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Outboard Pre-Start Checks


Make sure the propeller, drive leg and cooling water intakes are free of debris such as rope, weed, fishing line or plastic bags. Ensure propeller nut is tight. Be sure to check there is nobody in the water near the propeller when you start the engine. Once it's running check cooling water is squirting from the leg of the engine.


Make sure your fuel is fresh and uncontaminated, and that you have enough for your intended trip, plus a generous reserve.

Tank Vent

Open the tank vent.

Clamps and Bolts

Make sure the engine is securely clamped or bolted to the boat. Consider fitting a wire strop from the engine to the transom.


Turn the steering wheel from one lock to the other and the throttle/gear control from ahead to astern to make sure that the controls operate correctly.

Fuel Line

Connect the fuel line to the tank and to the engine. Make sure it is in good condition and free of kinks.

Fuel Filter

If it is fitted with a water separator/filter, inspect the filter bowl for dirt or water and drain it off if necessary. On small engines with integral tanks, make sure the fuel tap is open.

Primer Bulb

If it is fitted with a primer bulb, squeeze the bulb until it is firm.


Some two-stroke outboards need oil mixed with their fuel. Make sure you use a marine two-stroke oil (labelled TCW3) and that you mix it in the right ratio. Other two strokes have a separate oil reservoir. They also require a proper marine two-stroke oil. Four-stroke outboards have an internal sump like a car engine. Check the level with the dipstick and top up if necessary with engine oil (not two-stroke oil).

Kill Cord

If your engine has a kill cord, connect it to the kill switch and clip the other end to your leg, wrist or lifejacket. Check the kill cord before setting off by starting the engine and pulling the cord free. The engine should stop immediately.

Battery Switch

If your engine is connected to the boat's electrical system, make sure all the necessary switches and circuit breakers are switched on.