Boat Engine Failure – what to check

By in Emergencies, Practical, Preparation | 2 comments

Engine Safety Checks

Engine failure

If your engine fails or is overheating there are a number of things to check immediately:

• Air filter blocked – check, clean or replace
• Cooling water low – fill when engine is cold. Check for leaking hoses
• Exhaust pipe blocked
• Fuel filter – a blockage reduces power and can stop the engine stop. Check, clean or change the filter
• Lack of lubrication – check engine and gearbox oil levels
• Oil filter blocked – replace
• Raw water inlet filter – a blockage causes overheating and can lead to engine failure. Close seacock, check and clear filter. Re-open seacock. Check object (eg. plastic bag) is not obstructing seacock
• Water pump impeller failure – cooling system fails and engine overheats. Check the rubber impeller is slightly flexible, not hard, and replace if necessary
• Worn drive belts – replace if they are frayed or shiny

Many engine failures at sea are caused by lack of maintenance, resulting in filter blockages, engine pump failures, overheating and then breakdown.

It is worth remembering that one of the most common reasons for marine rescue service call outs is for boats running out of fuel.

Tips to avoid engine failure:

  1. Keep the engine regularly maintained
  2. Always do engine checks before setting out
  3. Check fuel and oil levels regularly (don’t rely 100% on gauges!)
  4. Check drive belts for wear and tightness
  5. Look out for oil and coolant leaks
  6. Check fuel filter for water or dirt. Drain off any contaminants until the fuel in the clear glass bowl by the filter is clear
  7. Learn how to bleed the fuel system if air gets into it

All of this advice and more is available in our easy-to-use, quick to access app for iPhone and Android. Go to for more.


  1. Very interesting post.
    It is true many calls to rescue service are for running out of fuel or engine failure due lack of maintenance.
    We talked a little bit also on how to prevent emergencies on marine engines:
    And here is a recommendation on what we should be having aboard with us to be able to react if we have a failure on the boat’s engine when sailing A list of material we must have in our boat for a save and happy ending sail day on relation with our engine.

    By the way… the marine engine on the picture is our marine engine Mini-62 Solé Diesel

    Also to make sure you have all the Apps in your phone you might need during navigation will help for a happy sailing day.

    Solé Diesel


  2. Boat Engine Failure – what to check

    Thanks, Simon you did well in your blog article, I really appreciate what you shared. I experienced engine failure when my whole family travelled somewhere in Palawan Philippines. The Captain was really good though some of my kids are afraid because of the waves of the ocean. But it is good to have knowledge like this.

    Ezekiel Sprouse


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