• Mobile App For Android Now Online!

    Download it here. The app is searchable in the Google Play Store under Sailboat Owners.

    Sorry iPhone/iPad users, we are still waiting on Apple. :(

    Click the X in the upper right corner to make this go away

Neutral switch

Oct 2, 2008
3,209
Pearson/ 530 Strafford, NH
Hi all,

I’ve been having an issue starting the engine and it’s because the neutral lock out switch gets stuck. I have been able to tap the transmission with a little hammer and it starts right up. Does that switch ever need maintenance or should I get a replacement ready just in case? Can that switch be bypassed?
 
Jun 11, 2011
1,215
Hunter 41 Lewes
I'd like to know exactly what your tapping. I've never seen an internal switch.
 
May 20, 2016
2,909
Catalina 36 MK1 94 Everett, WA
When was the last time you checked/changed your trans fluid?? Without pictures it’s hard to guess, but I’ll take a go anyway.

1) bypass switch is possible 1 the NSS (neutral safety switch) probably has two wires on it - one to the starter switch and one to the starter solenoid. Put a switch across those two wires - when in off position NSS works normally, when on NSS is bypassed.

2) There May be a push rod in the trans under the switch you could clean or the switch may be bad. Fixing either requires much more knowledge of how it’s setup. Try lightly tapping the switch rather than the trans.

“Internal” switch I’ve seen is on a velvet V drive. The switch is external, but the activator is inside the trans.
 

Gunni

.
Mar 16, 2010
5,943
Beneteau 411 Oceanis Annapolis
My Yanmar (Kanzaki) starts in gear. Forward or reverse. I would bypass the neutral switch and just make sure to have the throttle at idle when starting to reduce drive lash.
 
  • Like
Likes: uncledom
Jun 11, 2011
1,215
Hunter 41 Lewes
My boat is similar to Gunni's in the fact that there is no NSS and it will start no matter the gear shifter position.
 
Oct 22, 2014
12,122
CAL 35 Cruiser Portland OR, moored EVERETT WA
Could be as simple as the shift cable needs adjustment to properly find neutral.
 
Oct 2, 2008
3,209
Pearson/ 530 Strafford, NH
Velvet drive tranny. Perkins engine. My wife says she can hear it click when I press the start button. A gentle tap right by the switch seems to release the solenoid. (If it is a solenoid). One cable pulls the link to forward then through neutral to reverse. The tranny oil gets changed after 500 hours which is almost due.

1820C892-9504-4CEC-8A37-0D4CA5AC5130.jpeg

The switch is just behind the water bubbler.

F01E4EE7-0395-42A2-AA33-DF5D12BEF32F.jpeg
 
Last edited:

capta

.
Jun 4, 2009
3,659
Pearson 530 Admiralty Bay, Bequia SVG
Those things fail frequently. Cut the wires @ the unit and jump the leads a be rid of something that can easily cost you your boat! I assume you are aware enough to check you are in neutral before starting the engine. Those da*n things are a real menace, IMO.
On an outboard on a light boat, it's a different story, but on your boat, it's unlikely, even if you do start her in gear even @ the dock, it will cause you any problems. At least not near the problems you might face if you can't start your engine in an emergency!
Otherwise, they are cheap enough and easy enough to replace.
 
Last edited:
Jan 11, 2014
5,419
Sabre 362 113 Fair Haven, NY
Jump the leads a be rid of something that can easily cost you your boat! I assume you are aware enough to check you are in neutral before starting the engine. Those da*n things are a real menace, IMO.
On a power boat with lots of horsepower, the neutral lock is a good idea. On a sailboat that can do 0-6 knots in 30 seconds, a bit of overkill.

Before you go with Capta's solution and in an abundance of caution, check all the connections between the interlock switch and the starting circuit. A corroded or poor connection can wreak havoc on a starting circuit or for that matter any other circuit.
 
  • Like
Likes: LloydB

capta

.
Jun 4, 2009
3,659
Pearson 530 Admiralty Bay, Bequia SVG
On a power boat with lots of horsepower, the neutral lock is a good idea. On a sailboat that can do 0-6 knots in 30 seconds, a bit of overkill.

