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Q&A - Outboards

While out on the water, your outboard won’t start. What should you look for before calling for help?

Does the engine sound like it is cranking over? If not, the first thing to check is the gear-shift lever. There is a safety switch that prohibits the outboard from cranking over if the shift lever isn’t completely engaging neutral.

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Check the battery switch to be certain it isn’t in the off position or somewhere in between. I always rotate the switch through all positions, which could help clean any minor surface corrosion from the contacts. Also, be certain that the battery terminals are clean and secure, both at the battery and at the engine.

If the engine cranks over but doesn’t start, check that your safety lanyard is properly attached to the switch, remove it and reinstall it.
If the engine is equipped with quick-disconnect fuel fittings, disconnect and reinstall the fittings, at the engine and on the portable tank. The fittings should make an audible click when they are fully seated and latched in place.
The fuel primer bulb needs to rest in a vertical position, with the arrow facing up, in order for the check valve to work properly. Slowly squeeze and release the bulb while listening for the sound of fuel passing and the check valve operating. The bulb should feel firm after a few squeezes. If it doesn’t, look for restrictions in the fuel line or — dare I say it — be certain there is fuel in the tank.

This article appeared in the July 2011 issue.