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Easy Starting of an Outboard Engine

Posted: Tue Jan 14, 2014 5:09 pm
by mmorasci
Not quite sure how best to phrase this ...... so I apologize for any rambling in advance..... Here go's;

I've been using and rebuilding Evinrude/Johnson outboards for over 30 years, most of my engines are late 50's to early 60's vintage in 3 to 40HP size. I generally have no problems at all, getting these old engines running, and running pretty well. Starting an engine can be a trick sometimes though. A couple of months ago I rebuilt a '51 3HP twin and something really interesting happened. I was very careful to set this engine up replacing coils, wires plugs, points, condensers, and rebuilding the carb, mag to coil clearances tight etc.

When it came time to start the engine I found it took almost no effort at all to pull the start rope and before it moved more than an inch or so the motor started right up. I have NEVER had a rebuild start so easily. I could hardly believe how little "rope travel" it took to start the engine.

I really couldn't believe this was even possible, so I stopped the engine and let it cool down for about and hour went through my "start-up procedure" then started it up again. Same thing, almost no rope travel and the engine was running. Completely effortless. Overjoyed I figured I'd stumbled onto something wonderful and without knowing exactly what, I thought I'd experiment a little bit, hopefully to integrate this "whatever it was" into the rest of my outboards.

Here's where the question comes in. After a couple of weeks of starting/stopping and starting again, maybe 3 dozen or more starts, I find that I am back to having to pull the start rope several times, and hard/fast to boot, before the engine turns over. This is a much more common practice for me.

Question - What happened? The rest of my "start procedure" remained consistent. Why did I go from such an easy start to a "back to normal" multiple hard pulls to start?

I would love to know the "secret" to easy starting and how I can maintain it. Is this a fuel atomization or an electrical issue? What should I be focusing on. Points, plugs, what?

In my recent build, the"BOOBOOTOO" ( Hankinson Ultra Pierre), I built in a '61 18HP Evinrude and with electric start I have to "crankity, crankity, crankity.........crankity" seemingly forever before I can get the engine to fire off. I pretty much took the same care building this engine as I did the 3 HP but this one is a "bear" to start. My '57 18HP starts much easier with a pull start than the '61 with a starter. Before the spring weather returns I am planning on pulling the '61 18Hp and going through it to try to get it easier to start just not sure what to look at.

Any and all suggestions/recommendations would be greatly welcomed.



Re: Easy Starting of an Outboard Engine

Posted: Tue Jan 14, 2014 7:15 pm
by Trackhappy
Well, my Doctor told me that some medication is great to start with but over time your body gets used to it and the effects lessen. Maybe Tell your Doctor you need a different one now.... :lol:

Seriously though, thinking about how an engine works, it is difficult to imagine how 1 inch of starter can start an engine. A 2 stroke needs one revolution to draw a charge and compress it to then fire it. The only way I can think is if the carb were leaking through somehow and leaving a pool fuel in the right place to be available to fire it might be what is happening. Maybe the carb has sealed its leak and now it is back to normal. When it started well, did you have lots of smoke initially? Maybe that batch of fuel had some "extra" additive in it that hung around after you stopped it.
Other than that, assuming as of norm it should start like that, plug fouling? Some crack/air leak developing somewhere? Moisture getting into the coil?

No other ideas sorry.

Re: Easy Starting of an Outboard Engine

Posted: Tue Jan 14, 2014 8:52 pm
by Bill Edmundson
Sure sounds like the 63' 75 hp Evinrude we had. :lol: Our solution was to call and get the guy at the marina to get in the water filled up and started.


Re: Easy Starting of an Outboard Engine

Posted: Wed Jan 15, 2014 6:36 am
by jcallends
Does not sound like a mystery to me? The engine stopped from the previous run at or near TDC with fuel in the chamber and ready to fire, remember older engines used a capacitor to hold a charge for the spark and did not have to spin to produce electricity, a good capacitor can hold a charge indefinitely. There are only three reasons that an otherwise good engine won't start, no fuel, no spark, no air!

Re: Easy Starting of an Outboard Engine

Posted: Thu Jan 16, 2014 4:43 pm
by mmorasci
Thanks all for the time to look at this post. Still not sure where to go with this. Let me expand a bit and say that the 3 dozen or so starts on the 3 HP were done over the period of weeks and I don't recall starting the engine more than 2 to 3 times on any given day.

My basic shut down procedure is to turn off the fuel valve and let the carb empty and the engine stop. Each time I would wait at least an hour or so before trying to re-start. For each restart, I would open the fuel valve and wait 2-3 minutes for the carb to fill, adjust the choke and the throttle plate and pull the starter. Each time the engine was started, I only ran it for a couple of minutes so that the total run time after the rebuild is somewhere in the 1 hour range. I checked the plug a couple of times and found no evidence of fouling (verified spark each time and all was ok).

As "jcallends" suggested spark, fuel and compression are needed. Assuming compression isn't changing, and knowing the spark seems very healthy, I'd think it was a fuel issue.

I have a micro filter on the line so I don't believe I have any contamination affecting flow.

Might it be in the Points/Condenser :? What could change that would make the starting go from unbelievably easy to Pull sharply 3-4 times before it'll start?

My goal is to do my absolute best to get the 18HP out of BooBooToo and go through it very carefully (again :roll: ) before reinstalling. I want to try to get it to be an easy to start engine.


Re: Easy Starting of an Outboard Engine

Posted: Fri Jan 17, 2014 8:14 am
by jcallends
The old standby for checking this is to spray fuel or starting fluid into the intake and see if the engine runs. Bear in mind this is not a very safe procedure as the engine could easily backfire and cause a fire. I am reminded of a similar problem a friend of mine had several years ago. The engine would run when fuel was sprayed in the intake but would not run otherwise. Upon disassembly of the carburetor we found a rubber tipped needle ,attached to the float, stuck in it's bore. After freeing and cleaning the needle the engine started and ran normally.

Re: Easy Starting of an Outboard Engine

Posted: Sat Jan 18, 2014 4:02 pm
by thudpucker
A shot of Carb Cleaner into the Intake before you crank it has always worked for me! :?

Re: Easy Starting of an Outboard Engine

Posted: Mon Jan 20, 2014 5:13 pm
by mmorasci
I guess I'm leaning towards fuel atomization as the over riding issue here. But I'm puzzled by how it would change over a fairly short amount of time with a fresh rebuild. Once the engine starts, it runs great at all speeds. Good looking spark and no damaged key that would affect timing pretty much leaves fuel as the only likely issue, doesn't it :?

I have never tried squirting in a little carb cleaner to "boost" starting but it sure is worth a try. Anything to aid cold weather starts is a plus.

Thanks for the feedback.


Re: Easy Starting of an Outboard Engine

Posted: Mon Jan 20, 2014 7:49 pm
by gdcarpenter
My 2€ - might depend on what position the engine timing is, relative to TDC, when it comes to a stop. Getting fuel atomized and into the cylinders is obviously first and foremost, but usually those mags need to be spinning pretty quick to give a good spark to the plugs. My '59 is electric start, and cold takes some cranking, but I hear that Old Mercs never really took to cold starts all that well. Maybe kinda like kick starting a 250 cc motorcycle, tickle the kick lever until you know you are beginning the compression stroke.