Fuel, Batteries, & On The Water Repairs
While fishing can be a fun activity for the whole family it also puts you in a position that can become dangerous if you are not prepared. No matter how much time you have spend on or around the water it should never be underestimated. To ensure you can be prepared for all your fishing (or camping) adventures and be safe on the water we have decided to do a blog series on some items often overlooked or misunderstood by anglers / boaters that can leave you unprepared in an emergency or put you in dangerous situations.
All machines have the potential for failure. Boat motors are no different. There are a number of failure modes that can leave you frustrated and in the worst case stranded. Keeping a small tool kit onboard is always a good idea and can help you in a pinch. Ensuring you have a trolling motor or paddle as backup to get to shore until you can sort out the issue is a must. If not be sure to anchor to avoid getting further away or pushed into hazards. For some tips on how to deal with a number of common situations that we have run into while on the water check out the items below:
Run Out Of Fuel
With tiller motors and removable gas tanks this is much more common. There is often no gauge or it works poorly. To avoid this situation always check how much fuel you have before heading out, know where the marinas are in the event you need to fuel up, and carry extra fuel with you if the adventure is big.
All motors have a small capacity for fuel inside them without the tank being connected. If it appears you have run out of fuel but there is lots be sure to check that the fuel line is still connected properly to the motor.
Electric Starter Not Working
If you drive a boat with an electric start then you probably take starting the motor for granted, I know I do! There are a few ways that your electric starter can fail while on the water. If this happens the first thing to check is that the boat is in neutral. It will not start if it is not. Sometimes it can be in a position that looks very close to neutral but is not. Just be sure it only takes a second. After this be sure the kill switch is installed properly. If it is not in proper position the motor will not start either.
If you have checked these two east things and the motor still does not sound like the starter is working it is likely that the battery is dead. First check that all the connection to the battery are tight. If it is loose this could be the source of your problem. If you have other batteries on board you can swap them out, or jump start the battery. Once the boat is running it will charge the battery slowly so just don't turn it off for a while! If this is not possible there is always the manual start option. By removing the cowling the pull cord and starting coil should become exposed. Putting the boat in neutral and in the on position should lead to it starting once you pull it over.
Sometimes motors can flood and become impossible to start. This can happen from setting a tiller on the wrong side, priming the bulb too much, poor spark plugs amongst, or just older motors in general. It can also happen if the the motor is too cold! When a motor is flooded there is too much fuel and not enough oxygen in the cylinder so combustion cannot occur.
The first step to fixing this is to stop more fuel from entering the motor. Disconnect the fuel tank. Next keep the throttle open fully (don't close it until we are done) and pull the motor over a number of times. As you pull it over excess fuel will be empties from the cylinder and more oxygen will be added. At some point the motor will begin to fire and you can reconnect the fuel line. Once the engine fires you can release the throttle.
Alternative to the above you can simply wait until the fuel evaporates. In cold environments the fuel will not vaporize and so it cannot ignite so heating it up by moving inside temporarily can solve the problem.
Loss of Prime
The opposite of flooding is loss of prime. Flooding means too much fuel while loss of prime means not enough fuel. Without fuel getting to the motor you won't get very far. If you find yourself losing prime on the water there are a few quick fixes that will at least let you get back to shore to sort out the bigger issue at play. To check if you have lost prime grab the primer bulb on the fuel line and see if it is hard or deflated. If it is deflated you have lost your prime.
First things first, if you are not getting fuel to the engine there is likely a blockage. Check there are no kinks in the line or heavy pieces of equipment squishing it and that the fuel filter (if you know how to do this) is not plugged. If there are no blockages than it is likely a vacuum has formed in your fuel tank. This will happen as you consume fuel if there is no way for air to be introduced into the tank. Be sure the vent is open! If you open the vent and hear air rushing in this is a god sign this was the problem.
Regardless of the reason for losing prime a passenger in the boat should be able to keep squeezing the primer ball as you drive to keep the engine going. It may take a bit to build up prime at first but should be enough to get you home unless there is a sever blockage somewhere.first
Pull Cord Or Recoil Breaks
In the event the recoil on the pull cord breaks or the pull cord itself breaks all hope is not lost. While it will still be a pain you can still start your engine. To do so take the cover off the recoil and look for the notch shown in bottom right corner. Tie a knot in the piece of rope you have and put the not on the underside of this notch. Next wrap the rope around the shaft in the same direction the pull cord would go in. After this it is only a manner of pulling the engine over and repeating until it starts.
Problems on the water are inevitable. If you haven't ran into any they are likely on their way but by being prepared you can make the best of a bad situation. At the end of the day getting home safely is the most important thing. We hope these tips can be used to help you out the next time you run into an issue on the water!
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