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  1. #1
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    Default Engine wont start after removing carb

    I have a 1985 mercruiser 120 that I've been trying to get seaworthy after an overheat. I had the boat running after the initial set of repairs, but it overheated again at WOT during the first maintenance run. The second overheat was not severe at all: I was only in the water for 15 minutes and cut power as soon as I saw the temp guage rise to 175. it cooled quickly at idle. The engine turned over again easily (and ran fine) once I got the boat back home and flushed the engine. Something I did is keeping the engine from starting now... here is the list of things done to address the overheating issue:

    Replaced the thermostat.
    Replaced the exhaust elbow (due to moderate buildup inside)
    I removed the carb in order to remove the exhaust elbow riser. (cleaned riser)
    Replaced the exhaust elbow boot
    Replaced the exhaust shutter (flapper)

    Put it all back together, engine would not start. Cranks fine, Sparks fine, it ran (and started) fine before, so I assumed I did something to the carb when I removed it.

    Took the boat to a mechanic to tell me what I did wrong. Mechanic tested the Fuel Pump and told me that it was letting air into the fuel, and should be replaced. I retrieved the boat and ordered a new fuel pump.

    I installed the new fuel pump, Engine still doesn't start. Replaced spark plugs. Engine cranks fine, Sparks fine, and now no reason to suspect a faulty fuel pump. I'm back to assuming that I somehow did something bad when I re-installed the carb, but since its 4 bolts and the throttle connections, I'm not too sure how I could have messed it up.

    I assume my compression is fine since the engine turned over and ran smoothly before I removed the carb.

    When removing the flame arrestor and looking into the carb, I can see that fuel is in the jets, but I've reached the limit of my carb troubleshooting ability.

    I'm thinking that I must have messed up something really basic. The carb is a 2 valve rochester with an electric choke. The valve flaps are sitting closed at the bottom of the carb. The only other thing of note is that the screw that rides the cam responsible for the choke plate position was not in the right position when I removed the carb, and I am not sure how thats supposed to be, other than somewhere on the cam.

    Any help or suggestions are greatly appreciated! Thanks-

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Engine wont start after removing carb

    Does the choke operate properly? IE: closed when engine cold. You can also pour a few teaspoons fuel down the carb and see if that mkes a difference.

  3. #3
    Petty Officer 2nd Class Searay87's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engine wont start after removing carb


    "I assume my compression is fine since the engine turned over and ran smoothly before I removed the carb. "


    Hey I'm no expert so I checked the troubleshooting guide for my Mercrusier1985-1989 4 cylinder GM Engine under "Engine Cranks Over But Will Not Start or Is Hard to Start".

    I'm sure you know this but it says if you have fuel, spark and compression arriving in the right order the engine should start. Could it be possible the overheating incidents have damaged your engine? If you run a compression test you could rule that one out. I've spent a career troubleshooting electical systems and I learned along time ago not to assume anything or "assume" can make an A** out of U & ME. Good luck.

  4. #4
    Lieutenant Commander wire2's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engine wont start after removing carb

    Quote Originally Posted by JeremyL View Post
    ......The carb is a 2 valve rochester with an electric choke. The valve flaps are sitting closed at the bottom of the carb. The only other thing of note is that the screw that rides the cam responsible for the choke plate position was not in the right position when I removed the carb, and I am not sure how thats supposed to be, other than somewhere on the cam.

    Any help or suggestions are greatly appreciated! Thanks-
    The bottom valve flaps (throttle butterflies) are supposed to be (almost) closed. The upper plate is the choke, is that closed when the engine is cold?
    If not, it won't start, unless you vigorously pump the throttle, or dump a couple ounces of raw gas into the carb.

    That screw is not "responsible for the choke plate position", the electric module does that. The screw is the fast idle adjustment, it will be at maximum deflection when engine is cold, dropping off the steps as the engine warms.

    I think you may just have a linkage off or jammed.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Engine wont start after removing carb

    Thanks for the replies-

    Reply 1: I am not sure if the choke is functioning properly, but thanks for letting me know that it needs to be closed when cold. : ) That at least tells me that I should set the adjustment screw on the cam in a position that keeps the choke plate closed.

