Common Outboard Motor Problems and Their Solutions

Malfunction or stall of outboard engine and getting stranded in the middle of the sea is the last thing any boater wants. Not only it causes extreme stress, it also costs a lot to tow the boat back to shore. Therefore, it’s best to know how to deal with common boat engine problems. Here are some tips.

Outboard Motor – What is it?

First of all, let’s see what an outboard motor is. It is the commonest motorized propulsion system used in boats. It is attached to the boat’s stern and is an independent unit containing an engine, gearbox, propeller and jetdrive. An outboard motor can propel boats faster through water as compared to oars or paddles. It also acts as a rudder when engine is off and provides steering control too. There are various power levels available in outboard motors and these motors can be used for a small watercraft as well as in a large fishing vessel. They can be removed easily from the boat for storage or repair or for using in other boats.

Problems and Solutions

Problems of outboard motors can range from simple to complex. While some of them require a professional mechanic to repair, others can be resolved with some simple steps. Here are a few commonest outboard motor problems and their solutions.

Outboard Hesitates When Accelerating

When an outboard hesitates when accelerating, it indicates some problem in the motor. Here it’s important to find the cause of the problem in order to restore the motor back to work. has a complete list of potential causes and solutions for this problem. Some of them are:

  • Fuel mixture may not be according to factory specifications. So, you have to check the fuel tank and change the gasoline if required.
  • Carburetor float level may be wrong. You should refer to the service manual to learn how to adjust the level to factory specifications.

Outboard Motor Overheated

Outboard motors should be kept cool with ample and continuous flow of water through the engine. When the water is not enough, the motor gets overheated. In such a case, turn the motor off and check if water flow has stopped due to any blockage. Maybe foreign objects like weeds are blocking the flow. After removing the blockage, let the engine cool down and then start it again.

There is one more potential cause of overheating of motor and it’s an impaired water pump impeller. This is a round disc having blades to flow water through motor. When it’s broken, water supply to the motor is cut and engine gets overheated. In such a condition, replacing the impeller with a new one is the solution.

Wrongly Turning Propeller

This may be caused by debris trapped around the shaft or around the propeller or a broken shear pin. If the propeller has stopped turning due to debris, you should turn the motor off, remove the debris, and then turn the engine on to see if it has become fine. If the problem is a broken shear pin, you should replace it with a new one.

Motor Abruptly Cuts Off

A possible cause of this may be a collapsed primer bulb which happens when a vacuum is formed in the fuel tank, thus cutting off the supply of fuel to the engine. To fix this, just loosen the vent screw to create some aeration and then pump the primer bulb till it hardens.

Engine Doesn’t Start

This may happen due to many reasons, each having a different solution. If it’s because of an empty fuel tank, fill it with correct type of fuel (wait till the tank cools down). If the fuel in the tank is old (more than 30 days), it should be drained and replaced with fresh and clean fuel. If the kill switch is engaged, you should disengage it.

Thus if you learn to repair these minor outboard motor problems, you can enjoy smooth boating.

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