Taking on lot of water at drive shaft

Stuart 28-2

Member I
Good thing I got the bilge pumps working just a week ago or my boat would be at the bottom of the lake.
Although those two hose clamps are tight that rubber bellows/collar can move side to side against the drive shaft.
However, that sort of water shouldn't get past the stuffing box should it?
I was rescued by the great folks at the marina and Tow Boat U.S. where they came out on a Saturday night and lifted the boat out in the dark.
Photo of leak point attached. Tried to attach 6 second video but the site wouldn't allow it.


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Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
Good thing your helpers caught it! Yikes.
Engine might also need new motor mounts and an alignment. Depending on the age of the shaft seal, perhaps time for a new one. Regarding alignment, if the shaft has been wobbling some, it might have wear grooves in it (which can harm the seal of a traditional stuffing box packing, too.
One bit of trivia I have found out over the last 30 years is that the PSS seal needs a healthy amount of pressure against the rotating carbon ring, i.e. the bellows needs to be compressed well. (to me, it is kind of like setting the tension of my alternator & pump belt -- there is a just-right amount of force between too loose and too tight.)

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
You might have a piece of debris caught between the plates, causing leakage. Just pry the plates apart and wipe with a rag. "Burp" it, as you must do every time the boat is launched from the hard.

How old is it? They need to be changed or rebuilt on a schedule, say 7-10 years. They can last much longer, but that's pushing it.


Sustaining Member
Blogs Author
Agree with Christian about burping it, the manual even says that debris can be caught in there and cause leaks. I think it's time to replace it. Mine passed the surveyors "inspection" but the rubber bellows was completely rotted out underneath where you couldn't see it well. This is not something you want to have fail!



Innocent Bystander
I am over the shaft seal system because, as you're going to find out, to service it you have to extract the shaft from the coupling that attaches to the engine. Moving it that 1.5" is the worst job on the boat. The coupling has rusted around the shaft and you'll need to exert a great deal of force in a very confined area. Your working area might be a bit more generous than mine, which is underneath the engine with a V-drive configuration.

The other issue, as you've discovered, is that the shaft seal "failure mode" can be pretty bad. This can happen when gunk gets wedged between the seal (which is addressable...if you find it in time), the bellows tension is reduced due to elderly rubber or (the final straw for me) destruction due to a fuel spill in the bilge. This tends not to happen with ye olde packing gland system - it just leaks more and more as the packing wears out, and the packing can be replaced in situ. That process can be exciting for a novice, but much less water volume actually comes in than one might expect.

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
Also, you may need a new drive shaft as well as coupling when replacing the dripless. For that on many Ericsons the rudder has to be dropped. Drive shafts wear out and our originals are old.

I am a happy dripless customer, but they're a luxury. And replacement requires a haulout.


Member III
I too am a happy dripless customer. But had a leaker a few years ago. It only leaked while the engine was running and in gear, none while in neutral. I was able to move the shaft collar and compress the spring a bit. This fixed the problem until the end of the season, when I hauled and replaced it. Otherwise, I've had no problems and replace the seal every ~5 years.

Dave G.

1984 E30+ Ludington, MI
If the leak came on suddenly then it must be a large piece of debris caught in-between the SS collar & the carbon disc. As above you must clean that mating surface. If the it is easy to compress the bellows then time to replace. They sell a rebuild kit which includes a new bellows, seals, set screws, and clamps. When I replaced my coupler and shaft I was surprised at how weak the bellows had become over time. The new bellows was much thicker & stiffer which of course translates to a tighter seal, less possibility of debris getting in there. I also think it is a good system and nary a drop has passed through it since I did the rebuild.