[Troubleshooting] Why Your Boat Won’t Move Forward

If you’re out on the boat and find that it won’t go forward, it can be a frustrating experience. There are several possible reasons why your boat may not move forward, from mechanical issues to problems with the boat’s gears.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the common causes for a boat that will not go forward, so you can get back out on the water and enjoy your time boating again!

What Causes A Boat To Not Go In Forward?

There are several things that can keep your boat from shifting into forward, but here is a list of things to look for:

  1. Make sure you’re pressing the release button. Some boat shifters have a button on the shifter that you must hold in to move into forward or reverse.
  2. Make sure you have enough transmission fluid. A boat transmission is a lot like an automatic transmission for a car, not enough fluid, and it won’t shift.
  3. Shift cable is misaligned. The shifter of your boat has come loose or something is off causing it from moving into the forward position.
  4. You may have damaged gears that keeping your boat from shifting.
  5. Something wrapped around the impeller of your boat that is keeping it from spinning and pushing you forward.
  6. Your trim is too high up and keeping the impeller from spinning in the water.
  7. The linkage cable is broken or come loose. For many boats, you have a steel cable that moves the boat into and out of gear, and over time it can corrode, stretch or break.

These are the most common reasons why a boat will not go forward, but there may be others. If you suspect a mechanical reason for your boat not to move forward, take it to your local boat repair shop, so they can diagnose and fix the issue.

Check The Shift Cable

The first thing to check is the shift cable to make sure that is not your problem.

With the boat secured, disconnect the shift cable from the shifter to see if the lever moves freely. Then disconnect the cable at the lower unit, some boats will differ, and see if you can move the cable freely.

On some boats, you can check the lower unit and move it in and out of gears by slowly moving the prop to see if that is the problem.

Make sure the cable is not binding on something and has the ability to move into forward. Sometimes cables come loose or bind up in one spot, and it can keep you from moving into forward gear.

The cable can only be adjusted so much, if you come this far and find the cable needing to be adjusted at the lower unit, it’s time for a new cable.

If all looks good with the cable, then you may need to check the boat’s lower unit or transmission for damage.

Check The Lower Unit & Transmission

Next, remove and inspect the boat’s lower unit and transmission for any damaged gears or parts. You’ll want to make sure that everything is in working order and there aren’t any damaged parts that are keeping your boat from shifting into forward.

If you find a few broken parts inside the boat’s lower unit, then it’s time to replace them. Most boat repair shops will have these parts in stock, so they can easily fix them for you.

Check The Impeller & Trim

Finally, check the boat’s impeller and trim to make sure that everything is working properly. You can check for any debris or obstructions wrapped around the boat’s impeller, which could be preventing it from spinning and pushing the boat forward. Also check your boat’s trim to make sure it’s not too high up and preventing the boat from moving forward.

If you find that everything looks good, it’s time to take your boat in for a professional inspection by a boat repair shop. They can help you diagnose and fix any mechanical problems that are keeping your boat from shifting into forward.