Outboard motors take us to fish-and game-rich waters and woods. And sometimes they leave us there. Modern motors don't give broken-down boaters many options, says Neal Meads, resident outboard wizard at R&K Marine in Raleigh, North Carolina. But here are five first-aid tips that might get you back to the dock when your motor doesn't want to.
 TERMINAL BREAKDOWN Loose battery connections lead to corrosion buildup and arcing--which means you're going nowhere. "And finger tight isn't tight enough," Meads insists. "Scrape the battery terminals clean with a knife blade and tighten the wing nuts with pliers, so they bite into the terminal."
 BACKWOODS NITRO Starter fluid isn't an everyday solution, but sometimes it's the only way to get home. Jerry-rig some with an empty plastic soda or water bottle: Pour gas in, prick a small hole in the top, and screw it back on. Now you can shoot atomized fuel into the carburetor.
 HOSE WOES Fuel-line hoses are notorious for developing kinks, dry-rot patches, and collapsed sections. Rebuild them in the field: Cut out the bad part and reuse the hose clamps to reattach the pieces--or use zip ties or fishing line to tie them tightly.
 SCRUB THE PLUGS To clean fouled spark plugs, remove the plugs and rinse goop from the firing end with gas. Scrape off burned carbon deposits with whatever's handy: a swatch of sandpaper, small knife blade, hook sharpener, or fingernail file.
 FUEL-PUMP BYPASS If the outboard quits with its primer bulb still full of fuel, it could be a bad fuel pump. Bypass it by pumping the primer bulb continuously. You'll limp, but better that than a bivvy in the bottom of the boat.