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Boat Won't Start

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Okay, I have an older 1990 Sea Nymph FM161 with a Johnson 40hp motor. It's in really good shape for it's age. This summer I used it once at the beginning of June and than haven't used it since due to our schedules. I went to take it out this Sunday and it wouldn't start. I turned the key and nothing...not a sound, the motor didn't even try to start. The rest of my electrical works, bilge pump, aerator, lights, fish finder. I figured well, I'll charge the battery just in case. I came home Monday night and tried it and same thing, no sound at all, no clicking, no motor trying to turnover...nothing. I'll recheck that all of my wiring is firmly attached to the battery but if the other electrical stuff works I'm assuming it probably is. Other than that I'm going to check the fuse for the starter underneath my dash if I can find it. If that doesn't turn up anything I'll bring it to my local dealer and have him take a look but unfortunately they are booking out 2 weeks. Anyone else have any ideas (I'm not to technical but I'll try if I think it's within my capabilities)?

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33 minutes ago, Choporoz said:

Perhaps it's dead, man

Why? It ran beautifully the last time out. Was serviced this year with the carbs cleaned and everything was running like a top...why would it just stop with no warning?

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I was being cutesy....hoping you would rule out that you have checked the kill switch (deadman switch)

 

 

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Did you inspect the spark plugs? But seems like something is up with your starter.

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9 minutes ago, Choporoz said:

I was being cutesy....hoping you would rule out that you have checked the kill switch (deadman switch)

 

 

My tether is still attached to the kill switch...anything else to check about that?

2 minutes ago, Junger said:

Did you inspect the spark plugs?

Nope, haven't checked those.

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I got in a similar situation several years ago. The motor quit while running down the lake. The motor would not do anything, the tilt and trim would not work, but everything else did work. After I got it home the only thing I did was clean the the battery terminals and connectors real good. To look at them you couldn't tell they needed cleaning. It has worked fine since then. I now clean them once a year. 

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First, don't waste your time or money with kill switch or spark plugs, NIETHER of those will keep it from cranking over.

After cleaning the battery terminals and post 

Since it's not cranking over. the first assumption would be the neutral safety switch in the remote control.  Try holding the key in the start position and work the shifter back and forth a couple of times and kinda shake the shifter in the neutral position.

Next, do you have and know how to use a voltmeter.  You need to take a couple of voltage readings on the two small terminals on the starter solenoid.  One of those is the wire from the key switch should be a Yellow/Red (Y/R) wire, the other is Black and the ground (battery negative) side.  Unless you can clip the test lead onto the terminal and have to meter so you can see it, you will need two people.  With the meter on Y/R  of the small terminals and the other test lead to ground, try to crank it with the key.  If you get 12 volts, that say the switch and wiring is good.  Now move the meter to the other small terminal with the black wire and try it again, if you get 12 volts, again, that says the switch and wiring is good but you have a bad ground wire on the solenoid.

Now to make since of what I just told you.  If the key switch, neutral safety switch,  and wiring are doing what they are supposed to be doing, you should be getting 12V on one of those small terminals with the R/Y wire and not on the other with the black.  If that is the case, then the solenoid is bad.  

If you are not getting 12V on either terminal, that mean the key switch, neutral safety switch or wiring has a problem.

If you are getting 12V on both of the small terminals, that means something has the ground wire open and will require more trouble shooting between that terminal and the negative battery terminal.  

The small terminal that has the Yellow/Red wire on it is the wire from the key switch that should have the 12V.

 

You can actually turn the key switch on, and use a small screwdriver and short the R/Y terminal to the large terminal on the solenoid with the red battery cable on it, and start the motor. 

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41 minutes ago, Way2slow said:

First, don't waste your time or money with kill switch or spark plugs, NIETHER of those will keep it from cranking over.

After cleaning the battery terminals and post 

Since it's not cranking over. the first assumption would be the neutral safety switch in the remote control.  Try holding the key in the start position and work the shifter back and forth a couple of times and kinda shake the shifter in the neutral position.