Before you go with Capta's solution and in an abundance of caution, check all the connections between the interlock switch and the starting circuit. A corroded or poor connection can wreak havoc on a starting circuit or for that matter any other circuit.
Last time ours failed we were just entering Bocas del Dragon (Dragon's Mouth!) in Trinidad, a passage well known for its extreme currents. Fortunately, I knew exactly what it was and had it jumped in about 30 seconds and we didn't have a problem.
I agree it could very well be corrosion or whatever, but this is something anyone with a Velvet Drive (Borg Warner) transmission should understand can happen anytime w/o any notice at all.
 
Oct 2, 2008
3,209
Pearson/ 530 Strafford, NH
Last time ours failed we were just entering Bocas del Dragon (Dragon's Mouth!) in Trinidad, a passage well known for its extreme currents. Fortunately, I knew exactly what it was and had it jumped in about 30 seconds and we didn't have a problem.
I agree it could very well be corrosion or whatever, but this is something anyone with a Velvet Drive (Borg Warner) transmission should understand can happen anytime w/o any notice at all.
And all this time I thought I owned the best engineered boat of its class. Just like so much of paradise having names like Dragons Mouth or Sailors Sinkhole, doesn’t exude a note of confidence. Velvet drive, ha, ha.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Likes: capta
Oct 2, 2008
3,209
Pearson/ 530 Strafford, NH
A cruising friend who also has a Perkins with a neutral safety switch just had the same problem. He jumped the two leads with an alligator clip.
 
Oct 22, 2014
12,122
CAL 35 Cruiser Portland OR, moored EVERETT WA
I have the same neutral switch on my Perkin‘s but unclear how applying an alligator clip functions to fix the issue.
  • Is the switch stuck open?
  • The switch completes a circuit when in neutral?
  • The jump completes the circuit bypassing the internals?
What size wire? How much current is flowing through the switch? What is needed for a replacement? Are they available?

I know so many questions.
 
  • Like
Likes: LloydB

capta

.
Jun 4, 2009
3,659
Pearson 530 Admiralty Bay, Bequia SVG
I have the same neutral switch on my Perkin‘s but unclear how applying an alligator clip functions to fix the issue.
  • Is the switch stuck open?
  • The switch completes a circuit when in neutral?
  • The jump completes the circuit bypassing the internals?
What size wire? How much current is flowing through the switch? What is needed for a replacement? Are they available?

I know so many questions.
The wires attach to the switch with eye lugs. You can just unscrew them and put a bolt/nut through them if you wish to one day replace the switch, of course wrapping this in electrical tape or heat shrink, or you can cut off the lugs and use a butt connector. No wire size changes or worries.
 
Last edited:
Oct 22, 2014
12,122
CAL 35 Cruiser Portland OR, moored EVERETT WA
I’ve been rewiring my engine over the past 4 months. In this upgrade process resizing and re-routing wires from 1974 install. Understanding the wire load always helps before making a change. Guess I’ll need to break out the DVM and do some probing.
 
Jan 19, 2010
453
Catalina 34 Casco Bay
Hi all,

I’ve been having an issue starting the engine and it’s because the neutral lock out switch gets stuck. I have been able to tap the transmission with a little hammer and it starts right up. Does that switch ever need maintenance or should I get a replacement ready just in case? Can that switch be bypassed?
Ever follow a car down the road and see their back up lights on ? QED... the NSS can and does fail. the internal spring is the usual culprit...
 
  • Like
Likes: All U Get
Oct 2, 2008
3,209
Pearson/ 530 Strafford, NH
I have the same neutral switch on my Perkin‘s but unclear how applying an alligator clip functions to fix the issue.
  • Is the switch stuck open?
  • The switch completes a circuit when in neutral?
  • The jump completes the circuit bypassing the internals?
What size wire? How much current is flowing through the switch?
The wires attach to the switch with eye lugs. You can just unscrew them and put a bolt/nut through them if you wish to one day replace the switch, of course wrapping this in electrical tape or heat shrink, or you can cut off the lugs and use a butt connector. No wire size changes or worries.
What is needed for a replacement? Are they available?

I know so many questions.
He jumped the two wires. Then to make it more easier, he undid the wires and screwed them both to one side on the switch.
 
May 20, 2016
2,909
Catalina 36 MK1 94 Everett, WA
I’ve been rewiring my engine over the past 4 months. In this upgrade process resizing and re-routing wires from 1974 install. Understanding the wire load always helps before making a change. Guess I’ll need to break out the DVM and do some probing.
I keep telling ya 10ga is over kill for that circuit.
 
  • Like
Likes: jssailem