Should I Run My Outboard Out Of Gas?

There are many times that people will intentionally run their outboard engine out of gas. Is this a bad thing?

Running a two-stroke engine out of gas can damage the engine. Running a four-stroke engine out of gas in most cases will not cause any damage. But there are some cases where it can.

There are some specific things that you should know about when it comes to running an outboard out of gas, here they are!

What Happens When An Outboard Runs Out Of Gas?

Running out of gas is a common thing. Sometimes your gas gauge doesn’t work or you just forget to fill up! But we’ll cover this subject in a little bit.

For the most part, when people talk about running an engine out of gas. They are talking about storage.

But understanding what is happening on the engine and the fuel system is a pretty important thing!

When an engine runs out of gas, it is basically going to just shut off. Without fuel, it can’t run.

And the model of the engine is going to play a big part here. Whether you have a 2-stroke or a 4-stroke, does make a difference. Let’s cover the four strokes first.

On a four-stroke. If you just simply disconnect your fuel supply. You are actually putting more stress on the low-pressure fuel pump than there needs to be.

Because it is going to be sitting there trying to suck more fuel, that you have disconnected. In the short term, this isn’t an issue.

But, in the long term, you are adding stress to the pump by running it dry. Now, should you run your outboard dry?

(Were talking about fuel here, not water, if you are asking yourself should I run my outboard dry? Then you should read this article here about running it without water.)

For a four-stroke, it really isn’t necessary to do this! Will it hurt anything? Not really. Yes, you are adding that stress to the pump, but can you measure the long-term effects?

Probably not. And as soon as the FSM or VST runs out of fuel, the engine will just die. Which stops all the injectors and the rest of the fuel system from operating.

Leaving you with no effect on those parts.

Should You Run A 2 Stroke Outboard Dry?

Now, when we move over to talking about the 2-stroke, this is a little different. I know that many people have been doing this for years with no issues with the little engines.

But, again, when we think about what is going on here. If you disconnect the fuel and run the engine dry.

On a 2-stroke, the engine gets lubrication from the oil that is mixed in with the fuel.

And when you stop the fuel flow, you stop the oil flow, which stops the lubrication.

Yes, this is only for a few brief seconds. But when the engine is on its way to dying without fuel.

It is still getting less lubrication and stressing the engine. Most people are going to argue that this is only happening for a split second.

Which they are completely correct in saying. Though for me and if it was my engine. I don’t see the need to put extra stress on the engine.

Because it’s usually just for the fact that it is easier to disconnect the fuel and let it run out of gas.

Then it is to pull off the cowling and drain the VST or the carbs of the engine.

(Here’s an article that goes over the fuel-injected vs direct-injected vs the carbureted engines!)

So, I’d rather just pull the cowling and drain the fuel system with the drain, just to be safe.

Should I Run My Outboard Out Of Gas For The Winter Or Summer?

Why would you want to run an outboard out of gas? There are a couple of reasons that you might want to run the outboard out of gas for.

With the most common reason being, storage. Generally, many will put their boat away for a season.

Whether that be for the summer or the winter. It’s best to get all of the gas out of the engine’s fuel system for that season that it sits.

And generally, the easiest way to do that is going to be to just unhook the gas. And let the engine run until it dies, because it is out of fuel.

But for me and many others, it’s just as easy to drain the fuel system after you have treated the engine for the season.

Which generally includes checking the gear lube for water. Treating the fuel that is in the fuel tank of the boat.

Flushing and fogging the engine. And then in the winter, letting all the water out of the engine.

Then finally draining the fuel system. Here is another article about boat storage and some tips when it comes time for you and your boat!

Here is a video that shows a little more of this process from our Youtube channel here:

What Do You Do If You Run Out Of Gas On A Boat?

Now when it comes to another issue altogether. Being when you accidentally run out of gas in your boat while out on the water.

There are a couple of things that you can do to make your life a little easier.

Normally, there won’t be any damage done to the engine or its components. But you might find it hard to start the engine.

The first thing you need to do is get some gas in your boat! Whether you call sea tow, USboat, towboat, or have another type of help.

(Like a friend with a boat and a gas can 🙂 )

Once you get a little gas in the tank. You might find it hard to prime up the fuel and get the engine running.

That’s just because the fuel system is completely empty. And it’s basically air-locked.

What you can do is take the fuel line going to the engine off of the primer bulb. Then use your finger to help create suction. Prime the bulb allowing your finger to create suction on the bulb.

Then when you squeeze the bulb, remove your finger. Put your finger back on when you let go of the bulb. This will let you prime up the primer bulb.

Allowing you to feed fuel to the engine and fill it up. Getting the engine to start! Here’s another helpful video!

Check Us Out!

We hope that this has been insightful and allowed you to understand a little bit more about what happens when you run an outboard out of gas!

If you have more questions or want to learn more about your boat and its different systems. You should consider joining our Boating Academy where we have created HUNDREDS of video courses teaching you basically everything about your boat!

There are also even more helpful videos on our Youtube channel where we create even more boating videos!

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Here are some other super helpful articles that you might find interesting!

Aaron Hilligoss

Aaron has been working in the Marine Industry for over a decade and holds certifications for Yamaha and Mercury Marine. It is not uncommon for him to own and be working on at least three different boats at any given point in time!

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