    Reply 2: Compression test... I have the service manual too, but as of yet, no compression gague. I'll be getting one if I can't get the engine to turn over, but don't know how the engine would start and run fine prior to carb removal, then have a compression problem after.... Can't rule compression out as its #4 on the "troubleshoot startup" list, but I'd sure like to rule out "I screwed up the carb" before buying tools for a potentailly unrelated problem. Typing that out... guess I'll go price out a compression gague.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Engine wont start after removing carb

    @ Wire2:

    I will make sure that the choke plate is set to be closed. Its been open during my troubleshooting.

    Can you explain what you mean when you say you "think I have a linkage off or jammed" ?

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Engine wont start after removing carb

    Maybe take the choke housing off and see if the bimetallic spring is still in one piece if it's not closing.

  8. #8

    Default Re: Engine wont start after removing carb

    I had the same thing happen to my boat (Chevy 454) and it took me three Sundays, a fuel pump check, a carb check, a new coil, and lots of french to sort out. I had one of the distributor posts shorting to the center post and robbing the other spark plug leads of juice, leading to a constant spark in the offending cylinder and weak spark in the remaining seven. When I noticed the 'way too frequent' sparking in that one lead, I disconnected it and the engine started on the remaining seven cylinders. When I reconnected it, no start. I traced the lead to the cap and found a VERY SUBTLE carbon line between the center post and the offending lead that indicated the trail of the short. I replaced the cap (that I had previously inspected), and everything was fine. Of course, if this happens everything in your ignition system checks out fine. I don't know if this can happen in an electric distributor, probably not. Still, I assume you've checked the spark going to each cylinder (put a spare plug in the respective lead you've pulled off the cylinder and touch the base to the block with those ruberized pliers designed to hold 'hot' plugs) and have someone crank the engine. They should all spark at about the same rate. If you spray ether/starter spray down the open throat of the carb and it doesn't even start temporarily, there is a spark issue. Bad compression will make an engine run badly but usually they still start. Let us know what it turns out to be, please. We've all been there!

    Robodoc

  9. #9
    Supreme Mariner Silvertip's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engine wont start after removing carb

    Remove the flame arrestor and while holding the choke open, have someone pump the throttle a few times. If you don't see fuel squirt from the accelerator pump nozzles, the engine is not getting fuel. If you replaced the fuel pump, do you have the fuel lines on the correct ports (in to in, out to the carb). Did you make sure the arm on the fuel pump is in the correct position.

    If the engine started fine before, leave the choke alone until you do get the engine started. Then let it cool over night and set it when the engine is stone cold. DO NOT attempt to set the choke on a warm engine.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Engine wont start after removing carb

    Quote Originally Posted by Silvertip View Post
    Remove the flame arrestor and while holding the choke open, have someone pump the throttle a few times. If you don't see fuel squirt from the accelerator pump nozzles, the engine is not getting fuel. If you replaced the fuel pump, do you have the fuel lines on the correct ports (in to in, out to the carb). Did you make sure the arm on the fuel pump is in the correct position.

    If the engine started fine before, leave the choke alone until you do get the engine started. Then let it cool over night and set it when the engine is stone cold. DO NOT attempt to set the choke on a warm engine.
    Thanks Again for the replies, I'll be working on this shortly and will report today's findings...

    I did make certain that the new fuel pump is connected properly to its in/out tubes, but you mention making sure the arm on the pump is in the correct position... The mechanic who removed the old pump said the same thing, indicating that it needed to be in the 'up' position. When handling the new pump, I didn't see a way to change the position of the arm at all: the arm is held in position by a spring, and pushing on the arm manually does force air through the tubes, but the arm always returned to its resting position due to the spring. Even the old pump behaves this way, so I don't know how I can mess that up. Do you mean that I should make sure the arm is in the correct position as it sits inside the engine cavity? If so, how do I verify that?

    I will perform the "throttle pumping" test, and adjust the choke plate to rest closed before trying to start it. If it still fails, I'll move on to the in-hand sparkplug test and will report back.

  11. #11
    Petty Officer 2nd Class Squab's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engine wont start after removing carb

    Ya put some fuel in the carb and see what that does. If all is hooked up well then u should get a cough

  12. #12
    Petty Officer 2nd Class choochooharley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engine wont start after removing carb

    Have you tried to use starting fluid on it just to see if it will start that way. if it wont start or even attempt to start its not a fuel problem....or the plates at the bottom of the carb are not opening. You can check those without help just move the throttle and see if the butterflies open up if they dont then you have either a cable issue or a linkage issue.....good luck
    1975 Reinell 24'
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  13. #13
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    Default Re: Engine wont start after removing carb

    Today's report: Started work to find the carb's thermostat housing oddly warm. Oh Good. I not only left the battery switch set to All last night, but I also somehow managed to leave the ingnition in the 'On' position. <sigh>

    Anyway, armed with the knowledge that the choke plate needs to be in the closed position when cold, I was able to determine that the flat coil spring inside of the carb's thermostat was not hooked to the choke plate lever, resulting in the choke plate staying wide open. I re-hooked the coil spring around the lever.

