View Full Version : Boat won't start after tune-up

05-05-2006, 09:28 PM
I guess the old saying "if it ain't broke don't fix it" should have come in to play here. I summerized the boat, and then started it up. It fired right up. I let it run for around 15min. I then put on new wires, cap, rotor, and fuel filter. I transfered my old plug wires to the new cap, and then replaced wires one at a time. My battery was dead, so I put the boat back in the garage until today (about two weeks later). Pulled the boat out, put on a new bimini top, got out the hose and cranked it over. Nothing!!!! It would crank and sputter a couple of times, but not really ever fire. Needless to say it's pretty frustrating, so if any of you have suggestions, please let me know.

I ordered all my parts from DIM.

05-05-2006, 09:44 PM
I would say it is in your rotor or the wires. I know its frustrating. I have been there.

Maybe JimN will be by soon to fix it for ya.

05-05-2006, 10:27 PM
98- IIRC, you have TBI, right? If so, squirt a bit of gas into the throttle body and try it. If it wants to start, you have spark. If it doesn't want to catch, check for spark. Is your lanyard on? Next time, open the motor box, turn the key to ON and listen for a click and a buzz. The buzz should go for 2 seconds. If you hear no click or buzz, make sure the gauges wake up. If not, re-check the safety switch.

Depending on how long you tried to start it, your fuel filter may still be empty. Turn the key ON for 5 sec, turn it off for >5 sec, repeat two more times. Then try to start it.

05-05-2006, 10:42 PM
I tried starting it with the motor box open and spark arrestor off. I noticed the fuel pump each time I turned the key on. It seemed like it tried to start a couple of times. I also noticed fuel being injected into the throttle body. How would I know if I put the new plug wires on wrong, i.e. in the wrong order? I did check my lanyard and all of the plug and wire connections. I tried to start it numerous times while never keeping the starter engaged for more than 7-10 sec.

05-05-2006, 11:29 PM
You have fuel, now you need spark. Pull your distributor cap off and make sure the carbon post is still in it at the center. If that is missing, you'll never have spark. Go back to the old coil wire if the cap is OK.


Always mark the plug wires at the plug and mark the cap at #1. Obviously, when you change the wires only, do it one at a time unless you know where #1 is and you know the firing order (which is probably cast into the intake manifold). If it's going to start, it should catch in about 3 seconds.

05-05-2006, 11:36 PM
I did all that you mentioned. How do I know where number 1 is on the distributor cap? Once I find #1 do the rest of the wires go on clockwise from one in the proper firing order? Could I have a bad plug wire?

05-05-2006, 11:47 PM
You need to find TDC on the #1 cylinder, then look at the position of the rotor- that's what determines the #1 on the cap. Intake valve opens and piston lowers, then raises to compress the air/fuel mixture. When it gets to TDC at the end of this cycle, your rotor will be at #1.

Remove the cap and look at the rotation of the distributor. Follow that when you assign the plug wires.

One bad plug wire won't keep it from starting. It'll start and idle OK but won't be smooth at all RPMs.

Do you have a timing light? If you do, put it on the coil wire and see if it flashes. If not, replace the coil wire.

88 PS190
05-05-2006, 11:56 PM
It should sound like it wants to start, even if you only have a few of the wires in the right spot. Check for spark from your coil to the distributor.

It shouldn't be 100% dead unless you have them all in the wrong places.

Next time you do a distributor cap, be 100% certain where the wires go, to the extent of putting the number on the wires with a paint pen, and keeping track of where they go. If you have to question if you did it right, you may have messed up. Been there done that.

But yea, if you have spark at coil, and rotor indexed properly, you should have the engine atleast catching.

If you get it running and its rough, you can try removing the wires one by one, if it doesn't make it run any worse, then that wire was in the wrong spot.

05-06-2006, 02:53 PM
I went back to some old pictures that I'd taken of the engine. I have all the new plug wires on correctly. The boat sounds like it is trying to start. I didn't mention earlier that my battery doesn't seem to keep a charge, even though my volt meter on the boat is at 14V. I turn the key and it makes one click noise and then nothing. I got out the jumper cables and used my taurus to jump it. It turned over just fine with the jumper cables. Is it possible that I'm not giving it enough juice to fire? Could my whole plug wire set be bad? Could I have some how messed up the timing? I try to take care of the boat and do the right thing and end up messing it up. This sucks!!

05-06-2006, 03:03 PM
If you were able to jump it (regardless of if it started) with your car battery but your boat battery while showing fully charged didn't even turn it over you probably have a bad battery. I'd take it in and have it load tested at Napa or somewhere like that.

05-06-2006, 04:28 PM
The only thing you could have done to mess up the timing is move the #1 over one post or more, in either direction. One post would advance or retard it by 45 degrees, assuming you did nothing to the distributor position. Since you can't install the rotor wrong, you need to look at the other things listed previously and check the battery. If it turns over when you connect your car to it, your battery is either not charged or it's toast. The starter uses high current, not just voltage to turn over. If you didn't clean your battery terminals, do it now. You have a dead battery and you suspect the plug wires. That doesn't make sense. This is a situation where cold, emotionless logic is needed and frustration is inevitable, but useless.

Make a list of everything we have posted and re-check it. It will take a lot longer if you don't have acess to some test equipment, like a timing light (to check for spark- if it ran well before, your timing hasn't changed unless the wires are on wrong), a multi-meter and a gauge fro gapping spark plugs.

It's a PITA when this happens but you'll learn a few things from it. Yeah, I know- you aren't in the mood for a learning experience. Low voltage and current capacity will not let it start. The starter hates it and if you keep trying to crank when the voltage is low, your starter will be history. Also, if the voltage drops below 6.9Vdc, the ECM goes into a hard reset mode and won't do what it's supposed to. Not its fault, it's the battery's issue.

If the plug wires aren't in the right positions, you'll have major backfiring and if it happens too many times, the baffles in the mufflers will become dislodged. If it fires through the intake, you'll see a puff of gas fumes, maybe some smoke and that'll come out of the flame arrestor. The arrestor needs to be on and the nut tight while you're doing this.

05-23-2006, 11:32 PM
Thought I'd give and update. In the begining, I told you all what I had done to the boat for its "tune-up". The one thing that I failed to mention (I didn't think it had any bearing whatsoever) was that I installed a new tach. After trying everything I could think of and taking all of your information, my wife told me to put the old tach back in just so everything was as it was before. Sure enough, I had two wires attached in the wrong places and it prevented the boat from starting. The odd thing is that the boat still had spark. Anyway, new tach, tune-up, and the boat starts right up. Thanks to all for your advice.

05-24-2006, 12:08 AM
FYI- shorting the tach lead to ground will keep the motor from starting. In all cars. That was a cheap way to keep cars from being started or stolen before alarm systems.