Johnson Outboard Will Not Start (Troubleshooting Guide)

There are several components to inspect and test when a Johnson outboard motor won’t begin to work. But before you begin to troubleshoot a boat motor that won’t start, make sure the battery is fully charged, all cables and wires are tightly connected, and the shift lever is in neutral position. Follow this guide to find the cause and solution for a Johnson outboard engine that will not start up.

Electric starter system

So your Johnson outboard will not fire up, but does the engine turn over with continued cranking? If the answer is yes, does the flywheel rotate? If the flywheel does not rotate (or turns slowly) check the battery’s charging condition or the terminals for corrosion or a loose connection.


If the engine turns over with continued cranking, does the starter rotate? If the starter rotates, check the starter magnet switch. Also check the pinion and overrunning clutch. Refer to the factory service manual for inspection and testing procedures.

If the starter does not rotate, check the battery’s state of charge, check terminals for corrosion and tight connections, and check the 20A fuse and fuse case. If everything checks out fine, check for a “click” sound coming from the starter relay when turning the ignition switch to start position. On tiller models, check for the “click” sound when the starter button is depressed.

If there is no “click” sound coming from the relay, the problem could be the neutral switch, ignition switch, starter button, starter relay, starter relay and ignition switch, or there could be wiring problem between the starter relay and ignition switch (or starter button). Refer to the repair manual for inspection and testing procedures.

If there is a “click” sound when turning the ignition switch to the start position, remove the starter from engine and bench test it. Does starter motor turn under no-load conditions by connecting battery (+) terminal to M” terminal of starter motor and battery (-) terminal to the starter motor body? If the answer is no, check the armature coil or the brush and brush holder. Refer to service manual for checking procedures. If the answer is yes, the magnetic switch and or connection is faulty and it must be replaced.

Ignition system

The Johnson outboard’s ignition system is the system that produces the spark to ignite the mixture of air and fuel and includes the spark plugs, battery, ignition coil and other switches and wiring. If the engine is hard to start, perform the following ignition system tests to determine the cause and solution to the problem.

Check spark condition using a tester gap, set tester gap at 5/16. If spark is good, check ignition timing by using a timing light. If there is no issue with timing, replace the CDI unit.

If there is a weak or no spark, check the spark plug(s) condition. If the spark plug is bad, replace it. If the spark plug is in good condition, disconnect the engine stop switch wire (see manual for wire color). If it sparks, check and or replace the engine stop switch. If no or weak sparks, check ignition coil resistance (see service manual for ignition coil resistance specifications).

If ignition coil resistance is out of spec, replace ignition coil. If the ignition coil resistance is good, check the spark plug cap for any evidence of high-tension leak. If there is a leak, replace the spark plug cap. If there is no evidence of a high-tension leak, check the spark plug cap resistance and replace if if it’s out of spec. If the spark plug cap is within factory spec, check consensus charger coil resistance. If it’s out of spec replace the coil.

If the condenser charge coil resistance is within specifications, check the pulse coil resistance. Replace the coil if the pulse coil resistance is out of spec. If it’s in spec, check the CDI unit, if the CDI unit is out of spec, replace the CDI unit.

Always use a factory service manual when checking or preforming tests to the Johnson’s ignition system.

Fuel System (carburetor models)

It’s important to check or test the fuel system when a Johnson outboard will not start. Here are a list items to check:

  1. improper starting procedures. Refer to starting procedures in service manual.
  2. Clogged fuel filter.
  3. Poor quality or old fuel.
  4. Fuel tank vent or hose restricted.
  5. Faulty anti-siphon valve.
  6. Primer solenoid inoperative.
  7. Plugged solenoid filter.
  8. Primer hose improperly routed.
  9. Restricted or mis-routed fuel supply lines.
  10. Restricted fuel pick-up.
  11. Plugged primer fittings or hoses.

Johnson outboard won’t start (misc. items to check)

The list of items below are random areas that should be checked when a Johnson outboard motor will not start. Always keep in mind that more than one problem can be present.

