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#QuickTips - The 'No Start Blues'

By: Captain Bill Jennings

If you are all set to go boating, but the engine doesn't start, it's a sinking feeling. Now what? Where should you troubleshoot first? These are the five things most likely to cause the 'No Start Blues.' With a quick check and some good luck, it might well fix the problem. Some are painfully obvious, but surprisingly when panic sets in they may not come to mind right away.


1) Your shift lever is not in neutral. You may have bumped your shift lever slightly when you got out of the boat and the safety system will not allow the boat to start when it is in gear. Simply move the lever back to neutral and the system will let you start.


2) Your kill switch has been disconnected. Like the name implies, your boat won't start if the safety switch is disconnected. You'd be surprised how often we all make this simple mistake. Reconnect it and go.


3) The motor will not turn over. With a little luck, you simply have a bad connection on a battery terminal. Disconnect the battery leads and clean the battery posts and the lead connection. Then reconnect it very tightly. If this doesn't work, connect your ammeter to the battery terminals to see it is providing 12 plus volts. If not, most of today's smart chargers will either top it up, or tell you if the battery needs replacing.


4) A fuel problem. Several things can cause fuel problems, and thankfully you can fix most of them. Check for a pinched or blocked fuel line. Check that the primer pump in your fuel line (if you have one) is filled and not collapsed. Recall if your fuel is fresh and there is no reason for it to be contaminated. If you believe the fuel is okay, check the fuel line filter for water and replace it if you see any. I would even try filling your tank with high test gasoline before I resorted to draining the tank. Something that occurs mostly with performance motors is a vapor lock. It happens when the temperature of fuel gets high enough to transform liquid into a vapor state. Fuel pumps are designed to pump liquid, not air, and you need pressure inside the fuel lines to keep the fuel pump effectively pumping. To cure this problem, increase engine compartment ventilation by opening air vents when running and get in the habit of letting your engine idle for 4 minutes before shutting it off. Once you stop the motor, open the engine cover to let in cooler air.


5) A blocked exhaust can stop a motor from starting. Most boat exhausts exit below the waterline, so you never know what wonderful things are in there. An exhaust blockage will result in excessive back pressure, causing gases to back up and choke the engine. While the motor is not running, you can poke up an exhaust port on an inboard, or the lower unit and prop center on a stern drive or outboard, to check that it is clear.


Remember what the famous marine expert Professor Watson once said: "If your boat motor has spark, compression and fuel, it will start." Keep this handy check list in your boat's glovebox. #tips #quicktips

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