Everyone who fishes a lot and has spent plenty of time at the boat ramps has seen propellers of every shape and design. The pristine, shiny stainless steel props immediately draw attention. Sometimes you see the black anodized props that have silver edges from encounters with the sand. Then you see the ones that look like they’ve been at war with an oyster reef or some of the rip-rap lining the shore.
It’s those dinged propellers that are going to need special care during the down time of winter before you head out for the springtime bite.
Some say a dinged prop is not that big a deal, but most boating experts and experienced anglers will beg to differ.
When you inspect your propeller, the first thing to check is to make sure no stray fishing line is wrapped around the shaft. Both monofilament and braided line can work its way up the shaft and damage the shaft seal, which can become a costly repair.
Next start checking each blade for dings, bends or other damage. If you have an aluminum prop, it’s likely chunks of metal will be gone. More than likely, that prop is toast and you should consider replacing it with a stainless steel variety.
If the prop is stainless, it is not indestructible. If the dings and bent spots are not too severe, you can remove the prop and take it to a repair shop to get it refurbished. The closest propeller repair facilities to the Gulf Shores-Orange Beach area is Accu-Prop in Pensacola or Southeastern Propeller Service in Mobile.
The repair facilities use state-of-the-art technology to make sure your propeller yields the maximum performance.
Both shops use the Hales MRI Scanning System that analyzes the propeller in ways human eyes cannot. The repairs include welding if needed, and the propeller’s original pitch angles and diameter will be restored.
A dynamic balancer is available to spin your propeller at high speed to check for any unbalance. Reconditioning a propeller that is properly balanced will increase the performance of the outboard, reduce fuel consumption and reduce vibrations.
Vibrations can mean a slow death for a lower unit if you’re not careful. Eventually an unbalanced prop can lead to failure of the hub (some call it a bushing) that provides a shock absorber between the propeller and the prop shaft. Sometimes the vibration gets so severe, it can ruin the prop shaft bearing and could force replacement of the whole lower unit.
I can speak from experience about what is known as a “spun hub.” When you’re trying to get the boat on plane at takeoff, a tremendous amount of pressure is on the propeller as it pushes the heavy boat forward. If the hub or bushing is weak, it will lose its adhesion to the propeller. The result is the prop shaft will turn but the propeller won’t.
If the hub lets go, you’ll be stranded, calling for a tow. Trust me, I know.