5 Symptoms to Detect a Bad Primer Solenoid on Your Outboard

Primer solenoid is one of the most important components for your outboard engine. In order to pump gas into the chambers of a gasoline engine, a tiny, electrically driven electronic valve known as primer solenoid, which produces pressure in the fuel lines, is employed.

So, when the primer solenoid goes bad, your outboard can have many issues, like engine starting problems, the engine making weird noises, and many more. Thus when the primer solenoid goes bad, you must have a proper idea of how to detect it.

Today we will discuss all the symptoms a bad primer will show and everything else you need to know.

What Are the Symptoms of a Bad Primer Solenoid?

To ignite the fuel-air combination in the engine’s cylinders, a priming solenoid employs electromagnetism to generate a spark. 

Thus, your outboard will show various symptoms when this breaks, and we will go through each of the symptoms below.

Symptom 1: Engine Having a Hard Time Starting

The first and most common symptom you will see when the primer solenoid goes bad is the engine’s difficulty starting. 

When the primer gets bad, it cannot push fuel into the engine, so it cannot start normally. 

As a result, when the primer malfunctions, it cannot provide the spark and pressure necessary for the gasoline to reach the engine.

Symptom 2: Clicking Noise

Another common symptom of a faulty primer solenoid is a clicking noise from the engine. 

When you turn the ignition key and hear a clicking noise, it indicates that the solenoid has gone bad. 

It is common to hear a click when you turn the key, but this clicking noise will sound different.

Symptom 3: Engine Keeps Turning Off

When the primer solenoid is bad, your engine may start but then will keep on turning off, and you will need to manually pump the fuel by using huge pressure. 

So, this can be problematic for any driver as in the midway; the outboard engine will keep turning off.

Symptom 4: Broken Case

If you suspect that your solenoid has gone bad, open the solenoid and check the casing of the primer solenoid. 

If you notice that the case over the primer is broken, then your primer is damaged, as it might have exploded under extra pressure, which led to a broken case.

Symptom 5: Hard Engine Start in Winter

You will often notice that when the primer solenoid is damaged, the engine will be very hard to start during the winter season or cold temperatures. However, the engine will normally start during warm weather.

5 Possible Causes of a Primer Solenoid Failure on an Outboard

Primer solenoids are very reliable, and they usually do not go bad. However, a few different reasons can damage this vital component of your outboard engine. 

  1. All newer primer solenoids come with a lever, and this lever can break down if you push it too hard.
  2. Air leaks in the system can damage the primer solenoid
  3. Dirt and debris can get inside the solenoid.
  4. The solenoid caps can get cracked under excess pressure.
  5. Primer solenoids require replacement once every 2-3 years, so it is common for them to go bad occasionally.

Replacement and Repair Costs of Outboard Bad Primer Solenoid

Replacement and repair cost of outboard bad primer solenoid depends on the model and year of your outboard. It also varies heavily on whether you need to replace the whole primer solenoid or repair it. 

FactorsReplacement CostLabour Cost
Entire Primer solenoid$55-$240$250-$400
Primer Case$13-$26$50-$100
Single transmission shift$15-$100$120-$250
Full set transmission shift $50-$300$120-$300

Above, you can see a detailed breakdown of all the repair and replacement costs of your outboard bad primer solenoid. 

Even though fixing a problematic solenoid is not that easy, if you are able to do it yourself, you can save a lot of money.

It is not always mandatory to replace the whole primer solenoid. Sometimes other internal components can be damaged, which can be fixed as this will cost much less than the entire solenoid replacement. 

So, before buying a new solenoid, make sure to check the outboard primer very carefully and decide according to the degree of damage.

Tips for Maintaining the Outboard Primer Solenoid to Prevent Future Failures

These tips below will help you increase the longevity of your outboard primer solenoid and save you from the trouble of fixing them regularly.

  • Apply a little carb spray to the tubes and connections on a regular basis.
  • Check your primer solenoid once in a while using a multimeter.
  • When installing a new solenoid, connect the wires well, so they don’t come off.


Some questions might be popping around your head after reading this guide so far, and below we will answer all these questions.

What should be the reading on the multimeter for a working primer solenoid?

You can use a multimeter to test your primer solenoid; set the multimeter reading to ohms and connect the two probes to the positive and negative wire of the primer. If it is working perfectly, the reading should be between 4-7 ohms.

Can I repair a primer solenoid?

Yes, when the primer solenoid starts to malfunction, you always do not need to replace the whole solenoid. Instead, you can repair it. Open the solenoid to check for any damaged components and replace faulty parts.

What causes my outboard motor to lose its prime?

Typically, an air leak in the gasoline line between the engine and the fuel tank can cause the outboard motor to lose its prime. So, when this happens everytime you switch the engine off, you will need to prime it again.

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