Outboard Motor Won't Stay Running

Both the modern DFI motors and four-stroke engines have come a long way. These engines are commonly used in boats today because of their efficiency and reliability. While reliability today is far better than what it was a few decades ago, these engines have improved fuel efficiency. In addition to this, they do not have problems like splitting sounds, or smoky exhaust. However, even with all these improvements, these engines still have weaknesses. There are some common problems with outboard engines that occur often. In some cases, these issues cause boaters to sit at the shore, hoping for better ways of dealing with the problem instead of venturing into the water for an exciting fishing expedition.

While these problems can be irritating, you can fix them quickly if you understand the simple tricks of dealing with them. This guide takes you through everything you need to know about why an outboard motor won’t stay running and fix it.

Engine Cranking Without Catching

Important: If you're interested in getting into outdoor activities, want to know the essentials and the best tips for getting into your new activity, and impress your family with a great day outdoors, download our Outdoor Activity Solutions book now. 
This problem is brought about for various reasons. Before you begin working on your boat, you have to inspect the boat’s shifter and make sure it is in neutral. However, if your boat does not appear to catch or show signs of catching, it is highly likely that the boat’s emergency cut-off switch is faulty. The boat behaves as if its lanyard clip is removed, and it is stopping your vessel’s engine from starting. If the boat’s switch has been mounted horizontally in an area where water might stand there and damage it, your boat’s engine will crank without firing.

Fortunately, there is a solution to this problem. It would be best if you began by disabling your boat’s kill switch. Go to the back of your boat’s switch panel and inspect the wires. Search for a black wire with a yellow stripe. Disconnect this wire and try to start the engine again. With this, your boat’s engine should fire up.

Your Boat’s Tell-Tale is not Spitting water

This is commonly caused by a faulty pump impeller that needs service. However, the leading cause of this issue in most cases is because the boat’s tell-tale is clogged with mud, grit, or some seaweed that your boat engine picked while in motion. Therefore, to know the exact cause of the problem, you will have to take your boat to a mechanic for proper diagnostics and repair.

However, if you know the specific problem, you can repair the boat and restore it to its optimum efficiency in a few simple steps. To fix this issue, you will have to realm the tell-tale from the outside moving in. This is one of those cases where it is easier done than said. However, you will need a fishing line in your hand. Select the biggest diameter line that can fit into the boat’s tiny tell-tale hole. Thread the line as far in as you possibly can. Once the line is positioned correctly in the hole, you need to twirl it between two fingers. Each time you twirl the line, you need to try to push it further into the hole until you are convinced that the line cannot go any further. At this point, you need to pull the line out and fire up your boat engine.

If the first attempt to fire the engine does not pull through, you need to try three more times. However, if the tell-tale fails to spit water, then the boat might be having a faulty impeller. Typically, your boat’s tell-tale will spit water after this process.

The engine is not Receiving Enough Fuel

In some cases, the engine becomes starved of fuel and fails to start. This happens over and over because of cheap quick-disconnect fittings attaching the boat’s fuel line to its outboard. This is also true for the boat barbs that attach the fuel lines and fittings or the hose clamps that secure them. All these connections begin leaking over time and allow air to leak and get stuck inside these parts.

To correct this problem, you need to squeeze the ball while you observe the fitting in between the line and the engine, the hose and the barb, the visible fitting between the line and the tank, and the barb on any one of the ends of the ball. You should separate the leak and stop it completely by sealing it. If there are no visible signs of a fuel leak, the ball might be sucking air in. For these reasons, you need to squeeze the ball continuously with your ear at every connection, carefully listening for a gurgle.

After isolating the leak, you can cut a part of the fuel line, fix the problem, and reattach the barb or attach a new hose. Alternatively, you can replace a hose clamp. If the fitting is damaged, you may choose to push to one side to get your engine running temporarily. After that, your engine’s draw is mostly sufficient to maintain the flow of the fuel running well.