    Of course, I now don't know if that's my only problem becasue the batteries lost enough charge overnight that the sound it makes when it cranks makes you think that the batteries need to be charged.

    I did pump the throttle a bunch of times and looked into the carb and found a nice little puddle of gas seeping down past the throttle butterflies, so I think I'm good there.

    Off to charge the two batteries, will report once they're able to crank things right.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Engine wont start after removing carb

    After charging the batteries, I'm back to square one, and I admit defeat. Whenever I can afford it, I will take it back to the mechanic and have him figure out whatever issue(s) are keeping the engine from turing over.

    I did look at the interior of distributror cap. Its in excellent condition. Clean copper points with only slight blackening at the initial contact point as the rotor spins.

    I tried putting started fluid into the carb. No effect.

    I'll certainly report back what the mechanic tells me the problem is once he gets it running. Thanks to you all for your suggestions.

  15. #15
    Rear Admiral Fireman431's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engine wont start after removing carb

    Whe you removed all parts during replacement, you didn't:

    1) Remove the spark plug wires and get them in the wrong sequence?

    2) Accidentially trip the ignition circuit breaker?

    3) Knock any connection off of the coil?

    4) Remove the safety lanyard from the ignition switch?

    Just a couple more places to check...
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  16. #16
    Petty Officer 2nd Class choochooharley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engine wont start after removing carb

    Dont give up that easily....Make it your misson to figure it out....Down to basics and engine needs 3 things to work Spark Compression and Fuel....figure out which one isnt working then you can figure out why.....Did you dump gas in the carb or use starting fluid....I recomend starting flud if is still wont even cough at ya test the spark you must have a good blue spark if its weak or white not good check the points condinser so on so forth.....if thats all good check the compression.....you can get one pretty cheap in fact autozone may have one in thier loaner tool program....the amount of psi is important but what is of importance as well is the difference between cylinders....it should only be about 10 to 15 psi diff......
    1975 Reinell 24'
    Cuddy Cabin
    Mercruiser 888

  17. #17
    Petty Officer 2nd Class choochooharley's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engine wont start after removing carb

    Thats one I did forget and want to mention check the circuit breaker....just push the red button on the black thing sticking up......
    1975 Reinell 24'
    Cuddy Cabin
    Mercruiser 888

  18. #18
    Commander NHGuy's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engine wont start after removing carb

    Don't take it to the mechanic yet. Your previous problem was possibly no choke to get a rich fuel condition for startup. Then, since you left the ignition switch on with the engine not running overnight you probably burned your ignition points. Get some original equipment points and install them exactly as the manual says. Read the installation information before you start. You will need a feeler gauge to set the points gap, and ideally you want to have a dwell meter too. Dwell is the # of degrees the points remain open. Here's a little more info http://autorepair.about.com/cs/gener...a052502a_2.htm
    If that looks like more than you can handle take it to a pro. Preferably a mechanic who is older that 50. They grew up with points and to them it is 2nd nature. Tell the mechanic that the switch was left on overnight. And tell him that you had the carb off and how the motor would not start after you put the carb back on. The more you admit, the less he will have to figure out at your expense. This way you save diagnostic time. Any mechanic worth his salt will have you preauthorize some diagnostic time, so be ready to pay for that.
    I really think that if you can pull a carb you can put in a set of points and the related condenser. Just use a magnetic or screw-holder screwdriver so the point screw doesn't fall down in the distributor.
    When you did the disassembly and reassembly of the manifold did you put in fresh gaskets? I believe you should have done the intake & exhaust gaskets, and maybe the carb gasket. Once it is all together it won't start till you get the fuel primed into the float of the carburetor. You might want to start out with a teaspoon's amount of gas down the carb throat just to see if the motor goes a little, as the previous poster said. Don't use starting fluid, it's for a problem you don't have and can cause other things. Gasoline is what that motor burns.
    1989 Baja Sunsport 196, Mercruiser 5.7, Alpha 1
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  19. #19
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    Default Re: Engine wont start after removing carb

    Thanks for your replies, You've all convinced me to keep at it- : )

    After another day's effort, I think my spark is too weak.

