4 Steps To Take If Your Outboard Quits

By Lenny Rudow
Published: Summer 2013

You're putt-putting along pretty as you please, when suddenly your outboard dies. Major bummer!

Photo of a lanyard

1. First, make sure you're safe — power losses can be dangerous if there are heavy seas or bad weather. If possible drop an anchor or deploy a sea anchor to keep your bow into the waves, and if a storm is brewing, batten down the hatches and lower any antennae, fishing rods, or outriggers that may attract lightning strikes.

2. FUEL problems are often the reason for a sudden shutdown. Check the filters and/or fuel/water separators, and make sure they're not clogged. If you've recently started using gas with ethanol, it can act as a solvent to loosen gunk in the tank that can quickly clog the filter. (You have a spare, right?)

Next, check your fuel supply, the primer ball, vents, and fuel lines — in that order — to make sure you have a flow going. If there's too much pressure, suspect a faulty fuel-line connection; if there's negative pressure, you have a venting problem; and if there's a complete lack of pressure, you probably have an air leak in the line. If the system looks good (and especially if the engine shuts down suddenly, completely, and without warning), chances are you have water in the fuel. If that's the case, call TowBoatUS because you have a more serious problem.

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