How to set up your outboard motor

Updated February 21, 2017

Outboard motors need setting up after they have been mounted to the boat. Setting up an outboard motor includes installing the propeller, connecting the battery, connecting any water pressure gauge for monitoring the cooling system, adjusting the trim tabs, and adjusting the tilt limit. Once you've determined that the outboard doesn't exceed the maximum power capacity shown on the boat's plate and you have the outboard mounted, you can start to set up the outboard motor.

Slide the thrust washer onto the propeller shaft with the shoulder facing towards the rear and then slide the propeller onto the shaft. It should slot into the splines. Slide the spacer on, and wedge the blade and anti-ventilation plate it with a block of wood. Then install the rest of the hardware, tightening it to the manufacturers recommended torque -- usually 70-80 foot-pounds. Remove the wood, place the gears in neutral and spin the prop. If you've installed it properly, it will turn easily.

Hook up the battery by connecting the red cable to the positive terminal first, then connecting the black cable to the negative terminal. Tighten everything and cover the terminals thoroughly with grease.

Connect the water pressure gauge to the water pressure port. To get the most accurate readings, set the gauge at the point recommended by the gauge maker.

Adjust the trim tab by taking the boat out and seeing if the steering pulls to the right or left. If it does, turn the engine off and adjust the tabs near the propeller. Lift the engine and loosen the trim-tabs screw. It's above the propeller. Move the tabs to the right if the boat pulls right, and to the left if the boat pulls left. Then tighten with a torque wrench to about 35 to 40 foot-pounds. Adjust the tilt limiter if the outboard contacted the motor well when you lifted it. Rotate the tilt limiter cam by pulling the tab forward and up to reduce the amount of upward tilt. Test the boat again and repeat the step until the steering doesn't pull.

Things You'll Need

  • Torque wrench
  • Marine Grease
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About the Author

Patrick Nelson has been a professional writer since 1992. He was editor and publisher of the music industry trade publication "Producer Report" and has written for a number of technology blogs. Nelson studied design at Hornsey Art School.