    Today I tested the compression, and all 4 cylinders puffed evenly at about 110. Not a compression issue.
    I pulled the steel fuel tube from the carb and put a bowl under it, then cranked the engine. It dumped plenty of fuel with each revolution of the engine. (and I recenty replaced the fuel pump). Not a fuel issue.

    Today I got new spark plugs and gapped to spec and installed. To verify good spark, I took a 5th spark plug, put the #1 cable to it and grounded it to see how good a spark I could see a plug produce. ChooChooHarley says the spark "must have a good blue spark" - "if its weak or white not good" The spark was weak and orange, and it looks inadequate.
    So... Spark Strength problem.

    I took off the distributor cap to look at the points. hmmm. It doesn't have any points. Instead, it has a Pertronix electronic ignitor, which I've never seen before. (http://www.pertronix.com/prod/ig/ignitor/default.aspx)
    It apparently replaces the points in a distributor.

    So I *think* the two things responsible for the strength of the spark in my case are the ignition coil, and this pertronix ignitor... right? I don't see any way to test the ignitor, which leaves me with the coil. Is there an easy way to verify good function of the coil? They're cheap parts, so I may troubleshoot it by replacing it and seeing if it changes the strength of the spark.

    Thanks again to all for your replies.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Engine wont start after removing carb

    forget spark its gas problem did you have carb upside down,bang it around,float or needle and seat stuck closed.you can try tapping gently on side of carb.someone back a bit suggested dumping cup of cas down carb do that first.if it starts you know its float or needle and seat.if you have spark then its fuel,like you said you played with carb that's where i would start.otherwise you will end up with more problems.

  21. #21
    Supreme Mariner Silvertip's Avatar
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    Default Re: Engine wont start after removing carb

    Lets go back several responses where you said you saw a puddle of fuel seeping passed the throttle plates. When you have someone pump the throttle, there should be two distinct spray streams as you look into the carb. If not, there is also an accelerator pump problem. Next you said you would adjust the screw to make sure the choke was closed. That is also wrong. That screw rides on a stepped cam and controls idle speed during warm up. It does not adjust choke position. The choke is adjusted on a STONE COLD engine. Open the throttle, move the cam to the lowest step, and adjust the choke disk so the choke plate just barely closes. That's all there is to it. And lastly, why is it you want to immediately jump to the most expensive item iin the ignition system for testing. Test the coil first. It's easy and if it needs replacement, its inexpensive.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Engine wont start after removing carb

    I had the Carb off again on Sunday, thinking the floats may have been stuck. I got the gas out of the bowls by tilting the carb to the side, and after that i could hear the floats moving freely inside the carb. After putting the carb back on, it quickly filled with gas after cranking, and I only checked to see if gas was getting to the throttle plates with cranking the engine for testing. I will go out and make certain that gas comes out as two distint sprays while pumping the throttle for my next test.

    Starter fluid/Gas down the carb throat does not change behavior, which is also why I'm starting to favor the idea of a weak spark.

    This is probably important: the carb was leaking gas at the gasket when I was doing a lot of cranking on the engine... (and only then); that would mean that fuel is getting stuck in the carb instead of passing through and the cranking was creating pressure enough to force gas out of the gasket if that valve was stuck closed, right?
    I'll order a new gasket for the center of the carb so I can take it apart and make sure its working properly.

    I ordered a replacement coil for testing, which was inexpensive, and I wanted peace of mind on the spark issue... here's why: after the initial overheat, I had to take the boat to the mechanic to replace the impeller in the stern drive because the housing was corroded and I couldn't separate the upper and lower on my own. After they did that work, they called me and said that they were having trouble getting the engine started, and asked if I'd done any other work that might have affected starting. (I hadn't) They said they only had to prime the carb to get it started at that point. That was prior to removing the carb at all, which, coupled with feeling like the spark was looking pretty weak on testing, makes me feel like replacing the coil can't hurt either way.

