Join Date: Nov 2007
Location: Hamburg and Wilson NY
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Won't hurt the motor, but depending on the weight of the boat, may surprise you as you suddenly surge forward. I always did that with an old OMC on my sailboat. Worked fine. Some of the older small OB's didn't even have a shifter -- they always started in gear.
These Tohatsu/Nissan 4 hp motors have a cable-operated neutral safety lockout on the top of the recoil housing (for government-mandated consumer safety reasons). Sounds like yours is either disabled or mal-adjusted.
As for the clunk going into gear, that happens if you have the throttle too high when shifting. It's recommended to always return to idle when shifting. In a motor that has a shear pin style prop (yours does not), that can shear the pin. It's also a bit hard on the gear train.
Paul Van Voorhees
Certified Tohatsu TLDI Technician
Mgr, Obersheimer Sails
Buffalo, NY USA