Five Do-It-Yourself Repairs for Outboard Motors

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.

[1] 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."

[2] 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.

[3] 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.

[4] 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.

[5] 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.