Bracing myself for a strut job

bgary

Advanced Beginner
Blogs Author
Makana splashed last Friday after a week in the yard. Mostly routine stuff - bottom job, new dripless, etc.

(in a masterstroke of bad planning, that meant she was out of the water over Memorial Day weekend, which turned out to be absolutely gorgeous around here. Arrghhh)

The plan was to also replace the cutlass bearing, but when they got to that they called me to let me know they couldn't press the old one out with the shaft in place, like they normally would. Seems the strut is getting "pink", and they didn't want to put too much load on the bearing for fear of damaging the strut.

Let to an "interesting" discussion of options
-- leave the cutlass bearing alone for now - it's still good, just preventive maintenance at this point
-- pull the rudder, so they could pull the shaft and cut old the cutlass bearing out of the tube from the inside
-- do the full-meal-deal and replace the strut.

I opted - for right now - for the first one. Crossed the cutlass bearing off the list for this haulout. The yard manager says that the strut doesn't show any signs of imminent failure (no cracks, etc), so "in normal use" it is likely good for a few more years, it's just they were worried about the loads that would be put on it by trying to press the cutlass bearing out.

So, okay. Sounds like I have a little time to think about this. But at some point - likely the next haul-out in 2 years - I'm going to have to face the problem.

I've read @bigd14 's great 5-part blog showing how he replaced the strut on his 30+. Including pulling the motor to make sure he had room to work and get the alignment right. That's... well beyond my abilities, not to mention time.

So I'm thinking through what would need to happen for the yard to do this job.
-- I need to source a suitable replacement strut
-- they'd for-sure need to pull the rudder (which means disconnecting quadrant, etc)
-- they'd for-sure need the water heater out of the way (which I could probably do)

But from there? I have nothing but questions. Like.... would the engine need to be moved? I'm sure (or at least it's highly likely) the engine would have to be realigned with the shaft, unless somehow magically the new strut went in EXACTLY the same as the old one. I have no idea if the current mounts have enough adjustment range to be able to match a significant change in shaft angle. And thinking through that, it makes me wonder what other directions the job will grow.

Yard says it's a $3-4k job to replace the strut. Looking at bigd14's photos, I think it's probably more than that. Plus the cost of the strut. Plus (maybe) moving the motor. Plus (maybe) adding new engine-mounts to the project, if the engine is going to be moved off them anyway. Plus (maybe) adding rudder bearings and/or a dripless gland while the rudder is out. Plus (maybe) a new shaft and prop. Plus, plus, plus...?

Anything I'm not thinking of? Or shouldn't worry about?

Bruce
 
Last edited:

bigd14

Sustaining Member
Blogs Author
Hey Bruce, that's a bummer! Lots to think about with this kind of repair. I don't think you need to worry about the location of the shaft relative to the engine after the strut is replaced. It shouldn't change very much unless the yard really blows it. The shaft should be centered (or close to) in the shaft log right now, and the yard will try to center it that way again. So unless something goes terribly wrong, the engine alignment won't need to change very much. If the adjusting nuts on the mounts aren't seized it should be within the range of adjustment. I am sure a competent yard would have much better tools and methods than I did to align the strut, and I got it close enough.

On the 30+ to remove the shaft one has to choose to either remove the engine or remove the rudder. Is it the same on the 32-3? I removed both of course since it was a major renovation back there. The biggest expense of moving the engine would probably be the time spent removing and reconnecting all the hoses and wiring. If the yard allows you to do some of your own work you might be able to take care of some of that to reduce yard time.

New engine mounts would be a great upgrade. If I was in your situation I would choose to move the engine and replace the mounts and hoses and whatever else is needed over the rudder. But, this could be a once-in-a-boat-lifetime opportunity to deal with any and all issues in that area so if you think you will need to do rudder work in the next few years it be best (and cheapest overall) to do it now.

In the meantime, I probably wouldn't worry too much about the strut failing catastrophically in the next year or two, but then again I don't have crab pots and stuff like that to deal with. I would make sure my emergency towing coverage is up to date though! Best of luck with this.

Doug
 

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
It takes guts to put things off, often more guts than I have, but still--putting such things off in this case seems a rational plan.

Often when the prop shaft comes out it means a new shaft, because the tapered end that fits into the coupling is revealed as compromised. Or anyway, that was what my boatyard said. My yard bill is here.
 

Kenneth K

Contributing Partner
Blogs Author
Bruce, I had a new cutlass bearing put on along with my PSS repair this winter. My yard, like yours, could not press it out with the prop shaft in place (though they claim they often do). In the process of trying to press it out, I believe the cutlass (not the strut) was deformed somewhat, so we had to drop the rudder to get at the cutlass. I also had my prop shaft shortened and shaft-coupling refaced in the process (both were in good condition and well re-usable). Make sure your cutlass wasn't deformed by their attempt to press it out. My yard claimed an engine alignment is required when you put a new cutlass in, so we did that as well.

A few years ago, I stripped the bottom paint and barrier coat off my strut so I could add zincs to it. When I drilled through it, I was surprised how solid (and difficult to drill) the bronze was. It would take more than a little bit of "pink" to make me worry about the integrity of the strut. You could strip off the barrier coat (I used a wire-brush wheel and a power drill) and do a little more investigation as to the extent of corrosion before considering strut replacement--and add a zinc or two if you don't already have them on the strut.

Just a week or two ago, I removed both the water heater and the (rotting, in my case) plywood base that it sits upon. Once you remove that plywood base, I believe it gives access to where the strut is mounted. No bolts or hardware are visible, but a "mound" of fiberglass mat that I suspect was put on top of the strut hardware is plainly visible and fairly accessible.
 
