Many boaters know that dreaded sound of an engine trying to turn over with a dead battery. 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.

“We typically jumpstart over 50 boats during the summer months alone,” Captain Christian said. “But we’re also able to talk boaters through a few simple steps that helped to get their boat up and running again without us leaving the dock.”

1. Check the engine cutoff switch

If your boat won’t start, Captain Christian recommends that you first check the engine cutoff switch. “It’s not uncommon for the ECOS 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. We always ask the boater to first ensure that it’s properly connected before doing anything else.”

2. Check the Connections

Next, check the connections. Ensure that all connections and the ground wire have a proper and tight connection and that there is no corrosion buildup on the battery. 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. If this is the case, do not jump it, we tow it.”

3. Check the Voltage

If possible, keep 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. A battery is fully charged at a minimum of 12.8 volts with no load. However, due to onboard computers and other technology, it is completely normal for the full-charge voltage to be a bit lower. When a battery reaches no higher than 12.4 volts at full charge, it’s ready to be replaced.

4. 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.

5. all else fails, Call sea tow

Sea Tow members receive free jump starts as part of their covered services. If you’re ever in need of assistance, call our 24/7 Customer Care Team.


As the premier leader in on-water boating assistance, Sea Tow members receive the most comprehensive benefits available. Membership includes a full suite of on-water assistance services for every boat you own, rent lease or bareboat charter. Learn more about our membership options today. To find the Sea Tow closest to you, use our service locator or call our Customer Care Team at 800-4-SEATOW.

Sea Tow Team

Sea Tow has been the premier leader in on-water boating assistance since 1983. We want to share news, press, tips and all things boating.

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