Always Keep a Spare Prop
When you have a flat tire on the road, you should always have a spare ready. Likewise, when your boat or outboard prop gets damaged, you should have a spare ready to go.
Out on the water, a propeller can get damaged to the point it won’t work, or it can even completely drop off your engine. When “prop-lems” arise, you’ve got two choices: call for help or replace the prop on the spot. Of course, depending on the situation, help may not always be available or it might take a while to arrive. Why not just replace it yourself? Having a spare propeller, prop parts, nut kits and hardware onboard is a smart idea. Here are a couple of things to keep in mind for keeping a spare prop on board.
Choosing a Spare Prop
If you’re boating in a confined body of water such as a lake, you probably don’t need a propeller that perfectly matches your outboard. An old, slightly damaged or different prop than the one you’re running should work fine as a spare.
Remember, you’re just trying to get home. However, in open water you might want something that fits better, since you could be looking at greater distances to shore. Get a spare propeller that allows the boat to plane out and cruise efficiently.
Spare Prop Replacement Tools
What good is having a spare propeller onboard if you don’t have the tools to swap your prop? Make sure you have all the right tools needed to remove and replace the prop.
First, you’ll need a propeller wrench or a deep-well socket to get the prop off. You’ll also want a 6-inch piece of 2x4 that you can wedge between the prop blade and the anti-ventilation plate on the outboard. That’ll hold the prop in place and keep it from turning while you’re loosening and tightening the prop nut.
You’ll also want to keep a few spare parts like an extra prop nut, washers and cotter pins. Those little parts that hold a prop in place don’t float, so you’ll want to have extra ones handy if you’re doing the repair in deep water. While you’re at it, get your boarding ladder down, wear a personal flotation device, and secure yourself to your boat with a lifeline. And if you’re all alone out there, it might be best to call for help.
If you’re near the shore, you might get away with just backing up your boat, jumping out and standing in the shallow water to replace it. In any event, you should go through the process of swapping a prop on dry land beforehand just to get an idea of how everything fits and to make sure you have everything you need on your boat.
As for choosing a propeller, some good things to know include the difference between stainless steel and aluminum props, how to find the size and pitch of a boat prop, and the pros and cons of 3-blade vs. 4-blade propellers.