Last edited:

kapnkd

kapnkd
Not sure which model Ericson you have but when I did our ‘73 E32-2 strut in the early 80’s, it was done from the outside in a yard that allowed me to work on our boat.

Lots of cutting, hard chiseling, chipping and grinding to get to the base of the strut! But, as I recall, it wasn’t as bad a job to do as I feared it would be.

Rudder removal was a must to get the shaft out which is also a must to replace a cutlass bearing. Try as you may, seems those cutlass bearings always fight to the death with you! I’ve had to resort to a hacksaw to CAREFULLY cut the bearing without damaging the strut. ...That was a bigger “PITA” than replacing the strut in my book.

Regardless, it’s a bit of work (doable if you’re handy) and can find a yard to let you do it to definitely save some money.

Good luck!!!!
 

footrope

Contributing Partner
Blogs Author
I think putting it off is a reasonable decision. Did you get a look at the strut and take any pictures? Is this the first time you noticed anything like that? I like what Ken said - a little pink doesn't necessarily mean a disaster is imminent. I had an experience with thru-hulls going pink. After several years (4), in 2009, I did the job, along with ditching the ball valves and rotten backing plates. The old "red" thru-hulls were fine. Get any bottom paint off the strut and add the zinc if that's not already the case.

I would say that if you don't need new engine mounts then your engine/transmission can stay right where it is. When they align the new strut the engine/transmission coupling will serve as a good reference.

I replaced my cutless bearing the same year and had to cut it and chisel it out. A tedious, brute force job, but not that technically difficult. There was plenty of evidence of prior bearing replacement from the old shallow grooves in the hole. I did not remove the prop from the shaft. Yes, the rudder was removed, too. I did have the yard take the shaft and inspect it. The shaft was true and sound. The cutless bearing, coupling, shaft and prop are still in service. I have also re-drilled my strut to make zinc installation easier. Bronze is tough on bits.

Next time you have your shaft and strut zincs checked it would be really interesting to see how much of the zincs were left. Do you have an "electrically hot" marina? If so, that will eat zincs and promote the pink in bronze parts.
 

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
My yard removed the cutlass bearing by inserting a hacksaw and sawing it up in place. Shaft has to be out, of course.
 

Grizz

Grizz
Loren sent an email, wondering if I could track down a link/post describing the strut repair/stabilization completed on Shoe String a while ago. This forced a Site Search, which unearthed this link, which has another link buried within it. Both walk through the procedure enacted. Rock solid 'x' number of years later, so the time, planning and effort was worth it.


Hope this helps. Sorry for the embedded link within the link to get the full explanation. Take care.
 

Kenneth K

Contributing Partner
Blogs Author
My yard removed the cutlass bearing by inserting a hacksaw and sawing it up in place. Shaft has to be out, of course.
Wish my yard had done the same, but I realize the difficulties--a perfectly level cut 4" long that pierces only the bearing, all the way through, but never cuts into the strut itself. I think that is artist's work (or, that of a careful owner).

My yard hammered a screwdriver or punch into the bottom of the bearing to get it to collapse inward on itself inside the strut. I wasn't happy about the hammer, but I understand the physics of the 1/8" thick bearing being the weak link and the first part to give-way under such force. And, at $100 an hour.....

20210108_155126.jpg
 

bgary

Advanced Beginner
Blogs Author
My yard hammered a screwdriver or punch into the bottom of the bearing

Interesting

This yard had a "tool" ... something like this:

OIP.jpg

...and when they tighten the big bolts it is supposed to press the cutlass out intact.

Their concern was that the bearing wasn't moving with the "normal" amount of pressure, and they didn't want to go all gorilla on it for fear of damaging the strut before the bearing started to move.

Bruce
 

Dave G.

1984 EY30+ Ludington, MI
This yard had a "tool" ... something like this:
That's a StrutPro, I used one to remove my cutless bearing. I had to really crank on it to bust the bearing loose. I heard a loud POP and momentarily freaked out until I realized it was the bearing breaking loose from the strut. After that initial force it pushed the bearing out smooth and straight. Still couldn't get the shaft out past the rudder though. I don't think you could damage the strut with that tool when used correctly, you can also apply a little heat to the strut while cranking which will help.
 

CTOlsen

Member III
Had mine replaced in 2018. Back in 2011, I noticed the strut was loose. I injected thickened epoxy, which allowed the strut to set. This lasted 7 years.
What started as a shaft seal replacement, turned into pulling the strut, welding a bolted flange to allow rebedding, and reinstalling (Glassing in). Part of this work also included replacing the journal bearing. Additionally, of course, the shaft showed some run-out, so it was replaced. Adding complexity was having to removed, then reinstall the prop, which is a feathering propeller.
The guy that did the work is a master. He did all the welding, glasswork, and alignment. He suggested moving the enging mounts because the shaft was not centered in the hull bore for the original packing gland. I knew better, and he agreed it was not needed, just good practice. It has not been a problem.
In all, this work cost me $6K. There is no vibration, no journal noise.
 

CTOlsen

Member III
A couple of pix, beyond what Loren posted:

Leveling the strut to the shaft , new flange welded to the strut.
Leveling inside1.jpg

Strut leveled and aligned. Glassing in from the inside. The outside was sealed with tape.
Working outside2.jpg

New shaft with strut aligned and glassed and sanded.
Finished outside1.jpg

Finished inside! Glassed, and gelcoated. Leveling bolts removed, nice and shiney!
Finished inside.jpg
 

Kenneth K

Contributing Partner
Blogs Author
Here's that same general hull area on a 32-3 (with water heater and plywood base removed):

20210612_160904~2.jpg
20210612_160918~2.jpg
 
Top