Next, do you have and know how to use a voltmeter.  You need to take a couple of voltage readings on the two small terminals on the starter solenoid.  One of those is the wire from the key switch should be a Yellow/Red (Y/R) wire, the other is Black and the ground (battery negative) side.  Unless you can clip the test lead onto the terminal and have to meter so you can see it, you will need two people.  With the meter on Y/R  of the small terminals and the other test lead to ground, try to crank it with the key.  If you get 12 volts, that say the switch and wiring is good.  Now move the meter to the other small terminal with the black wire and try it again, if you get 12 volts, again, that says the switch and wiring is good but you have a bad ground wire on the solenoid.

Now to make since of what I just told you.  If the key switch, neutral safety switch,  and wiring are doing what they are supposed to be doing, you should be getting 12V on one of those small terminals with the R/Y wire and not on the other with the black.  If that is the case, then the solenoid is bad.  

If you are not getting 12V on either terminal, that mean the key switch, neutral safety switch or wiring has a problem.

If you are getting 12V on both of the small terminals, that means something has the ground wire open and will require more trouble shooting between that terminal and the negative battery terminal.  

The small terminal that has the Yellow/Red wire on it is the wire from the key switch that should have the 12V.

 

You can actually turn the key switch on, and use a small screwdriver and short the R/Y terminal to the large terminal on the solenoid with the red battery cable on it, and start the motor. 

Wow, this is all really good info and much appreciated! I do not have a voltmeter but I can probably either rent one from Autozone or I just did a quick Amazon search and found a nice looking multimeter for $20. As for the rest, I'm embarrassed to say it but you'll have to treat me like a 5th grader on this as I don't know where the solenoid is or what it looks like (I'm amazed that I was able to install my fish finder myself...lol), what are the terminals your talking about and what do they look like (the small metal posts)? I'll see how much it is to rent the multimeter and if it's close to $20 I'll just buy one off Amazon (in fact, owning a boat I should probably have one anyway).

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Don't worry, I have an older bother that's a chess master, but wouldn't know which end of a screwdriver to use if you handed him one.

 

If you have a Harbor freight close, they have one for $5.  It might work well enough for a couple of uses, sometimes they even have them as one of their give away items, so you can imagine the quality you will be getting.    The test leads are probably no more that a foot long also.    However, it is a little cheaper than my $450 Fluke.

 

This is what it looks like.  https://www.ebay.com/p/Fits-OMC-Johnson-Starter-Relay-Solenoid-40-40hp-1969-2005/2078981102?iid=270771467927&chn=ps&norover=1&mkevt=1&mkrid=711-117182-37290-0&mkcid=2&itemid=270771467927&targetid=800915229577&device=c&mktype=pla&googleloc=9011203&poi=&campaignid=1497794122&mkgroupid=56281259685&rlsatarget=pla-800915229577&abcId=1139466&merchantid=6324134&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI3aPL3uTJ5AIVBZJbCh2Nwgs0EAQYAyABEgLoiPD_BwE   and will be somewhere around the top of the engine.  Look for the large red 3/8" battery cable coming around the side of the motor and bolting onto the solenoid.  The other large terminal will have a cable going to the starter.  The solenoid is nothing but an electric switch made to handle a lot of current, so when you go to start the motor with the key, that little wires closes the large contacts inside and connects the battery to the starter.  The starter can pull over 100 amps on that motor, the little key switch wire might handle 5 amps.

 

Before getting to wrapped around checking the solenoid, clean the battery terminals, and post with baking soda and wire brush first.    Then do the deal with the shift lever.  It's not uncommon for that microswitch inside the control to go bad, or just not close sometimes.  I'm very much inclined for that to be the problem if it's not a corroded battery connection.   If it does prove to be bad, the switch is only a few bucks, for a shop to replace it is probably $100.  That control head is not a big deal to work on, "BUT" study a parts diagram first if you try to go into it.  You can get into a great big "O-S**T!!!" if you are not very carful and parts start falling out on you.

 

There are a couple of other voltage checks you will want to make once the battery is clean, before getting into trouble shooting.    After cleaning the battery, check the voltage across the battery post.  Then with the meter connected to the to cables, try cranking the motor and make sure the voltage doesn't drop below 11 volts.

