Outboard Boat Motors - DIY Outboard Shifter - Sail Magazine

Outboard Boat Motors - DIY Outboard Shifter

D.I.Y. Outboard ShifterA lever for all reasons Although I could reach the tiller/throttle of the five horsepower outboard that was mounted on the transom of my 20-foot trailersailer, whenever it was time to go from forward to reverse I had to face aft and then bend over the transom and the motor to reach the side-mounted shift lever. That's not a good position to be
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D.I.Y. Outboard Shifter

A lever for all reasons Although I could reach the tiller/throttle of the five horsepower outboard that was mounted on the transom of my 20-foot trailersailer, whenever it was time to go from forward to reverse I had to face aft and then bend over the transom and the motor to reach the side-mounted shift lever. That's not a good position to be in when you're approaching a dock or mooring buoy; that's when shifting into neutral and then reverse at just the right moment can make or break the exercise.

Commercially made shift levers are expensive and require additional engine bits for modification, so I designed my own. First, I bought a length of 1/4-inch stainless rod from Online Metals (onlinemetals.com). Next, I went to a bearing shop and got a rod end bearing so I could connect the rod to the outboard's shift lever. The threads for the female housing on the rod end bearing were 1/4-28 fine, so I bought a die to thread the stainless rod into the end bearing. I also got stainless steel nuts to hold the rod in place. All these items came from Small Parts, Inc. (smallparts.com).

CONSTRUCTION

After I had determined the length of the rod, I cut it using a reinforced cut-off blade in my Dremel tool; a common hacksaw won't dent stainless. I made the first cut at an angle to the rod and about 1/2 inch longer than I needed. The second cut was at right angles to the rod and at the proper length.

Next, I threaded both ends of the rod. Although you can thread stainless rod with a regular die, the process is harder than threading a mild steel rod and it takes lots of cutting oil and patience. Chamfer the rod ends first so the threading die seats easily. I found I could turn the die just a quarter turn or so before I had to back off and clear the chips; it also took a lot of strength to turn the die. Because I didn't have a machinist's vice I clamped the rod with a pair of vice grips, and then clamped the vice grip in a vice. When I kept the rod and die well flooded with cutting oil, I made slow but steady progress.

I used a replacement rubber lawnmower starter handle for the outer end of the rod. It's held onto the rod with stainless steel washers and lock nuts. Although the handle's center hole is slightly bigger than the rod, the jam nuts and washers compress the handle enough so it fits tightly (Photo 2).

For the rod holding bracket, I used 1/4in x 1in aluminum bar stock and bent it to the correct shape using a wood block and a mallet. To twist the short leg I clamped the long leg in a vise and then used a crescent wrench to twist the bar into the 90-degree bend.

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INSTALLATION

I began by bolting the bracket to the outboard handle using two existing holes; stainless bolts and Nyloc nuts ensure that the bracket won't vibrate loose. Next, I passed the rod through the bracket, threaded on a jam nut and screwed the? rod end bearing onto the shift rod; the jam nut locked it in position. Finally, I attached the rod end bearing to the outboard's shift lever with a stainless bolt and secured it with a Nyloc nut (Photo 3).

This modification lets me shift gears safely and easily. Because the specific dimensions will vary depending on the outboard and the particular configuration of the boat, I've left out any specific dimensions.

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