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Message board > Engines > Outboard cuts out when put in reverse

Message 14 of 14
Posted by member Nick Askham on Thursday 25 November 2021

Hi Gary - many thanks for your input. My Honda 20 has an automatic choke, so no control over that aspect. Once started it runs at higher revs until the choke cuts out which one can clearly hear. I always make sure the priming bulb is hard and the tank vent is open. I bought a new, 12 litre fuel tank recently and know that this week the fuel level was fairly low, but the primer bulb still got hard. I had wondered if there was effectively a minimum level that one should maintain in the fuel tank, but getting the bulb hard would suggest that perhaps there isn't. However, when I go next week I'll ensure there is more fuel in the tank and see if it makes any noticeable difference. I will try posting on the ybw forum as you suggest, thanks for that.
Regards and thanks,

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Message 13 of 14
Posted by member Gary Steele on Tuesday 23 November 2021

You could also try posting your issue on the ybw forum (motor boat forum) loads of experienced guys on there.

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Message 12 of 14
Posted by member Gary Steele on Tuesday 23 November 2021

How much choke do you use to start ? On my Honda 50 I didn't use the fast idle initially, just full choke, started first time, cut to half choke after just a few seconds then increased revs a little via the lever. Only took about 15/20 seconds then put choke fully in and another 30 seconds or so and it would idle without any lever.
Does your primer bulb get hard when you prime it ? Is the valve open on the tank ?
Would be worth trying the suggestion of disconnecting and letting it run out.

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Message 11 of 14
Posted by member Nick Askham on Monday 22 November 2021

Been to the boat again today and went last week aswell; Monday is my regular day, much to my wife's delight!
On both occasions I went out for a short cruise and, as you'll doubtless imagine, had no problems with the engine cutting out. However, last week it took three attempts to start the engine and today about five or six, so whether there is another issue remains to be seen. Ofcourse the weather has turned cooler so that might not help, but I still feel that the fuel in some way is responsible; I wonder if anyone else has had similar starting problems or whether this is simply another glitch. I have yet to try disconnecting the fuel line and running the engine until it stops when it has used up the remaining fuel; I don't know if anyone has tried this and if it's okay to do on a fairly regulas basis, any comments would be useful.
Just to reiterate what I have said previously, I am now using the "super" E5 petrol and not the E10 (despite what the Honda advice).
Regards and thanks,

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Message 10 of 14
Posted by member Nick Askham on Wednesday 10 November 2021

Many thanks to all who have responded to this post. I went to the boat on Monday and duly removed the engine cowl in the hope of possibly spotting a problem. I tried to remove the spark plugs, to turn the prop as suggested by Peter, but found the lower one hard to access despite having my socket set. I'll have to take a different sort next week. I did a visual check of the wiring but couldn't spot anything.
During my internet searches last week, I read a section about setting up the outboard and remote control. It said that for cold starts the fast idle lever should be raised; I'd never done that before. Following that procedure resulted in the engine firing once then not starting; I was somewhat flumoxed. I wondered whether I had somehow flooded the carb so decided to wait a while. During this time I looked at the kill switch, which I must admit to never having looked at or used before. I guess that I am remiss at not attaching the lanyard to myself ! Anyway, having removed and then re-inserting the clip I attempted to start the outboard, it burst into life instantly. I wondered, thus, if maybe the clip wasn't completely seated in the first place.
After lunch I went for a short cruise downstream and put it into reverse quite a number of times to try to replicate the stalling of the motor; needless to say it wouldn't do it. Whenever it has happened in the past, it's been when turning round or at the jetty and I always tend to panic. I wondered if my use of the controls was in any way responsible, maybe something to be aware of.
The other issue which the engineer and folk here have talked about is the fuel. I no longer use E10 and just use super E5, but the short shelf life of whatever fuel is used seems to be an issue. Neil spoke about Tohatsu having a good information sheet about the effect of new fuels on their motors which I tried, unsuccessfully, to find. However, I did read the advice on the Honda marine website where it said, surprisingly, and I quote: "Honda Marine outboard engines:
All Honda Marine engines, produced for the EU market since 1996 YM (year model), are compatible with E10 petrol". That, needless to say, flies in the face of face, so to speak, of much current advice. However, maybe by compatible they mean that the engine will run okay, but I believe it is when the fuel stands and seperates that the problems occur.
Any further thoughts that folk have will be most welcome. I will in turn leave an update if I have any more problems or if a remedy is found.
Many thanks, Nick.

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Message 9 of 14
Posted by member Mr Neil Townend on Sunday 7 November 2021

I have had similar problems with my Mariner Bigfoot 50HP outboard is 20years old which is pre electronic ignition so I cannot comment on electronic ignition engines. My outboard would run fine all day (55 mile cruise) but when I came to the marina and reduced the revs it too would cut out which would cause much embarrassment on windy days when you got blown into other boats; not to mention damage to the hull from the raised outboard motor propellors of moored boats. The motor has been to the marine engineer's three times and the last visit cost me over £800 for a sonic bath for the carburettors, new parts, balancing of the carburettors and a new inline fuel filter to filter out water in the pipes. I am told that the problem is due to the new types of petrol (E5 and E10) which do not have a long shelf life. This does not bother cars as they are used regularly but unfortunately we are not able to use our boats as much as we would like to and consequently the fuel breaks down resulting in gunge and water in the carburettors. The advice I have been given is when you return from a day out and you are not going to be using your boat for some time to disconnect the fuel line from the fuel tank with the engine running and let the fuel pipe and thus the carburettor run dry as this should prevent the varnishing of the carburettor and water in the jets. Use premium grade petrol which is E5 and unfortunately more expensive; also consider a fuel stabilizer. Tohatsu have a good information sheet about the effect of the new petrol fuels on their motors, but their sensible comments could also equally apply to other manufacturers products.

