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Tom’s tips: hanging a new outboard

There are numerous things you should have on your checklist whenever you put an outboard — small or large — on your transom. Here are a few.

1. If the old motor was bolted on, check to determine whether the core material (such as wood or wood laminate) has rot or softness around the old bolt hole and any other holes through the outer shell. Prime suspects are holes for transducer mounting screws. This could indicate the transom is weakened, which could be a serious safety issue. If you find softness or rot here, check very carefully by tapping or other methods to see how far it’s spread. It’s relatively easy to fix a soft core that hasn’t extended far beyond the bolt or screw hole, and this should be done properly before you put on the motor. However, it’s a major job to repair a transom with significant rot. But this issue shouldn’t be ignored. I’ve seen transoms peel off because of interior rot when an outboard is throttled up. It’ll ruin your day.

2. Whenever you install an outboard (or anything else on the transom) take extreme care that all holes into your transom fiberglass are sealed so water won’t get to the core inside and cause rot. A good marine sealant should be applied around the outboard through-bolt holes on both sides of the transom to be sure no water will get in.

3. Check for stress cracks not only where the outboard is mounted, but also in the area where the transom joins the sides and bottom.

4. Superficial stress cracks in the gelcoat may not be a problem, but they may be indicative of something going on in the laminate itself or of something else to look out for. If there is any question, ask someone who knows to check it out.

5. If the motor clamps on, check where the clamps impact the transom to be sure there are no stress cracks or soft spots. If the transom has a permanent plate to receive the clamps, you’re a step ahead, but check around the plate for potential problems.

6. Always retighten clamps, at least several times, after you’ve started using the motor. As a rule, they’ll loosen up a little with the vibration and running. Continue to check the tightness periodically, even if you have clamp locks. Sure, you’ll have that motor secured to the transom with a chain or stainless cable, but that’s not the type of trolling that makes for a good day on the water.

7. Today’s outboards, particularly larger ones, have improved diagnostics, safety features and other features that in the long run can save you time, money and a lot of grief. It’ll probably make good sense to get all or some of the optional packages the manufacturer offers.

8. If the steering and/or shift cables and mechanisms are operating poorly, have them repaired or replaced by somebody who knows how to do it. If this gear isn’t optimally responsive, it’s more than an issue of convenience. It’s a safety issue.

9. Always call your insurer and tell them about the addition. You will normally need higher coverage.

See related article:

- An outboard that's out of his world

This article originally appeared in the November 2009 issue.