While your outboard motor is responsible for powering your boat, it's really the propellers that deserve all the praise. Your propellers are essential to the overall performance of your boat, as well as its fuel efficiency, and safety -- without them, you're literally a sitting duck in the water.
Yes, it's important to maintain the exterior of your boat, especially if you spend a lot of time out on the open ocean -- any boat owner should know that seawater is not your friend. But what's super important is boat propeller maintenance. It's easy to overlook because out-of-sight, out-of-mind, right?
Don't make the mistake of overlooking your propellers. Here are simple maintenance tips to practice on a regular basis.
1. Visually Inspect Each Boat Propeller
This sounds like an obvious hack, but in reality, it's easy to forget about your propellers simply because they are already quite low-maintenance.
But regular visual inspections are crucial in order to check for obvious external damage. This is the type of damage that can have a dire effect on your boat's performance in the water.
Make sure to inspect each propeller before you head out on the water to avoid last-minute repairs, and after you return for the day. You also want to make sure your propellers are balanced before you launch. Uneven weight distribution can affect the efficiency of your boat, as well as its safety.
2. Clean and Grease the Prop Shaft
Your boat's maintenance schedule is unique to the type of vessel you own. It's best to check your engine manual and take note of how often you should be maintaining your propellers and the prop shaft.
But to be safe, you should be checking, cleaning, and greasing your prop shaft regularly. Especially if your boat is docked in the water on a regular basis, or you launch your boat at least once a week.
In order to inspect your prop shaft, remove the propeller first. It's far easier to reach the prop shaft this way. The first thing you want to check for is debris that could be wrapped around the shaft, such as fishing line. Once you've removed any debris, you should examine the seal.
If your prop shaft is still covered in grease, wipe it down so you can better inspect the seals. Your prop shaft seal is fundamental to the operation of your propeller as it stops water from seeping into the gearcase. If you notice any form of wear and tear, you'll need a certified professional to look over your propeller and lower unit before you can use your boat again.
If your prop shaft and the seal are still in good condition, remember to reapply grease. This helps to keep the area well lubricated and running well. When you re-install your propeller, make sure the nut is tight and enough, while a new cotter pin should keep things in place.
3. Protect Your Propeller from Corrosion
There are certain types of water that are bad news for any boat propeller. This includes saltwater, brackish water, and very polluted waters. Even if you've spent time in freshwater, it's still important to hose down your boat and the propellers for a thorough rinse to avoid corrosion.
When it comes to saltwater, make sure to wash your propellers with a mild detergent to remove oil, salt, and grease build-up. You can then protect them even further with a water-repellent lubricant such as CR6-56.
4. Inspect Propellers for Minor Wear
Your boat propellers withstand tremendous amounts of force when they're in the water. This, in itself, can wear them down over time. But if your blades have a small cuff, this could quickly turn into a small crack.
If you fail to inspect your blades for the beginning stages of wear and tear, this could lead to major issues down-the-line that you could have avoided. So make sure to check your propellers for abrasions, nicks, cuffs, and hairline cracks after you take your boat out on the water.
You can file down these minor signs of wear and tear with a mill file.
5. Don't Ignore Major Cracks
It's always important to inspect your propeller blades before you decide to take your boat out. If you notice any major dings, cracks, or dents, it's not a good idea to use your propeller any further.
Instead, you want to remove the out-of-shape wheel and either send it in for repair or buy a replacement propeller. If yours is stainless steel, it can sometimes be restored if it isn't too badly damaged. If it's aluminum, a repair job may be a little more unlikely and you'll need to replace it.
Bear in mind that unless you are skilled in propeller repair, buying a new prop or sending it in for repairs will cost you almost the same thing. Sometimes it's best to consider how much downtime you can afford, versus the cost of repair or replacement.
6. Miscellaneous Maintenance
Depending on the type of propeller you have and what you treat it with, the paint or shine may wear off over time. If you want to keep your propeller in good aesthetic shape, make sure to take it off the shaft and give it a fresh coat of paint or a shine.
There are no hard-and-fast rules on what color you paint your prop -- this is completely up to you. Boating in polluted, brackish, and saltwater can also cause stainless steel propellers to lose their shine. If you want to pep up a lack-luster propeller, a simple solution of bathroom cleaner that removes soap scum and warm water will do the trick.
Remember that stainless steel is not stainproof, so it's important to rinse your propellers after their use in any type of water. This helps to maintain their shine but also staves off red-iron oxide and the accumulation of film/scum.
If your propeller develops any form of rust, you can remove this with steel wool, penetrating oil, and a little elbow grease. Don't ignore the development of rust -- the last thing you want is for it to spread into your propeller shaft!
Looking for High-Quality Boat Propellers?
At Deep Blue Yacht Supply, we are your trusted source of boat propeller supplies and running gear. Whether you're looking to replace your propeller entirely, or need a simple running part, we supply all the gear for a beautifully efficient boat.
Check out our supply of boat props and get your vessel back in the water in no time.