How do you know when your starter needs to be replaced?

When the starter refuses to start, we are often led to think that it must be changed. However, before changing the starter on your outboard motor, you must make sure that the starter is the source of the problem. Several other failures can cause a starting problem; such as a blown fuse, an out of order starter relay, a problem with the neutral switch, or a problem with a key switch assy. A bad wire harness assembly can also cause symptoms similar to a starter problem. The best way to eliminate a potential electrical problem is to test using a multimeter.

Before testing, however, make sure you removed the pliers from the emergency stop switch to prevent the engine from starting by mistake.

How to test your outboard starter:


Step 1: Turn the digital multimeter’s dial to the DC voltage setting. Place the red probe on the positive terminal of the battery, then the black probe on the negative terminal of the battery. If the multimeter indicates that the battery is less than 11.3 volts, recharge or replace the battery before testing the starter.

Step 2: Set the multimeter to DC voltage. Place the red wire of the multimeter on the positive terminal of the starter, then the black wire on the earth of the motor.

Step 3: Turn the ignition switch to the “Start” position. Read the voltage indicated on the multimeter.

Step 4: If the digital multimeter displays a value greater than 9.5 volts, try to start the engine. If the engine does not start when the digital multimeter indicates a voltage greater than 9.5 volts, the starter must be replaced. A voltage of less than 9.5 volts indicates a loss of voltage between the battery and the starter. (NOTE: this test concerns a 12V operating system).

TIP: Before starting the engine, put it in “neutral”. Locking the neutral prevents the engine from starting. Check the main fuse and inspect the wire harness assembly to make sure it does not contain broken or damaged wires.