Many boaters know that dreaded sound of an engine trying to turnover when a battery is dead. In fact, low voltage, or a dead battery, is a call that Sea Tow captains frequently receive. So, what should you do if your battery won’t start your engine? According to Captain Christian Orfanello of Sea Tow New Orleans, there are a few thoughts every boater should keep in mind when stranded with a dead battery.
“Our franchise helped jumpstart more than 50 boats during the summer months alone,” Captain Christian said. “But we were also able to talk even more boaters through a few simple steps that helped to get their boat up and running again without a jumpstart.”
1. Check the kill switch
If your boat won’t start, Captain Christian recommends that you first check the kill switch. “It’s not uncommon for a kill switch to become disconnected when there is a lot of activity on a boat that is anchored, especially if young kids are onboard,” he said. “It’s just a fact that kids like to sit in the captain’s seat and play? with things. Many times, we ask the boater to first ensure that their kill switch is properly connected and that can be the fix they need!.”
2. Check the Connections
The next step should be to check the connections. Ensure that all connections and the ground wire, have a proper and tight connection as well as that there is no corrosion (batteries are lead and connections are copper…they do not rust!) buildup on the battery connection. Captain Christian also says to touch the wires to make sure they aren’t hot. “If the wires are hot there’s likely a bigger problem somewhere and that could lead to other issues or even a fire. In this case, do not jump it, tow it.”
3. Check the Voltage
If possible, it can be helpful to carry a small meter/battery tester with you on the boat. This can help you determine if your battery is actually dead, has low voltage, or if something else is wrong.
According to Jeff Barron from Interstate Batteries, an industry leader in providing superior battery products to many segments including the marine industry, a battery is fully charged at a minimum of 12.8 volts with no load – however, due to on board computers, etc., it is completely normal for the full-charge voltage to be a bit lower if gauged from inside the vehicle or boat – and may not start an engine if it falls below 12 volts. When a battery reaches no higher than 12.4 volts at full-charge, it’s ready to be replaced. All Interstate Batteries come with helpful information regarding cranking amps and projected operation time should also be referenced.
“Knowing the proper voltages to start and run a marine engine is helpful and carrying a battery tester is an excellent idea,” he added. “Testing the voltage can sometimes provide a good indication that your battery just needs a good charge, if there’s a problem with the wiring or if it’s time to replace the battery.”
5. Switch to a backup battery
Some boats are also equipped with more than one battery and a battery switch. If one battery does not start, try switching to the backup battery, or the “BOTH, ALL or 1&2” position to get the motor running again so you can make it back to shore.
6. If that doesn’t work, don’t worry. Call us, we’ve got your back.
All Sea Tow Captains are prepared to provide a jumpstart. Sea Tow use cables or jump packs to fire up a dead battery when they arrive onsite. Here are the following steps you can expect they will take to get you up and running again:
- Sea Tow Captain will hand cables/jump pack to customer.
- Check connections and visually inspect battery and wiring.
- Connect cables/jump pack to battery, negative to black first followed by positive to red.
- Ask someone to try starting the engine.
- Disconnect the jumper cables after the boat is running, starting with the black, negative cable clamps first. Be careful if the battery is in the engine compartment as the engine is now running.
- Sea Tow Captains tell boaters to immediately return to the dock for further inspection of the battery and a full charge.
When working with batteries, it is important to be careful because they can provide a shock and even start fires. When in doubt, call a Sea Tow captain for help to ensure that you and your family make it back to shore safely.
*Always follow normal starting procedure for you type of vessel. For example, running of the bilge blower.