Boat propeller maintenance is alot more important to your pontoon boats performance than you may imagine. Propellers go through alot of abuse most of it unseen, but sometimes you look out over the stern down near the outboard propeller and see the sand, mud or seaweed you're churning up. You may not think much about it but throughout the boating season you really can put alot of hard use and abuse to your propellers. Most propellers are aluminum and wear significantly over time. If the lake or river where you boat on is rocky you may run into rocks or logs on the water bottom. This can cause severe damage to the propeller in terms of bending the blades or even chipping or cracking the propeller blades. When the blades become worn from sand , bent or chipped their performance can be severely affected. Annual checking of your propeller is a necessity.
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About Propellers - Different Types, Performance, Propeller Maintenance and Propeller Repair
1. Different Propeller Materials
Propellers come in a variety of materials. The most common is aluminum. There are others like composite propellers, stainless steel propellers, bronze/nickle alloy, bronze/nibral alloy, nibral and others. Performance boats commonly use stainless steel propellers. Stainless steel is alot stronger than aluminum and don't require as thick of a blade to achieve the necessary strength. Therefore, stainless steel propellers are able to cut through the water faster and generate more thrust as compared to other thicker propellers. Composite propellers are now just as strong as stainless steel, lighter and come just as thin as stainless steel. Composite propellers are now becoming very popular.
2. Propeller Performance Characteristics
When it comes to performance several things affect how well a propeller propels your pontoon boat forward. One characteristic is blade thickness. Aluminum blades are the thickest while stainless steel blades and composite blades are generally thinner and are able to rotate through the water faster thus creating more thrust. Another characteristic is the number of blades. While 3 blades generally provide better top end speed, 4 blade propellers can provide more thrust and perform better in the mid range speed and also improve fuel economy. Many boaters and pontoon boaters are using 4 blade propellers for this reason.
3. Propeller Maintenance
Propellers for boats are like tires on your car, they wear, get chipped up, cut up and worn. Just as the performance of your car's tires depend on their condition, the same is true for your pontoon boat propeller. A worn , chipped up or bent up propeller is the same as driving on worn and poorly inflated tires. Your driving control ability and mileage are both reduced significantly. That being said, you need to take a good look at your propeller at least once per year, usually when you're taking your pontoon boat out of the water for winter storage or when you're first preparing your boat for summer.
Propeller Items to Check
- First check the blades and hub for signs of cracking. If you see any signs of cracks on the tips of the blades or between the joints of the blades and the hub, your propeller needs to be replaced or repaired. Aluminum blades can be repaired to good as new condition, but it depends on the location of the cracks. Cracks along between the blades and hub can be repaired to look and perform as good as new. However cracks along the edge of the blades are a little harder to repair and may not last as long. If you have stainless steel propeller that has signs of cracking the cost to repair the blade is alot higher. Aluminum propellers are easier to repair and the repair cost is generally alot less than a new propeller. However, the cost to repair a stainless steel propeller is more because of the hardness of stainless steel and the difficulty to weld stainless. In this case, you may be better off buying a new propeller instead. You should consult your local marine shop.
- Next inspect your propeller for signs of severe wearing or chipping. Propellers can wear excessively over time when rotating through sand and other lake or river bottoms. Chips or breaks along the edge or the blade are easy to see and your local marine shop or propeller repair shop can usually repair them easily. Again, stainless steel propellers are harder to repair and generally cost more to repair.
- The third and less noticeable thing to check for is the propeller's pitch. The angle of the blades can become bent or offset over time and use. This is harder to tell if your propeller pitch is out of specification but if your propeller blades or one or two of the blades are bent significantly it is fairly noticeable. If you suspect that your propeller blades may be out of alignment it's best to have your propeller inspected by a professional boat propeller shop to determine if repair is necessary.
When it comes to your pontoon boat performance, the condition of your propeller is just as important as how well your outboard motor is running. Check your propeller often to make sure it's in good shape and if it's not, get it repaired or replaced. You'll be glad you did!
More information and tips on propeller maintenance and propeller repair