How to Read Outboard Wiring Diagrams
Reading wiring diagrams and troublehooting outboard electrical issues is an essential skill for any lover of powered water craft.
Wiring diagrams, ignition systems and ancillary electrical components are one of most commonly requested content types for download hence we decided to build an archive of Free Outboard Wiring Diagrams but what if you are new to outboard engine electrical systems of have a new outboard with no manual?
This guide teaches you how to read and interpret them so you can make repairs with confidence.
Example of a Coloured Wiring Diagram for the 1984 Johnson V6 engine
Wiring Diagrams - Components, Cabling & Layout
There are a huge number of specialist publications availble (see additional resources at the bottom of the page) but most outboard wiring diagrams are simply a schematic of a series of simple circuits, each consisting of a components, switching and current feed and return cabling. A small outboard may only have a very simple electrical setup with an ignition circuit and a kill switch, the latter usually being the lanyard.
Larger outboards are more complex, especially those with remote controls, electric starting external supplies for powering ancillaries. Even a mid-size/powered outboard engine around 30Hp or above may have significant complexity.
Mid-size/larger Outboard - Typical Electrical Components might include:
- Electronic Ignition,
- Lighting Coil,
A wiring diagram is simply a schematic representation of these elements usually roughly laid out aligned to component location in the engine, often aligned to the overhead view of the outboard, i.e. looking down from above it - but not always.
Some owner operator manuals will come with a wiring diagram but almost all service and repair manuals will incorportate one of possible several, depending on complexity. In addition there are loads of great resources on the web for images or pdf documents to download for outboard wiring diagrams.
Let's explore each element in turn...
Cable Colours & Gauges
Every wiring diagram will (should!) come with a colour-coded legend or key so you can identify the wires in your engine. Each manufacturer has their own standards or norms and there are common themes across all outputs that are typical of DC circuits e.g. Red for positive (+) and Black for return (-)
While cable colours will have a legend or key cable sizes (or gauges) will probably not so for instance the cables the low-tension (ignition circuit and switch) and high-tension (high voltage leads delivering current to the spark plugs) may not appear differnt on the wiring diagram. However once you can identify the components on a diagram they will be easy to locate.
Identifying Wiring Diagram Components
Mid-size outboards and above will have an electric starter and a battery. Locating the battery first is a good way to to orient yourself to the supply for the ignition system, through the ignition switch, kill switch and other visual components of the diagram.
Starter motor, usually fed via the starting solution supplied through the supply via the ignition switch.
Basic one-way switch. Could be retractive, of button or plunger e.g. kill switch lanyard.
A fuse is a electrical fail safe used to provide circuit protection. It's an element designed typically part of a fuse box containing several fuses in line.
Any filiment bulb device such as headlights, brakelights, interier illumination, dashboard lamps etc
Resistence element e.g. plug heater, cigeratte lighter.
Single or Twin horns
A rheostat is a device for measuring and adjusting electrical output based on resistance for example level of fuel in a tank or dashboard illumination
Solenoid or Relay
A switching device used to control current flow to a component e.g. starter motor or washer wiper mechanism