 

Also, you don't need to know how to work on boats/motors/trailers.  You only need to know how to do that when you don't have deep pockets, or don't want to wait weeks for a shop to repair them.

My pockets have always been turned inside out and I'm not a very patient person.

 

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1 hour ago, Way2slow said:

Don't worry, I have an older bother that's a chess master, but wouldn't know which end of a screwdriver to use if you handed him one.

 

If you have a Harbor freight close, they have one for $5.  It might work well enough for a couple of uses, sometimes they even have them as one of their give away items, so you can imagine the quality you will be getting.    The test leads are probably no more that a foot long also.    However, it is a little cheaper than my $450 Fluke.

 

This is what it looks like.  https://www.ebay.com/p/Fits-OMC-Johnson-Starter-Relay-Solenoid-40-40hp-1969-2005/2078981102?iid=270771467927&chn=ps&norover=1&mkevt=1&mkrid=711-117182-37290-0&mkcid=2&itemid=270771467927&targetid=800915229577&device=c&mktype=pla&googleloc=9011203&poi=&campaignid=1497794122&mkgroupid=56281259685&rlsatarget=pla-800915229577&abcId=1139466&merchantid=6324134&gclid=EAIaIQobChMI3aPL3uTJ5AIVBZJbCh2Nwgs0EAQYAyABEgLoiPD_BwE   and will be somewhere around the top of the engine.  Look for the large red 3/8" battery cable coming around the side of the motor and bolting onto the solenoid.  The other large terminal will have a cable going to the starter.  The solenoid is nothing but an electric switch made to handle a lot of current, so when you go to start the motor with the key, that little wires closes the large contacts inside and connects the battery to the starter.  The starter can pull over 100 amps on that motor, the little key switch wire might handle 5 amps.

 

Before getting to wrapped around checking the solenoid, clean the battery terminals, and post with baking soda and wire brush first.    Then do the deal with the shift lever.  It's not uncommon for that microswitch inside the control to go bad, or just not close sometimes.  I'm very much inclined for that to be the problem if it's not a corroded battery connection.   If it does prove to be bad, the switch is only a few bucks, for a shop to replace it is probably $100.  That control head is not a big deal to work on, "BUT" study a parts diagram first if you try to go into it.  You can get into a great big "O-S**T!!!" if you are not very carful and parts start falling out on you.

 

There are a couple of other voltage checks you will want to make once the battery is clean, before getting into trouble shooting.    After cleaning the battery, check the voltage across the battery post.  Then with the meter connected to the to cables, try cranking the motor and make sure the voltage doesn't drop below 11 volts.

 

Also, you don't need to know how to work on boats/motors/trailers.  You only need to know how to do that when you don't have deep pockets, or don't want to wait weeks for a shop to repair them.

My pockets have always been turned inside out and I'm not a very patient person.

 

Umm, yeah...my pockets just have lint in them...lol. The more I can do myself without doing more damage to my boat the better off I'll be :).

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How old is the battery? Sometimes a battery can just go dead. Those electronics that are working, are they hooked up to a separate battery like the trolling motor battery? I have a starting battery and then two my electronics are hooked to. Since trim is on the motor my starting battery does control that though. But, you can have enough juice to work a trim and still not have enough to crank and it may be so dead it won't take a charge.

 

I put a brand new battery in my truck 5/03/13. Get my oil changed mid August 2018 and they tell me battery is weak. Still started fine so I kinda ignored them. A week later I take my daughter to Tae Kwon Do and when we get out we drive two doors down to Wendy's and then across the street to Krogers. Get out of Kroger and my key fob unlocks doors and windows will run down but SLOWLY and starter wouldn't even make a clicking noise, it was DEAD. I had cables and a stranger came over to jump me off. It was so dead it wouldn't even jump. My daughter and i had to get in the vehicle with a stranger and go buy a new battery.

