Manually starting an electric-start outboard

If you have an electric-start outboard, and it doesn't have a rope starter built in, a second independent battery is essential. Because the "emergency rope start procedure":

Does not work.

In theory, and according to many engine manuals, you should be able to start outboards (up to 60 hp or so) in an emergency as follows:

  1. Remove the cowling.
  2. Tie a knot in the end of a 6 mm (1/4") rope and wedge the knot into the notch on top of the flywheel.
  3. Wrap the rope around the flywheel in the correct direction (clockwise, for this 1994 Johnson J30).
  4. Set the choke and throttle.
  5. Pull really hard.
  6. Repeat until it starts. (Do not attempt to put the cowling back on while it's spinning.)

While winterizing Sunset Chaser today, I thought I'd put this procedure to the test, as her cranking battery had committed suicide on our last trip of the season.

Yeah, good luck with that. The flywheel can handle only two wraps of the cord. Two revolutions is simply not enough to start a cranky two-stroke from cold. I tried spraying a bit of propane in the crankcase and down the spark plug holes. I tried at least 20 pulls. I tried injecting a bit of gas into the carb. It simply would not go- not until we hooked it up to the car for a jump start.

So my advice is this: Don't count on the emergency rope start trick to save your neck in a crisis. One of those portable jump-start battery packs, charged regularly, is a far more reliable bet. (Now, if only the engine makers would offer rope AND electric start....)



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