Being stranded out on the water because your boat engine is having problems is every bit as disheartening as being stranded on the road with car trouble. Just like with cars, even the most attentive maintenance can't always prevent problems. As such, there are a few important things to always keep in mind when dealing with a boat engine that needs troubleshooting. All of these can get you back up and running if you're on your own, saving you the hassle and expense of a towing service.
Ruling Out Electrical Problems
The simplest things to check on outboard motors are usually the electrical components. If your boat engine starts with battery power, ensure that the electrical connections are solid, and that the battery is not dead. If it's been more than a couple of years since the last battery replacement, then it's possible you've found your culprit. If not, then the spark plug is another potential point of electrical trouble. Double check its connection by removing it, and then reinserting it into its threading.
If you've ruled out the possibility of any other problems, and you know for a fact that the problem with your engine has to be electrical, the wisest decision would probably be to consult a professional mechanic. It could be as simple as a blown fuse, or as complicated as replacing a wiring harness. Unless you are intimately familiar with the inner workings of those systems, it's possible you could turn a faulty engine into a dead one without some more experienced guidance.
Investigating Fuel Problems
Unless you're using your boat every weekend, you've probably got fuel sitting in your gas tank that's old. Fuel that isn't fresh can cause problems with keeping a boat engine running. If your fuel source has become exposed to the elements, then contaminated gasoline is also a possibility. Gasoline with too much outside moisture mixed into it will make a sensitive outboard motor a nightmare to get started. For the sake of thoroughness, swapping out what fuel you've got with new fuel can make a world of difference in any gasoline motor. Ensure that the new fuel is the proper mix for the type of engine you have.
If you're able to rule out bad fuel, then the next step is to check the fuel flow from the tank to the engine. Fuel lines can become compromised with age and wear, so visually inspect them to make sure there is no damage that might lead to a drop in pressure. Even if the hose appears to be in good shape, twists or crimps in the line will cause problems as well. You want to be certain that your fuel is freely flowing through the line.
Checking Water Flow
The water does more for your boat than just keep it afloat. A certain amount of water flows through your outboard boat engine to work as a coolant. Without that cooling effect, overheating can occur, which would prevent your boat from running. Usually a lack of water flow is caused by a blockage of some type in the water intake manifold. This is easy to spot, and it's a quick fix if this is what's causing your problems.
Of course, regularly keeping up with the needs of any motor is going to extend its life, as well as decrease the likelihood that you're going to experience problems with it. Hopefully, a little basic mechanical logic will come in handy the rest of the time.