The Most Common Boat Engine Problems

When you buy a new boat or any other used asset, you need to consider all the risks. For instance, you may end up investing a lot in someone’s boat only to spend a fortune fixing engine problems.

This happens even if you buy a car, motorbike, RV, or any other vehicle. However, boats are notorious for breaking down. This is because a boat has so many systems and compartments that are difficult to check all the time.

Unless you are a boat expert, you may miss some boat engine problems. Many new owners forget to consistently check the oil to ensure that it is not milky. You also need to check all the plugs to avoid them encasing in carbon.

Although you can identify most boat engine vibrations and issues just from listening to how smoothly it all runs, here are the most common problems to look for.

Then you can invest in boat engine repair immediately instead of letting it breakdown even further to cost you more money.

Most Common Boat Engine Problems

Nobody wants to go through a rough day of boating. Imagine trying to enjoy a nice sunny day with loved ones out at sea, only to end up adrift several miles away from the ramp because of engine problems.

Unless you are handy when it comes to troubleshooting engine problems, you may want to have a professional towing service on speed dial. This is because boat engine problems are tricky.

Not every fix is easy. However, you do not need to be the most skilled to identify these problems and prevent your future outings from getting ruined.

Lack of Gas

It is no surprise that most boats end up stuck at sea because they have run out of gas. No matter how smart we think we are to avoid this problem, it comes out of nowhere. One day you will end up kicking yourself, wondering how on earth you forgot to top up some more gas.

You should also check to see if your boat’s fuel gauge is reporting accurately. This will help you plan fuel consumption before going out in the water. You should also learn a little bit about how your boat burns fuel, so you can preserve any remaining fumes during an emergency.

For instance, when your car is showing the empty fuel light, your first instinct may be to turn off the air conditioning and avoid hitting the pedal hard to conserve the last bit of fuel.

If you do not want to deal with expensive boat engine repair costs and towing expenses, you should always fill up the tank before an outing. Do not forget to check your fuel gauge.

The best way to remember filling up is to break up each task. Plan to store extra fuel to go out to sea. Ensure you have enough leftover to get yourself back to shore.

This way, you can always be prepared to go through rough seas, fog, or bad weather that can keep you out on the boat longer than planned. 

Fuel Storage Issues

It is possible to have too much fuel that goes bad. If you leave a near-empty tank for a long time, you can find a lot of condensation and water in the gas. To store fuel properly, you need to fill the tank and get a fuel stabilizer.

This will help the boat run long enough to get all the treated gas through your boat engine. Some older tanks can have a lot of debris at the bottom. This gets mixed around once your fuel dries up.

The best thing to do is to increase filtration. This can be done by investing in a bigger aftermarket filter.

Sputtering Engine Failure

While boating out on beautiful waters with the sun shining brightly, you may suddenly hear a dangerous sputtering sound that kills the engine. This is one of the most common reasons boat engines break down, besides running out of fuel.

You may have fouled plugs or a filter issue that is causing your motor to significantly lose power. In this case, the best thing to do is to change your in-line fuel filter. Make sure to always have a spare one. Otherwise, you will need to get rid of debris and clean the filter element.

Then you should remember to vent your engine box before restarting the boat. If you forget to do this, a dirty filter will be the least of your worries out at sea.

Dead Engine

Think about the annoying times when you turn the key in your car’s ignition, and it gives a screeching sound instead of a smooth-running engine ready for action.

This is when you know that you have a serious electrical problem. The same goes for boats. You may also have a break in the ignition circuit or a dead battery. The best thing to do is to check your kill switch.

You need to ensure that your shifter is always in neutral. Then focus on the starter switch you want to control. Since this is an ignition switch that is dash-mounted, it can be fitted loosely.

To fix this, you need to get behind the dash and tighten the switch with mounting screws. If your starting keeps groaning instead of engaging, you may have a low battery or another poor electrical connection.

This can be tricky for boatowners to fix on their own. You may need to hire a professional to inspect, clean, and repair all your wiring. If a low battery is causing the problem, it is always best to keep a metering device or secondary battery bank.

This is necessary, especially if you enjoy cranking up your Spotify playlist while at anchor. The best tools you need are screwdrivers with insulated handles. You will also need a crescent wrench and a battery charger.

