How to Put a Motor on a Canoe

Written by bloodmeridian
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How to Put a Motor on a Canoe
A transom mount can allow you to use a small outboard motor with your canoe. (embera indian sitting in dugout canoe image by Paul Retherford from

With a few simple steps, a canoe can be outfitted with a motor to explore shallow backwaters or troll for fish in hard-to-get-to spots.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Canoe
  • Small outboard motor with mounting brackets or clamps
  • Transom mount (depending on canoe design)
  • Tiller extension (depending on outboard motor design and fit with transom mount)

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    Transom Mount

  1. 1

    Use a transom mount for attaching an engine to your canoe if it has a pointed stern (rear). A canoe transom mount provides a mounting surface that allows you to either attach a motor to the canoe's stern or to its side.

  2. 2

    Attach the horizontal beam of your canoe transom motor mount to the gunwales of your canoe by tightening the clamps or wingnut-like bolts on the beam. The gunwale is the upper edge of the side of the canoe and is composed of rubber, plastic, metal, or cedar.

  3. 3

    Attach your outboard motor to the canoe transom motor mount by tightening the clamps or wingnut-like bolts used for securing the engine.

  4. 4

    Shake the horizontal beam of your transom mount as well as your motor. If you notice movement beyond a simple flexing of the horizontal transom mount beam, tighten your hardware further.

    Non-transom Mount

  1. 1

    Attach an outboard motor to the canoe's stern or mounting plate by tightening the motor's mounting hardware if your canoe has a flat stern.

    Canoes with a flat stern (known as a "square stern" design) are capable of accepting a small outboard motor with no modifications. Rather than requiring a canoe transom mount, square stern canoes use either a wooden or metal stern or a reinforced plate attached to the stern for mounting a motor.

  2. 2

    Take your canoe for a test drive.

  3. 3

    Tighten your motor's mounting hardware if it vibrates or rattles excessively.

Tips and warnings

  • Always consult the instructions that come with your mount because the installation procedures are unique for each transom mount design.
  • You can make your own canoe transom mount if you are ambitious and have basic carpentry skills. A simple Internet search using "canoe transom mount plans" can lead you to free and fairly straightforward plans.
  • Compared with other designs, a canoe with a flat bottom will provide the most stability. This is especially important for canoes using outboard motors and canoes used for fishing.
  • Check with the manufacturer or seller of your canoe for motor size recommendations. Typically, canoes should not be paired with outboard motors larger than five horsepower.

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