    For the choke, I've since learned that the coil spring in the electric choke thermostat housing is responsible for the position of the choke plate. I have the Idle adjustment screw on the lowest step of the cam. (And thank you for verifying that I've got that right, ...been wondering)

    Will report back after replacing the coil and clenaing the carb's interior-

    Finally, just in case... a previous post said to make sure that i didn't "Remove the safety lanyard from the ignition switch." Best I can tell, my boat doesn't have a safety lanyard at the ignition switch, and I figure this would be a pretty obvious item, right? Like a big tag sticking out of the dash? It'd be awful if I was getting bit this long by something like that...

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Engine wont start after removing carb

    I am unfamiliar with petronix ignition, so will ask this question. Are there two wires going to pos term on coil? If so,(googled Petronix it says yes) this means it is set up for 12 volts when starter is activated, 6+volts(thru resistor) when running. Sometimes the 12 volt wire is not delivering. Try rigging a temp wire from + batt term to + coil term and observe spark.It should be blue and jump a half inch or so. Dont leave this wire hooked up, and only do this if you have found it to be a 2 voltage syst(all points systems are, not absolutely sure abt petronix)If this procedure does not improve spark look elsewhere for weak spark cause.
    Second item, fuel. If gas is leaking out of carb gasket, float is stuck or float level is too high. Fix this.Verify it is fixed by priming carb with fuel pump, look for stray fuel.
    Third item , the engine is pretty well sure to be flooded. Both from all your trying and the high carb fuel level. If level is high enough to leak out of carb gasket its also leaking into engine.A seriously flooded engine wont start.Remove spark plugs and blow fuel out of cylinders. Be extremely careful doing this you will have gas all over h---and fire is a real possibility..Make sure ignition system is deactivated so you dont have sparks jumping around,shut off fuel supply to engine,have fire extinguishers handy etc etc.now roll engine over on starter.(With plugs out)Gas will gush out most likely.Once youve gotten most of the gas out of cyls doing this, get a compressed air hose and blow air into cyls rotate engine at same tme if poss.Get things good and dry Put plugs back in, engine will start. hopefully.

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Engine wont start after removing carb

    Quote Originally Posted by telstar1 View Post
    I am unfamiliar with petronix ignition, so will ask this question. Are there two wires going to pos term on coil? If so,(googled Petronix it says yes) this means it is set up for 12 volts when starter is activated, 6+volts(thru resistor) when running. Sometimes the 12 volt wire is not delivering. Try rigging a temp wire from + batt term to + coil term and observe spark.It should be blue and jump a half inch or so. Dont leave this wire hooked up, and only do this if you have found it to be a 2 voltage syst(all points systems are, not absolutely sure abt petronix)If this procedure does not improve spark look elsewhere for weak spark cause.
    Second item, fuel. If gas is leaking out of carb gasket, float is stuck or float level is too high. Fix this.Verify it is fixed by priming carb with fuel pump, look for stray fuel.
    Third item , the engine is pretty well sure to be flooded. Both from all your trying and the high carb fuel level. If level is high enough to leak out of carb gasket its also leaking into engine.A seriously flooded engine wont start.Remove spark plugs and blow fuel out of cylinders. Be extremely careful doing this you will have gas all over h---and fire is a real possibility..Make sure ignition system is deactivated so you dont have sparks jumping around,shut off fuel supply to engine,have fire extinguishers handy etc etc.now roll engine over on starter.(With plugs out)Gas will gush out most likely.Once youve gotten most of the gas out of cyls doing this, get a compressed air hose and blow air into cyls rotate engine at same tme if poss.Get things good and dry Put plugs back in, engine will start. hopefully.
    X2 on the fire extinguishers!!! I mean 2 fire extinguishers! alot of pumping, cranking, starting fluid, pull plugs and crank some more going on, could be alot of fuel around. I'm sure you know to NEVER look down the throat of a carb with the engine running or cranking, at least not if you value your eyebrows. check your oil to make sure it's not getting full of gas. won't cause a starting problem but could cause damage once you get it running, being that it is not really oil anymore.

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Engine wont start after removing carb

    Thanks!! I plan on clearing out the cylinders this afternoon. I'm going to "sponge" the spark plug holes with towels, and I'm going to tarp over the coil and distributor as well, just to be safe. I'll Disconnect the fuel at the fuel pump intake, and I'll have fire extinguishers on hand. : )

    I got the new coil in the mail, and have a carb rebuild kit on its way (just in case). I'm feeling like the float valve Must be the culprit, along with a flooded engine. I"ll clear the cyls and install the new coil, then open up the carb and check the float valve (and general condition of the interior of the carb).

    Will report back!

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