It can be a nightmare for many who packed all the things and traveled 20 miles to the lake to have fun (boating), and all of a sudden, the boat engine won’t crank, and all you hear is a single or multiple click sound. We will now see why it gives that sound, and later we’ll see how to troubleshoot it.
The boat won’t start and clicks if the starter isn’t getting enough power due to a bad starter or solenoid (relay), dead battery, loose/bad wire connections, and bad ground. All these elements cut the power from the battery to the starter, resulting in clicks, and the boat won’t start.
That clicking sound you hear comes from the solenoid (fancy name for a relay), indicating the contact is happening between the solenoid and the starter. The solenoid is a heavy-duty electrical switch that you can control using a lighter-duty key switch (ignition switch).
The connections go like this the solenoid stays in between the battery and the starter motor.
The key switch can’t handle the current carried by the starter motor, so the solenoid comes in, and you use the key switch to control a heavier duty switch (the solenoid). Usually, you can’t hear the click because the instant the click occurs, the starter spins, making more noise, except when the motor won’t start.
Troubleshooting The Problem
There could be many reasons why your starter is not starting, resulting in the boat clicking, but the main reason is the lack of power supply to the starter or a bad starter. Without further ado, let’s see how to troubleshoot the boat won’t start and clicks problem.
1. Some Of The Basic Actions To Do First
First things first, there are some basic actions you can do yourself so that you can fix the problem right away within minutes without needing an expert or taking the boat near the mechanic.
Tap The Solenoid And Check The Working
The solenoid connections can become dirty from arcing and don’t make proper contact. By tapping the solenoid, you can move the dust, shock the solenoid into contact or cause the pinion to move further and it will start the boat but not always.
However, if you find yourself having to do this to start your boat, book a solenoid service (replace the solenoid on your boat) because eventually, this method will not work. It can occur again at an inappropriate time (in the waters while boating or at the launch).
Tap The Starter And Check Again
The starter motor will have brushes made of copper and carbon alloy, which are in housings on the endplate of the starter. Most starter motors have to be removed and partly dismantled to inspect or replace brushes.
These brushes wear out, which results in inadequate electrical contact. By gently tapping on the back of the starter with the hammer, the brushes can be knocked back into place so they can make contact one more time.
As mentioned earlier, if you find yourself having to do this to start the boat, book a starter service (replace the starter on your boat) because eventually, this method will not work. It can occur again at an inappropriate time (in the waters while boating or at the launch).
Related Post – How To Tell If Boat Starter Is Bad? Check this article to know more about the bad signs that a bad starter will show and how to deal with them in a detailed way.
2. Check All The Wires & Connections (Clean Them If Needed)
Wires are crucial; they carry the power from the battery to the starter, making your boat engine work. If any of the wire connections are bad or loose, the starter will not get the required power. If no ample power means, it won’t start the starter motor, and it won’t crank the engine.
Similarly, corroded wires will not start your boat, and it will not charge the battery properly while running. Too much corrosion build-up will hinder the delivery of power from your battery to the rest of your boat, which means it can prevent your boat from starting.
The ground is also crucial. Check the connections from the ground to the block, clean or tight the connections if necessary. A bad ground will not start the engine, and it could be a simple corroded wire that needs a small rinse.
So, check the overall connections from the battery to the solenoid then to the starter. Might want to take them apart, clean them, and put them together using “grease” designed to keep out air to inhibit corrosion, then you will be good to go.
Related post – How To Tell If Boat Battery Is Bad? Check this article to know more about properly testing (voltage and load testing) a boat battery before just replacing it unnecessarily.
3. Check The Battery Condition
The battery is the device that starts your boat, and if the battery is dead (discharged), it will not send the required power to the starter, and it won’t start the engine. If you have a multimeter, set it in DC to 20V and check the voltage, it should read 12.6 volts or more. If it is lower than that, it needs to be recharged.
After recharging the battery, recheck the voltage. If the voltage is still less than 12.6, replace the battery. Your battery could be causing the problem overall. So, check the battery before the wire connections. Then check all the battery terminals and make them clean and tighten the connections if needed.
If the battery worked after a recharge, check the alternator once. When the alternator stops putting out charging voltage, the battery will keep the engine running until it is discharged. If your boat battery is failing quite often, check the alternator condition as well.
Related Post – How To Tell If Boat Alternator Is Bad? Check this article to know all the essential signs that a bad alternator shows so that you can prevent major losses.
4. If Battery Is Good Check The Solenoid & Starter
There will be many instances when your battery would show the voltage level above 12.6V, but still, your boat won’t crank up and clicks. That’s when you need to check the starter and the solenoid.
First The Starter
From the solenoid, there will be a thick red wire going to the starter. Remove the red battery cable from its terminal, or use a solid jumper and ‘touch’ the output from the solenoid to the starter. Bypass the starter cables with booster cables and see if the engine starts.
By taking the battery power past the solenoid and straight to the starter, will show if the starter is working or not. If the engine starts, it indicates that the starter is working fine and the solenoid is not working since we bypassed the current from the battery to the starter with the booster cable.
Even you can check the voltage drop between the battery and the starter. If the voltage drop is significant, something is preventing the required power to the starter to start the engine.
Second The Solenoid
If the engine didn’t start even after using jumper wires (from the battery to the starter bypassing the solenoid), it indicates that your starter is not working. However, you better check the solenoid as well so that you can confirm its working condition.
If you connect the battery directly to the starter and it cranks, it’s obviously not the starter, but the solenoid (relay) could be bad. If it doesn’t crank, try another battery. If it cranks or not, the problem will be evident. It could be cables, too.
5. Still No
If the engine still didn’t start, now it’s time to go near the mechanic. Sometimes you might go near a mechanic for a small loose connection if you didn’t check those basic things, so try all those things prior and go near the mechanic if your boat didn’t start.
If the starter is not getting enough power, it won’t crank the engine up and gives you a click sound. It can be due to a bad starter or solenoid (relay), dead battery, loose/bad wire connections. Even bad ground causes the same problem. All these elements cut the power from battery to starter, resulting in clicks, and the boat won’t start.
You need to check the power from the battery to the starter. A bad starter, solenoid, wires, battery, ground will cut down the power to the starter. Sometimes you might go near a mechanic for a small loose connection if you didn’t check those basic things, so try all those things prior and go near the mechanic if your boat didn’t start.