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2 hours ago, dickenscpa said:

How old is the battery? Sometimes a battery can just go dead. Those electronics that are working, are they hooked up to a separate battery like the trolling motor battery? I have a starting battery and then two my electronics are hooked to. Since trim is on the motor my starting battery does control that though. But, you can have enough juice to work a trim and still not have enough to crank and it may be so dead it won't take a charge.

 

I put a brand new battery in my truck 5/03/13. Get my oil changed mid August 2018 and they tell me battery is weak. Still started fine so I kinda ignored them. A week later I take my daughter to Tae Kwon Do and when we get out we drive two doors down to Wendy's and then across the street to Krogers. Get out of Kroger and my key fob unlocks doors and windows will run down but SLOWLY and starter wouldn't even make a clicking noise, it was DEAD. I had cables and a stranger came over to jump me off. It was so dead it wouldn't even jump. My daughter and i had to get in the vehicle with a stranger and go buy a new battery.

My starter battery is 2 years old, that has all my electronics hooked to it (fish finder, dash gauges). The trolling motor battery is probably 3 years old and just has the trolling motor hooked to it. Can you test a battery with a multimeter or do you need a specific battery tester? I just ordered one so I can try and figure this out. I can't help but think it's something simple...electrical but a simple fix and the biggest challenge is to find it.

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9 minutes ago, Brett's_daddy said:

My starter battery is 2 years old, that has all my electronics hooked to it (fish finder, dash gauges). The trolling motor battery is probably 3 years old and just has the trolling motor hooked to it. Can you test a battery with a multimeter or do you need a specific battery tester? I just ordered one so I can try and figure this out. I can't help but think it's something simple...electrical but a simple fix and the biggest challenge is to find it.

Yes, you can test the TM battery with a multimeter. I also have one of these attached so I can check it on the water.

 

https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B07BHBTHLW/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_search_asin_title?ie=UTF8&psc=1

 

 

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Just now, TnRiver46 said:

If your crank battery ia completely dead it won't take a charge

It shouldn't be though...it's only 2 years old, is an Interstate battery and hasn't had heavy use (the past couple of years I've only been able to get out maybe a half dozen times). The electric meter on my dash goes right to 12 when I turn the key but I'm guessing just because it does that doesn't necessarily mean the starter battery isn't dead?

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7 minutes ago, Brett's_daddy said:

It shouldn't be though...it's only 2 years old, is an Interstate battery and hasn't had heavy use (the past couple of years I've only been able to get out maybe a half dozen times). The electric meter on my dash goes right to 12 when I turn the key but I'm guessing just because it does that doesn't necessarily mean the starter battery isn't dead?

Yeah that meter on the dash is a voltimeter and is saying you've got 12 volts. Ideally it would be a little higher after a full charge but it should at least try to start with 12. I would disconnect clean and reconnect everything on the crank battery 

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47 minutes ago, Brett's_daddy said:

My starter battery is 2 years old, that has all my electronics hooked to it (fish finder, dash gauges). The trolling motor battery is probably 3 years old and just has the trolling motor hooked to it. Can you test a battery with a multimeter or do you need a specific battery tester? I just ordered one so I can try and figure this out. I can't help but think it's something simple...electrical but a simple fix and the biggest challenge is to find it.

You can test a battery with a voltmeter at rest but you can't test it under a load. I have a battery tester that will test under load which simulates cranking it. I've put it on many batteries that read 12V and hit the button and they drop to 5-7V, which is not enough to crank a motor up.

 

I don't hook electronics up to my cranking battery because I've always been under the impression an outboard doesn't operate like an alternator on a vehicle on the recharge side and I don't want to get stranded far from the dock.

32 minutes ago, Brett's_daddy said:

It shouldn't be though...it's only 2 years old, is an Interstate battery and hasn't had heavy use (the past couple of years I've only been able to get out maybe a half dozen times). The electric meter on my dash goes right to 12 when I turn the key but I'm guessing just because it does that doesn't necessarily mean the starter battery isn't dead?

You can always carry your battery to an Advance Auto, Auto Zone or O'Reilly and they'll put a test on it for free.

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If nothing happens when you turn the key you have an open line. 