Overheating Engine

If you notice that the temperature needle on your gauge is going up, this means that you need more water flow in your cooling loop because the engine is overheating.

Remember that most small inboards do not have radiators like cars. You need to use the water they float on. This is what cools the engine. When that water stops flowing effectively, you will struggle with an overheating engine that will lead to full-on engine failure.

To fix this problem, you need to go back to the source. In most cases, you will find something blocking the raw water intake. This can be a plastic bag or some weeds.

When you locate your intake, you need to clean it thoroughly. Another thing to look at is the hose clamp. If this is loose or has a split, it can reduce water flow and spray moisture that damages your engine.

Like owning a car, you need to get your boat engine serviced. A professional team may also need to replace your impeller. They will check all the conditions of your boat’s housing to uncover any pitting of the metal housing that may cause you to lose power.

Always ensure that the mechanic you hire for checks does not ignore signs of blockage or corrosion in your exhaust system. Request that they open up the exhaust risers and other components for a thorough inspection.

This way, you can unearth any other issues that may be unrelated to internal clogging.

Unexpected Stop

It is possible for a boat to suddenly stop in the middle of the water despite running the entire time smoothly. This can typically happen if you have run out of fuel or if someone hit the kill switch.

If you have checked these problems and nothing seems out of the ordinary, you may be suffering from electrical failure. This results from a tripped breaker or a blown fuse.

You should also keep an eye out for corrosion and any loose connections. When you are going for an outing, make sure to do some starting checks. This should include checking your lanyard key for the kill switch.

You need to ensure that this is not loose and remains unengaged. At times, it can accidentally slip enough to activate.

Your ignition switch also deserves an inspection because it can also cause your engine to stop unexpectedly. Fiddle with it to check if it is loose. If this does not help solve the problem, you need to go behind where all the big wires are.

This is where the most corrosion takes place. No matter how regularly you get your battery terminals maintained, you still need to keep cleaning this area to prevent debris and corrosion.

The best way to prevent getting stuck out at sea with a broken engine is by learning all the components of your ignition system. Then you need to regularly check, clean, and inspect all the exposed connections using an anti-corrosion chemical.

Carrying a wire brush onboard can also go a long way to help scrub all your terminals as you spray the anti-corrosion product.

Engine Vibrations

Speeding your boat down a gorgeous river can be a lot of fun, but that is when you start noticing the horrible vibrations. Even when your boat loses speed, you may have some engine vibrations.

This occurs when something is wrong with the prop. You may have a gouged blade or a nick that has formed an imbalance.

This leads to vibrations. If you have a fishing line around, it may have snarled the shaft. Or a direct hit on an object can misshape enough metal. This renders the prop useless.

Even if you have the best prop, it can still have some distortion that you do not notice immediately without a closer look. There may also be some damage that causes vibrations. It may not always be possible to change the prop, especially when you are out in the middle of the sea.

If the engine vibrations alarm you, the best thing to do is steer towards the shore and focus on getting back quickly. If monofilament has entered your prop bulb, you will need to trim up your motor until the prop can be pulled out and thoroughly cleaned.

The good news is that several outboards can withstand some mono, so this may not be an emergency. However, you should still never ignore this problem. Otherwise, you may risk permanently damaging your boat.

Things You Need

Always carry a spare prop. You should also have all the necessary tools to do a swap. Before going out to sea, you should do some practice runs changing props to avoid surprises in the middle of the water.

Also, keep a spare pair of gloves to protect your hands from any prop blades. Finally, the best tool to keep around is a branded prop wrench.

With all these materials on your checklist, you can guarantee the smoothest ride without engine vibrations ruining the day.

Lower Boat Engine Repair Costs Today

Now that you know the most common boat engine problems that can occur when you are out at sea with loved ones, it is necessary to schedule regular maintenance service.

Your repair costs will be significantly lower if you get your boat serviced regularly. This is because you will keep all the components in good shape instead of replacing parts all the time. 

Remember to keep an eye out for engine vibrations if you go faster or slower. Ensure that you have plenty of fuel for every ride and keep all the components clean and safe away from debris.

Owning a boat is an absolute dream, and you deserve all the freedom and solitude without struggling with technical problems. With these helpful tips, you can prevent engine failure for much longer.

If you are an enthusiastic boat owner interested in joining a great community of like-minded people, contact us today and learn more about effective boat maintenance.