Drive a Boat With an Outboard Motor

Driving an outboard motorboat is a ton of fun. Here are instructions on how to do it.


  1. Position yourself so you are straddling the seat nearest the motor.
  2. Prime the motor by squeezing the primer bulb on the fuel line until resistance is felt. Never squeeze the bulb while the motor is running.
  3. Make sure the boat is in neutral. Generally, this will be with the shift lever in the up position, or the middle position between reverse and forward.
  4. Advance the throttle to the "start" position. This may be indicated, or can be approximated by putting the throttle at 1/3 power.
  5. If the engine is cold (hasn't been started recently) pull out the choke knob.
  6. It may help to stand up straddling the seat during this part. Pull the handle out until it stops, then give it a quick, long yank on the rope. It probably won't start the first time, so try many times.
  7. If the engine does not start in 3-4 pulls, push the choke in and try again 3-4 times. Alternate with the choke in and out.
  8. When the engine fires, adjust the choke inwards to provide a smooth idle, and adjust the throttle to a slow speed.
  9. Put the motor into either forward or reverse, depending where you are.
  10. To steer the boat, pull the handle with your hand to turn. Twisting it toward you will make the boat go faster, and twisting it away from you will make it go slower. Pushing the motor away will turn it right, and vice versa.


  • It is a very good idea to have an experienced driver in the boat with you.
  • Take a boating course and get a license if you are going to be boating. Different States of Australia have differing requirements for licensing. In Queensland you need a licence even if boating on private property in a boat with a motor over 6hp. These courses are very informative
  • All outboard fuel tanks have a breather valve, or on top of the outboard (if it has an integral fuel tank) This must be opened (anti clockwise) to allow air to replace the spent fuel in the tank, if you do not do this the engine won't start or it will stall after a short distance.
  • Make sure you have enough fuel for your trip. A good practice is the "three-thirds" rule, one-third of your fuel for the trip out, one third back and one-third as a reserve. Ensure your fuel line (from a tote tank) in FIRMLY fitted and 'snaps' in to motor connection.
  • Untie the stern first from the dock (motor running and in neutral) then the bow last. turn away from the dock and reverse out (this minimizes scraping side of hull against dock).


  • Beware of penetrating spray.
  • Shift at low speeds.
  • Adjust your weight in the boat to maintain a level attitude.
  • Make sure you are using a good quality oil lubricant.
  • Ensure that the engine has a full crankcase of oil (4-stroke engines) or has the correct gas-oil mixture in the gas tank (generally 50 parts of gasoline to 1 part oil in modern engines).

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