 

Does the line to the starter have a fuse or a breaker?

 

Are the connections clean and tight?

 

Have you tried jumping the kill switch to make sure it is not bad. 

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8 minutes ago, Dogface said:

If nothing happens when you turn the key you have an open line. 

 

Does the line to the starter have a fuse or a breaker?

 

Are the connections clean and tight?

 

Have you tried jumping the kill switch to make sure it is not bad. 

Not sure if it has a fuse or a breaker...I will check. I am also going to check the battery connections and clean the terminals but won't get to that until this weekend. I have not tried jumping the kill switch but I also don't know how to do that (not very electrically or mechanically inclined...lol...but I'm trying to learn).

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You have power to some accessories. That means the battery has some life in it.

 

If the line was intact you would hear a click or get some indication there was some current getting to the motor. Since your not even getting a click that indicates to me the line is open somewhere. 

 

BTW I see some guys mention a volt meter. Good idea! You can pick a cheap one up at Harbor Freight. If you do then use it to check the voltage at the staring motor. If there is no voltage after the key is turned that would confirm an open line. If there is voltage then you might have a bad starter, battery or solenoid. 

 

BTW your battery should be putting out about 13.4 volts if it is in good condition. Your engine will start and run on less but strange things happen when voltage drops. 

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11 minutes ago, Dogface said:

You have power to some accessories. That means the battery has some life in it.

 

If the line was intact you would hear a click or get some indication there was some current getting to the motor. Since your not even getting a click that indicates to me the line is open somewhere. 

 

BTW I see some guys mention a volt meter. Good idea! You can pick a cheap one up at Harbor Freight. If you do then use it to check the voltage at the staring motor. If there is no voltage after the key is turned that would confirm an open line. If there is voltage then you might have a bad starter, battery or solenoid. 

 

BTW your battery should be putting out about 13.4 volts if it is in good condition. Your engine will start and run on less but strange things happen when voltage drops. 

I have this coming tomorrow from Amazon.com.

 

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01NAVAT9S/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

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A battery does not put out 13.4 volts unless there is a charging voltage going to it.  It may show that if it has been disconnected from a charger very recently, but that is only a surface charge and goes away if allowed to rest for 24 hour.  Typical voltage for a fully charged battery is 12.6 to 12.8VDC, depending on the make and type.  Cranking batteries typically have 12.6, deep cycle and dual purpose typically have 12.8.  Also a little gee wiz info, for each tenth of a volt it drops below that, that's approximately a 10% discharge per tenth.  And since you should never discharge a battery more than 80%, a battery at 12.0 VDC is considered a discharged battery.

 

There is one fuse on the motor.  It's usually an inline fuse in a red rubber housing.  If you look on the starter solenoid where the large red battery cable is connected, there should be a smaller red wire connected also.  That smaller red wire goes to that inline fuse holder and there will be a red/yellow wire coming out of the fuse holder going the main plug on the front of the motor.  This supplies power to everything connected to the remote control so if there is power everything else, it's not very likely that fuse is going to be bad.  There are no fuses in any boat with an outboard motor I've ever seen that had the start wire going though it so seriously doubt looking for a blown fuse or circuit breaker would be worth the effort.

 

When you get your voltmeter, I can step you through a very simple process to isolate the problem.  Won't take 10 minutes.  

 

It's also a very simple process to use the meter the check the relative condition of the battery.  Granted, a Megtronics meter is best for sealed batteries but your meter will do. 

 

You will find having a multimeter and learning how to use it will be worth it's weight in gold.  For the house, vehicles and anything else that depends on electricity or wires to work.  I only have about a 1/2 dozen, but I also have a degree in electronics, and a person that can fix most anything man made, so I tend to use them a lot.

 

If you want to, send me a PM and I will send you my cell phone number so when you get ready to start trouble shooting, I can walk you through and explain things as you go.  All that's required for that is you being able to understand my southern accent.  Back in the 80's, I had a girl in New Jersey once ask me what planet I was from.  25 years of the military got rid of some so it shouldn't be a real problem.

 

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