Engine Stalls in Neutral at Idle

In some cases, the outboard may start right up and keep running when the throttle is set in neutral. However, it shuts down when you return your boat to idle speed when in neutral. When this happens, your boat is likely to have a broken or sticky automatic idle speed (AIS) valve. The AIS valve controls your boat’s idle speed by controlling the air intake. When the AIS valve sticks in a bad position, it might shut down completely.

To fix this problem, you need to replace the valve or clean it. Replacing the valve is the most appropriate thing to do because once the valve begins to break down, it is bound to do the same over and over again down the line. While you can do this job yourself, you should also not hesitate to ask your mechanic to fix the issue.

If you choose to handle the issue on your own, you need to begin by returning the throttle very close to idle, from slightly advanced in neutral, without going into full idle. Ideally, you will be turning close to 700 RPM. At this position, shift the throttle to idle before taking it directly to forward without pause or hesitation. You might have to repeat this process several before you finally take the boat engine forward. However, you have to be fast enough for the process to be successful.

When you manage to put your boat in gear while it’s running, you will have overcome your main hindrance. However, you have to ensure you do not shift back to neutral to prevent the engine from cutting off again. While this process will get you through a rough day, avoid using it often as it has adverse effects on the engine. Get the valve fixed before you take your boat out.

Engine Runs Properly But Shuts Down and Won’t Restart

Did the ball you were squeezing in the fuel line collapse? If this is the case, the collapsed ball is an indication of your engine’s inability to draw. This problem often results from a blockage in the boat’s fuel tank vent.

Fortunately, you can fix this issue following a few simple steps. First, you need to check if you have a portable fuel tank that has a screw-type vent. Examine the vent. In most cases, people tend to overlook this vent and end up being closed. Open the screw, which will, in turn, cause the engine to begin running properly.

If you are using a boat with an installed fuel tank, you need to examine the tank’s vent. When a problem occurs in a boat with this type of vent, mud wasps are usually to blame. These wasps often make their way into the vent and build a nest, which eventually shuts your boat. You should remove the nest by reaming your boat’s vent out. However, you need to take all the precautionary measures to secure yourself from angry wasps. Most boaters prefer running. Inspect your boat’s fuel filters after seven or fourteen days to ensure they are in perfect working condition.

Tips for Keeping Your Motor Running Properly Throughout the Year

There are several measures you can put in place to keep your outboard motor running at its optimum efficiency all year round. Here are some that you can do regularly.

Oil Changes

Typically, small outboards have more running hours than big engines, so the tiny outboard motor is utilized as a kicker motor more so during fishing. A lot of 4-stroke outboard motor producers recommend you change your boat’s oil every year or after every one hundred running hours. Also, remember to change your gear fluid while changing the oil. This regular maintenance procedure ensures your outboard motor runs at its optimum efficiency throughout the year.

Winterize Your Motor

During winter, you have to winterize your motor, or the fuel will go bad. Use a good stabilizer to stabilize fuel in your tank. Adding stabilizers to your fuel tank before going for the final trip before the winter season begins will ensure all the fuel lines are well catered for during the entire winter season. In addition to these, some boaters prefer to service their motors before storing them for winter. When you service and treat your motor before storage, you will be assured of getting a properly functioning motor at the beginning of the new season. Some of the reputable stabilizers include Mercury Marine and Yamaha. You can also opt for an aftermarket product dubbed the SeaFoam (view on Amazon) that works just as good as any other stabilizer from a reputable manufacturer.

Water Pump

When dealing with an outboard motor, you need to take care of your water pump. Make sure you check your boat’s water pump every year to ensure it is in good working condition. A faulty water pump might send you to a mechanic shop frequently. This is not only costly but also inconvenient. Most boat manufacturers advise boaters to check their impellers every three hundred hours or after every three years. However, making a habit of inspecting it at the beginning of every season will ensure you have a well functioning water pump.

Anyone of these reasons could cause your outboard motor not to run as it should. Fortunately, each problem has a solution that you can apply either by yourself or through a qualified mechanic. If you choose to fix it on your own, you must ensure you follow the right procedure. However, if you decide to seek a mechanic’s services, you have to ensure you have to do your due diligence and contract a qualified mechanic with a proven track record. Finally, have your boat fixed as soon as possible.