Our problems would thus appear to result from the new fuel types and many of our outboards were made prior to these new fuel types and hence the manufacturer's manuals do not cover these issues. Where will it all lead? I enjoyed the article by Jan Van Der Schans which was thought provoking and gives us food for thought. Maybe my next outboard will have to be electric; Tesla cars seem to perform well with this propulsion!

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Message 8 of 14
Posted by member colin hewitson on Saturday 6 November 2021

Hi Nick, as pointed out, these carburettors have some very small jets and drillings and over time, these will ‘varnish’ up, thus reducing their efficiency. It’s a sad fact that modern fuels appear to be of fairly poor quality and their shelf or tank life seems quite short, unlike the old days when leaded fuel without all the modern additives had a longer tank life, indeed my Granddads Panther 650 motorcycle sat out the 2nd world war with a tarpaulin draped over it, this in a small village in Nenthead, Cumbria that suffered extreme winters. At wars end, the Panther fired up second kick, much to my Dads and Granddads surprise as the little fuel my Granddad left in it for emergencies had also stood out the war years – try that with the modern fuels!

It’s likely that the increased drag on the prop when put in reverse also contributes as there will possibly be more drag, propellers are more efficient running in forward direction? I really am no expert in these matters so it’s possibly all wrong!
I once had a Norman 20 with an Enfield stern drive and 1600 Ford inboard engine, that would idle fine all day at the mooring, however, try to idle the engine coming into the jetty/pontoons and it would cut out at every opportunity. Took the twin choke carb to bit’s cleaned all jets etc, replaced filters and it still did it. Replaced every ancillary parts on the engine, plugs/points/rotor arm/condenser/HT leads – you name it and it still did it. Eventually traced it to the only decent (new) looking thing on the engine – the coil – when I removed it from it’s clamp bracket, some rusty looking water dribbled out of a small hole in the outer casing – fitted a new coil and that resolved it, however, the boat never did like to idle when coasting into a mooring jetty and I simply put it down to the drag of water on the prop! The ‘crash box’ was another annoying feature!
Hope you get it sorted, these things can be very annoying!


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Message 7 of 14
Posted by member Ray on Friday 5 November 2021

Having read your initial post over again I am beginning to think your engineer is probably on the right track.
Because of infrequent use, a lot of outboard problems are fuel related with carburettors gumming up. After your engineer sonic cleaned your carb you said it was okay for a few trips, which does indicate a fuel delivery problem. Honda carbs have tiny jets and passages and sometimes require more than one attempt to clean them efficiently. I once had my Honda 50 carbs off 3 times to eliminate a persistent idle speed stalling problem and that was using an ultrasonic cleaner.
One more thing, is your idle speed set to low, as this may also cause your fault.
I hope this all helps.

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Message 6 of 14
Posted by member Nick Askham on Thursday 4 November 2021

Hi Ray - many thanks for your reply and ideas. There is no strong smell of fuel when the engine cuts out, and 'yes' you can start the engine straight away after it cutting out. Unfortunately the point it usually happens is when I'm turning around on the river or mooring at the marina. Fortunately when it happened last there were plenty of reeds to soften the impact.
I will certainly check the wiring connections as you suggest and take off the engine cowl/ hood and see if anything is fouling any loose wiring.
Thanks for your help, it is much appreciated. I will be at the boat on Monday so will report back then.
Thanks, Nick.

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Message 5 of 14
Posted by member Ray on Wednesday 3 November 2021

Is there a strong smell of fuel when it cuts out? Does the engine start up right away after cutting out? I am not familiar with the 20hp honda, but in the action of engaging reverse gear is it possible that the gear linkage is fouling a loose wiring loom causing an open / short circuit or possibly the slight jolt when engaging reverse is stressing a poor wiring connection that cuts the engine. I would start by checking and cleaning all wiring connections including the kill cord connections. A carburettor problem would be apparent in both forward and reverse gears.

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Message 4 of 14
Posted by member PeterCox on Tuesday 2 November 2021

Possibly a gearbox, clutch or transmission shaft fault

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Message 3 of 14
Posted by member Nick Askham on Tuesday 2 November 2021

Hi Peter, many thanks for your reply. I won't be at the boat until next Monday, but when there I will try doing what you suggest. If, indeed, it is harder to turn the prop when in reverse, what would that indicate?
Regards and thanks,

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Message 2 of 14
Posted by member PeterCox on Tuesday 2 November 2021

Could it be mechanical? If you can tilt the engine to have access to the propeller, try removing the spark plug(s), put it in gear ahead and astern and in both cases turn the prop by hand. Is it harder to turn when in astern gear?

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Message 1 of 14
Posted by member Nick Askham on Monday 1 November 2021

Hello - I am hoping that someone can shed some light on a recurring problem that I seem to experience.
I have a 20hp Honda outboard on my Pilot. What typically happens is that when I put it into reverse gear, the engine cuts out or stalls. This happened several weeks ago so I visited a nearby boatyard where the engineer, who services my outboard, removed the carburettor and put it in his sonic bath. It was okay for a few trips out but has started to do it again.
I have installed a new fuel tank and am now using the "Super" grade of petrol, not the E10 and empty the fuel tank every two weeks, so I am not using stale fuel.
I will be most grateful for any suggestions or ideas that folk might have.
Many thanks,

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