Will A Boat Start In Gear?

It’s a wonderful day and maybe you plan to go fishing. So you take out your boat and turn the ignition but all you hear is a cranking sound and your boat wouldn’t start.

What might have gone wrong?Well, the boat might be in gear and hence won’t start. 

Almost all boats must be in neutral to start as many boats have safety mechanisms that prevent the boat from starting while in gear. This is to prevent the boat from immediately moving forwards or backwards once it is started as that is what would happen when it’s in gear. 

So the answer to the question is, no, a typical boat won’t start when it’s in gear.  The engine may crank and the lights may turn on and off, but that will be it. Shift the lever to bring it to neutral and voila, the boat should start up easily again. 

What are the other reasons for the boat to not start?

There might be a few reasons for which the boat won’t start. There might be an engine problem or a fuel ignition problem or something more complex. Here are a few things that could also be the problem if your boat is in neutral but still won’t start up properly.

  • Safety features might be on Many modern boats come with additional safety features that keep the ignition on while cruising the waves. But if the safety ignition is somehow turned off, then the engine would crank but won’t fire up.
  • Low fuel: You often may forget to fill the gas for the boat and your trip might get ruined for this little act of forgetfulness. Hence it’s a good idea to always keep an extra gas can with you while you plan boating trips. Obviously the boat not having fuel seems like a no brainer but many boats won’t have traditional fuel gauges and so people can easily forget about checking the fuel!
  • Battery Problems: If the boat hasn’t been used in a long time the battery might be dead or sometimes the battery wire may have been disconnected. So before the trip, you must check the charge of the battery and make sure it is connected properly.
  • The engine might not be primed: This is a very common problem. Check the primer if it’s ok and if everything is alright, and then give some time for the fuel to reach and prime the engine.
  • Blocked exhaust or air vents: The engine needs proper ventilation to ignite the fuel. Check the vents and make sure that all of them are open so that you won’t have any problem.
  • Spark Plug Problem: The spark plug may be dirty or damaged and hence the engine won’t start. Clean all of your spark plugs and it might be enough to start the engine.
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What should you do in case the engine doesn’t start?

If the engine doesn’t start don’t keep on cranking!  Repeated cranking will drain the battery and will increase your problems. 

Follow the above steps and check if everything is as it should be. We also recommend having the boat properly checked before the day you plan on leaving especially if the boat has been in storage for long. 

Many of the problems can be solved by adjusting a few things on your own but if you can’t find them or don’t know how to do it then it would be a big blow to your trip.

What you shouldn’t ever do! 

Never, we must not repeat this, NEVER ever try to use a car starter to crank up the engine of your boat. Yes, it might work but there is a very big possibility of your boat blowing up. Hence, don’t try any of these stunts that can be risky to your life and limbs! 

You could also try to start the boat in gear, by passing the safety lanyard, but you must not do it because it could bust up the crankshaft and clutch plate and it can further damage the well-being of your boat.

In case you haven’t used your boat in a long time then the battery might be dead or sometimes the battery wire also gets disconnected. So make sure that before going on for a trip, you check the charging percentage of the battery and if it’s too low then remember to connect the battery.

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How to properly start the boat?

Well, you know there are many circumstances when your boat fails to start. Since we’ve mentioned this earlier now we will discuss some of the proper ways to start a boat:

  • Tilt the engine to make it easier for the fuel to reach the motor.
  • Try to prime the engine before starting.
  • Bring the engine to neutral and throttle it.
  • If in any case the boat doesn’t start by trying to turn on the key then pull the choke lever for a few seconds.
  • Then release the choke, bring the gear to neutral after ignition and throttle. This should start your boat perfectly.
  • Make sure the exhaust and air vents are open and not clogged and there is enough fuel and you’re good to go.

Our Recommendations for you:

We recommend that you keep the boat clean and also make sure to check it regularly when not in use. If it has been a while since the boat has been used it’s a good idea to check all of the engine parts and try to start it ahead of time. Don’t wait til the morning of your big trip to discover the problems! 

Taking care of and checking your boat will keep it in top-notch condition and also you will be aware of any problems ahead of time and can easily fix anything that is wrong before your planned boat trip.

As we have discussed earlier, typically the boat won’t start when it’s in gear, so if yours won’t start that’s always the first thing to check. Check all the things that we have mentioned above and see if all the things are as they should probably be.

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Another thing that is important to remember is to not keep on cranking the engine of it won’t start the first couple of times as that will drain your battery which in turn means you have to get them charged before trying to start again. If your boat won’t start find the issue rather than just continuing to crank it. 

It’s a good idea to take your boat to a mechanic before your trip if you aren’t comfortable checking it out yourself. It should only take a good boat mechanic a few minutes to completely check out the motor, make sure it’s starting, and to tune the motor properly. 

The time and expense of this is well worth it to not have to worry about your boat not starting up! 

With a boat comes many perks but maintaining a boat isn’t an easy job if you don’t have any experience. For this reason you need to learn the ways to start a boat as well as to tell why it isn’t starting so if you encounter this type of issue it’s an easy fix and won’t ruin your whole day or trip! 

Happy Sailing!!!

Matthew Robbs

I love the outdoors and especially spending time with my family. Whether on a boat or at the beach, my happy place is near the water.

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