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Most of of the smaller Johnson outboard motors under 25 horsepower, particularly most of the older models, used a recoil starter. The recoil starter requires the use a hand pull rope to turn the engine over fast enough for ignition and combustion. The pull rope recoil starter does not rely on electricity to activate an electrical starter motor, making it very efficient when the motor must be started. Due to wear and stress, pull ropes can fray and break, retracting inside the engine cowl. This can leave a boater stranded. The replacement of the pull rope requires a few steps and some basic tools.
Items you will need
Boat owner's manual
Nail or long pin
Vice grips (if applicable)
Pull rope (braided nylon, 6 ft)
Place the boat trailer on a stable, level surface for easy access to the engine. Place the motor in a proper stand if it has been removed from the engine. Disconnect the negative battery cable with a socket and wrench, if so equipped. Loosen and remove the top engine cowl bolts with a socket and wrench. Use a large Phillips screwdriver if the top cowl bolts have a Phillips screw head design.
Be sure not to damage the upper cowl gasket if it has one. Wipe the gasket surface clean with a rag. Pull the top engine cowl off and set it aside. Use a socket and wrench to loosen and remove the three or four bolts holding the recoil starter spool.
Pull the recoil starter spool up and turn it over. If you are replacing a pull rope that has not broken away from the flywheel notch or pull handle then keep the recoil mechanism under pressure. Then align the two locking holes in the flywheel spool and the rewind coil. Place a small nail or pin through the two holes to immobilize the rewind coil. Use vice grips to immobilize the rewind coil if it does not have such locking holes. Snip the handle end of the rope with scissors and pull the rope through the flywheel stop hole. Discard the old rope.
Wrap around six feet of new nylon rope around the flywheel spool, leaving enough rope end to go through the cowl and attach to the pull handle. Place the recoil starter spool back on the engine. Insert the bolts into the recoil starter spool and tighten them with a socket and wrench. Have an assistant hold the top cowl while you push the rope end through the guide hole in the cowl. Insert the end of the rope through the pull handle and knot it twice.
Pull out the nail from the flywheel spool and rewind coil, letting the spring pressurize. Remove the vice grips if you have used this method. Align the cowl back on the top of the engine. Insert the cowl bolts and tighten them with a socket and wrench, or with a Phillips screwdriver. Reconnect the negative battery cable, if you have removed one.
Chris Stevenson has been writing since 1988. His automotive vocation has spanned more than 35 years and he authored the auto repair manual "Auto Repair Shams and Scams" in 1990. Stevenson holds a P.D.S Toyota certificate, ASE brake certification, Clean Air Act certification and a California smog license.