When Things Go Wrong
On The Water

By Pat Piper
Published: Summer 2013

The top reasons members need an on-the-water tow.

Photo of an on the water tow
Photo: Kim Stricker

Fuel Problems:

Clogged in-line fuel filters are common as are cases of bad fuel or, if the boat hasn't been operated for a while, water in the fuel.


The most common cause is debris in the water intake pipe of the outboard or inboard. Seaweed and sand can be pulled into the sea strainer and decrease the amount of water normally available to cool the engine.

A bad impeller is also a common cause.

Battery Problems:

Battery jumps are requested because a boater will shut down the engine, drop anchor, and watch a video or play CDs for hours. When they try to start the engine, the power has been drained from the battery.

Soft Groundings:

In tidal areas, boaters will anchor and spend a few hours taking a hike or enjoying the beach and then realize the tide has gone out. Missing a channel marker and grounding on a shoal can occur as well.


Check the throttle shift control to ensure it's in the neutral position. The engine won't start if it isn't. Bad spark plugs are common as are bad wires.


TowBoatUS Calls

51% General Engine Problems

15% Groundings

10% Battery Problems

7% Fuel Problems

4% Overheating


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