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Why Won’t My Boat Start?

Why won't my boat start?


Nothing is more frustrating than setting out for a nice sunny day on the water only to have that weak sound of the boat’s engine sputtering, or not starting at all.  How can that happen? 

Here are a few simple things to check.


We’re going to assume that you didn’t forget to fill the tank with gasoline.  But the fuel may not be getting to the right place if there is a leak or if the fuel lines are twisted or crimped. Perhaps your gas tank air vent is not open.  Or perhaps your fuel gauge is not calibrating correctly, showing you have fuel when instead you have run on empty. 



Is there water or dirt in your fuel system?  Are the filters clogged? You may need to install a fuel/water separator, or ensure that you have filters that fit properly.


Did you check your fuel system before starting?  Is your pump primed? Also, check the choke. Make sure that the primer is working. Is a fuel connector loose?


Now it’s time to check some other systems.  Is your carburetor allowing enough fuel through to start the engine?  You may need to have it serviced and adjusted.


What about your ignition system? Does the timing need adjustment? Are the ignition points clean, or are they burned? Are they gapped properly?  What about the distributor cap and rotor?  Are they cracked? Is the rotor shorted?


Are your spark plugs dirty?  Worn? Broken?


You may have low compression, or a slow cranking.  You will need to check for some serious engine problems to determine why this is happening.



What about the safety lanyard kill switch? Is it installed or disconnected?


Finally….you may just have a dead battery. That is a simple enough repair, but it is likely you’ve lost a great day of fun in the sun.


It’s important to run these system checks on your boat regularly, so that you are ready for anything – including a perfect day on the water!

By James Michael

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