  1. Stop circuit grounded. Inspect the wiring for emergency stop switch. And make sure the safety lanyard is installed properly and the stop circuit is not grounded.
  2. No fuel. Ensure there is gasoline in the fuel tank.
  3. Water in fuel. Sample the fuel from the fuel return manifold and check fuel filter.
  4. Air in fuel system. Check for air in fuel supply manifold.
  5. Low or now fuel pressure to fuel injectors. Test fuel manifold pressure, refer to factory service manual for checking procedures.
  6. Excessive fuel or oil, engine flooded. Check for fuel leakage at injectors, leaking fuel or oil lift pump, or leakage coming from vapor separator vent.
  7. Fuel injectors not working. Test for voltage at fuel injectors.
  8. Low or no alternator output. Check voltage and circuit. Refer to repair manual for checking procedures.
  9. No compression. Perform cylinder compression test.
  10. Internal powerhead damage. Inspect engine and repair as needed.
  11. Fuel supply restricted. Check anti-siphon valve, primer bulb, fuel pick-up and inspect fuel system for leaks.
  12. Crank positon sponsor (CPS). Test crank postion sensor.

It’s highly recommended to use a factory service manual when troubleshooting a no start issue. More advanced information can be found in the book.

6 thoughts on “Johnson Outboard Will Not Start (Troubleshooting Guide)

  • January 23, 2017 at 12:53 am

    Hey sir. Is there a repair manual for a 1997 Johnson 115 hp?

    • January 23, 2017 at 12:56 am

      You can download a repair manual for any year and model, including 1-cylinder, 2-cylinder, 3-cylinder, V4, V6, and V8. Here is a small list of manuals available, but I’ll add more soon.

      1990-1991 1 HP Colt/Junior
      1993-2001 2 HP 2-Stroke
      1991-2001 2.3 HP 2-Stroke
      1991-2000 3.3 HP 2-Stroke
      1999-2001 3.5 HP 2-Stroke
      1990-1996 4 HP Deluxe
      1990-2001 5 HP 2 & 4-Stroke
      1990-2001 6 HP 2 & 4-Stroke
      1990-1993 6.5 HP 2-Stroke
      1990-2001 8 HP 2 & 4-Stroke
      1993-2001 9.9 HP 2 & 4-Stroke
      1990-1998 10 HP 2 & 4-Stroke
      1990-1991 14 HP 2-Stroke
      1995-1997 18 HP 2-Stroke

      1958-1959 50 HP Johnson
      1968-1969 55 HP Johnson
      1970-1971 60 HP Johnson
      1964-1967 60 HP Johnson
      1968-1970 65 HP Johnson
      1960-1961 75 HP Johnson
      1966-1967 80 HP Johnson
      1968-1972 85 HP Johnson
      1964-1965 90 HP Johnson
      1967-1968 100 HP Johnson
      1971-1972 100 HP Johnson
      1969-1970 115 HP Johnson
      1971-1972 125 HP Johnson
      1992-1995 65HP Johnson
      1992-1997 80HP Johnson
      1992-1996 85HP Johnson
      1992-1996 88 HP Johnson
      1993-1998 100HP Johnson
      1994-1996 112HP Johnson
      1992-1998 115HP Johnson
      2000-2001 75HP Johnson
      1995-2001 90HP Johnson
      1998-2001 100HP Johnson
      1997-2001 105 HP Johnson Com
      1995-2001 115HP Johnson
      1992-1994 120 HP Johnson
      1994-2000 130 HP Johnson
      2000-2001 135 HP Johnson
      1992-1994 140 HP Johnson
      1992-2001 150 HP Johnson
      1992-2000 175 HP Johnson
      1992-1994 185 HP Johnson
      1992-2001 200 HP Johnson
      1999-2001 225 HP Johnson
      1999-2001 250 HP Johnson
      2004-2005 9.9 HP Johnson
      2004-2005 15 HP Johnson
      2004 9.9 HP Johnson
      2004 15 HP Johnson
      2004 25 HP Johnson
      2004 30 HP Johnson
      2005 9.9 HP Johnso
      2007 2.5 HP Johnson
      2007 9.9 HP Johnson
      2007 15 HP Johnson
      2007 24 HP Johnson
      2007 30 HP Johnson
      1998-1992 250 HP Johnson
      1992-1995 300 HP Johnson

  • June 20, 2017 at 2:45 am

    Manuel for a 1973 65 hp Johnson/evinrude outboard?

  • July 13, 2018 at 2:18 pm

    I need a repair manual for a 1987 Johnson GT 150 VRO V6

  • April 1, 2021 at 3:13 pm

    I’m looking for the service manual for a 2000 Johnson 90hp engine J90Plsse.

    Do you have one, or a link for finding it?

    Thank you

    Lou Bruno

  • April 20, 2021 at 2:52 pm

    “and check the 20A fuse and fuse case. If everything checks” could you tell me the location of this 20A fuse. I have looked everywhere for this fuse.



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