engine is running and responding normally but you can't make forward progress, the problem is most likely propeller-related.
Before examining the propeller, switch off the engine and keep the key with you in the water, to avoid any safety issues. Then check for the following problems:
- A loose propeller
- Missing blades
- A bent shaft
- Debris fouling the propeller
Patrick Nelson has been a professional writer since 1992. He was editor and publisher of the music industry trade publication "Producer Report" and has written for a number of technology blogs. Nelson studied design at Hornsey Art School.