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Is it crazy to have a full-on conversation with an outboard engine? In case it did sound crazy, I hope we were far enough away from the other boats so that they couldn’t hear it. The last piece of yesterday’s conversation with our Tohatsu engine, which I should add had just stalled, leaving us drifting towards another boat, went something like this… “You’d better start or I’ll take you apart!” Now, that is the G-rated version of that sentence which, if memory serves, was not quite so clean. Anyway, it didn’t start, and true to my word, after rowing the dinghy back to ZTC, we took the engine up into the cockpit and proceeded to take off the carburetor.

I should probably mention that I am not a mechanical guy. It was only in the last year that I even learned how to identify a carburetor on these engines. So the process of taking the carb off, cleaning it and then putting it back together, hopefully to run properly, was a bit of a crap shoot. As we disassembled the engine, we took the time to take some photos just in case we needed to refer to them to jog our memory on how to put the engine back together. As it turns out, we didn’t need them and the entire job was completed without many issues.

Did it work? I am happy to report that yes, it appears as if it did. After returning the engine to the dinghy and giving the starter cord a good pull, the engine came to life right away and it sounded and ran much better. In this case, I would say that it appears as if we’ve won the battle. As for the war, that is left to be determined.

The engine, on the “operating table”

Carb Cleaner and Socket Set at the ready!

The culprit.


Take that!

You just need to believe. We do!


  1. Oh Mike, I SOsoSO feel your pain. This was our Achilles Heels all the way down the ICW only on the big boat (with the PDQ). And continues here on the bay with the dink. We’re rooting for you to win the war! Are you filtering fuel on the way in? Pulling the hose before killing the engine?

    • We ARE filtering the fuel. As for pulling the hose to kill the engine, we don’t have an external tank on it (yet). I assume the equivalent action would be to close the fuel valve before killing the engine, letting it run itself dry. I did do that yesterday, but I found that it takes quite a while for it to die.

      • let it take a while, at least you won’t have anything to gum up your carb sitting there (even though you do use it a lot) worth a shot

      • I’ve got to comment that if you are using the engine nearly dayly, running the fuel out will make the carb MORE likely to dry out and form gum. It will not dry out if you leave it be, just like your car. Draining the carb is for winter storage and I believe it is bad practice born of urban legend to do this for any other purpose.

        Many folks that have had carb problems swear by the practice. Hmmm….

        I am sorry if that seemed rude, but I have practiced what I have said for 25 years on many engines. The only carbs I have cleaned have been on used engines I bought… from folks who ran the gas out of the carb. Additives are also a waste for anything other than winter storage. I’ve done the lab testing.

        • Agreed, Drew… draining/running dry is for when it’ll be left without running for more than a few weeks. If the gas is clean enough to burn in such an engine, it’s clean enough to not cause trouble if it sits for a couple of weeks. It’s when you get gas that’s been slowly evaporating out of the carb for three months that you’ll get problems with fuel residues.

  2. Letting it run dry can help, but when you’re not using it for a week or so, you also need to drain the carburetor. This is what the mechanic told us who fixed our engine last winter in the Keys. There’s a little screw on the bottom you open up – not easy to get to – but you’ll drain maybe an ounce or so.

    I don’t have much faith in any of the additives – the cursed ethanol is tougher than they are. You can get fuel without ethanol (I think I mentioned this under a previous post) by the time you get to Beaufort, SC. We did, and it helped, but the ethanol had done its damage and it continued to plague us until the aforementioned mechanic worked on it. ($271.00) The problem he fixed was my inability to completely clean the slow idle jet. He also replaced a spacer I had dropped overboard in St. Augustine.

    The engine, by the way, has run perfectly since then. We are still using the non-ethanol fuel we bought in the south. We just shut down the engine and a week or two later, it starts again on the first pull. Don’t know what we’re going to do once we have to purchase local fuel.

    BTW, carry a small piece of stiff wire with you in the dinghy – about 18 gauge or less. The cooling system overflow – the little squirt of water that comes out of the starboard aft of the engine – will clog up with saltwater. If it does, poke your wire in the little hole and it should start flowing again right away. Something to keep an eye on.

    • Hi Larry

      Non-ethanol fuel would be nice. I’ll be sure to get some if/when we run across is. The tip on cleaning the cooling system overflow is great. I’ll be sure to keep an eye on that as you suggest.

  3. I love the thought full look.

    Perhaps now the motor will respect your threats.

  4. Mike,

    I have gone through a similar set of frustrations with fuel related issues on my inboard engine. You might consider using low-lead aircraft fuel. It has a high test with no ethanol. The ethanol for me was a major problem. My water separation filter always had some mucous colored fluid to offer every time I visited it. Once the ethanol was removed things started to work like they should. So the next time you are close to any small airport, visit the hanger area with a jerry-can and usually they will sell you a fill.

    All my best to you both

  5. The engine always wins the war, Mike, but a persistent (stubborn?) captain can drag it out for many, many years…. there are a few folks on my grandparents’ lake who are still running 1960s outboards. They are far more patient than I am.

    And no, it’s not crazy to talk to an outboard engine. I chat with my Johnson 30 all the time, and with its older, smaller 10-horse brother on occasion (albeit in a rather less civilized manner). I suspect my car runs smoother when I pat it on the dash and tell it “Good Hyundai”. Just don’t tell your outboard how much you like its newer, quieter, more powerful cousins- that’ll make it jealous, with obvious consequences.

  6. I like those boards much better now. Everything on a boat needs to serve multiple needs.

  7. Mike, good work. Your fuel tank is integral to your motor I notice. Does it have a priming button/bulb/pump? If so, the rubber might be cracked and allowing air to ingress into your fuel system. In my case that caused all my shitty idling problems this past summer. If you suspect your fuel pump is the culprit, change it for a new one, do not buy a rebuild kit for it, it is not worth the 15 to 20 dollar savings on a $50 pump. And they are simplicty personified to change….Now just look at the new skill you aquired!!!…Allan

  8. Oh, I forgot to add, my nemesis is a 1986 Johnson Evinrude 9.9 that was sold with the boat as scrap on the bill of sail….and I have plans to convert it to a 15 hp just to see if I can….I am superior to it!…Allan

  9. I still think it’s a good idea to take stuff apart in a bowl or a bucket. Stuff I take apart seems to have parts bent on swimming! And they often invite my tools to join them! 🙂 Or maybe they just want to get away from me! 🙂

    • I hear you Helen. In this case, there was little chance of anything jumping out of our cockpit. Were we at risk of losing anything, I would have been taking precautions like that.

  10. Just as well that rowing is a breeze for such fit folks! Is that yet another plank or is it one of the fancy ones that you lashed the jerry cans too?

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