How to Start a Boat Motor

Used outboard motors require just the right touch.


November 5, 2019
Learn how to fix hard-starting outboards
Older outboards give plenty of boaters reliable service, but can require a little work to get started. Boating Magazine

Outboards start like a car; just tilt them down and turn the key. At least newer ones do. But it wasn’t always that way. In the past, you had to learn how to start an outboard motor. Carbureted two-strokes can be fussy, especially when cold. And if you ever can’t get one start, check out our 25 reasons why your boat engine won’t start.

Now, there’s still plenty of carbureted two-strokes in service. And how to start a 2-stroke outboard motor is as important as ever. Maybe you own one, or maybe you’re considering a used boat that’s fitted with one. Perhaps it’s an outboard in need of a rebuild. In either case, here’s a basic 5-step starting procedure you can use to fire-up that oldie but goodie on the transom.

Five Steps to Starting an Older 2-Stroke Outboard Engine

1. Engine tilted fully down (this makes it easier for fuel to get to the carburetors).
2. Squeeze primer bulb till firm.
3. Advance throttle in neutral to 2/3s.
4. Turn key on, push to choke (or pull out choke) and crank at same time.
5. Release choke, return throttle to neutral after ignition.


Also, make sure the tank is vented. If it’s a built-in tank, make sure the vent fitting is not partially obstructed by an insect nest or wax or something.

Takeaway: Outboard engines are the only propulsion designed from the drawing board specifically for marine application.


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