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Ontario Fishing Network
Volume 4,  Issue 9 -  Sept. 2004

Trolling Motor Maintenance
Tim Allard

Trolling Motor

The electric trolling motor is one of the greatest pieces of technology in sport fishing today. Although relatively low-maintenance in design, these motors do require attention now-and-then to ensure they're working properly. Neglect to perform regular checks and you'll find yourself temporarily without a motor and coughing up cash for repairs or a new model.

Exterior Cleaning:
Keeping your motor free of dirt and weeds will help it run smoothly. When cleaning your motor, ensure it's properly secured to your boat or a workbench to prevent it from falling. At this time, tighten any loose screws and bolts on a bow-mount motor.

Apply a product like Armor All to your motor's shaft to restore its smooth operation.

Begin cleaning the motor's exterior using a mild soap and water solution. Remove any dirt trapped around the unit's moving parts. Once the unit is dry, inspect the shaft for signs of wear or damage. Most motor's shafts are adjustable, sliding up and down to control propeller depth. Over time, the shaft can stick. To remedy this, apply a light amount of Armor All to the composite shaft with a rag to restore smooth operation.

Prop Inspection:
You'll want to examine the edges of your prop to ensure they're not damaged. Propellers are durable but not indestructible. Hard surfaces can damage props. For minor nicks and scratches, use fine grit sandpaper to smooth rough edges to minimize interference on prop operation.

Joe Brown, Brand Manager of Minn Kota Motors, explains, "Prop wear, chips and dings can greatly affect the performance of the trolling motor." For significant prop damage you will likely need to replace the propeller. Common sense will prevent significant prop damage. Brown advises, "The motor depth should be adjusted for the conditions to avoid impact with the bottom, and care should be taken to avoid underwater obstructions."

Next, inspect the prop for weeds or fishing line. "We recommend inspecting the prop and drive shaft for weeds and fishing line after 20 hours of normal use. In severe heavy duty environments we recommend inspection after each use. The prop nut should be checked prior to each use to make sure it is secure," advises Brown. "Routine inspection prevents weeds and line from wrapping too tightly around the prop shaft allowing weeds and fishing line to be removed by hand. In extreme cases, a pocket line or other cutting tool can be used with caution," he adds.

Begin by removing your prop, following the schematic of your owner's manual and carefully store all loose parts, like the washer, prop nut and drive pin, for easy reassembly. Inspect the drive shaft and remove any weeds or fishing line that may have tangled around the unit. You should do this check a few times a season. Unattended to, these hazards will wear at, and ultimately break, the seals of your motor causing significant damage to the internal parts. Remove the tangles as much as possible with your fingers. A flat head screwdriver or tweezers can be used to work line or weeds free, but be careful not to break the rubber seal surrounding the drive pin.

Remove weeds and fishing line tangled on the motor's drive pin and shaft to prevent damage to the motor's internal components

Once you've cleaned your unit and repaired any prop damage, reassemble the unit following the schematic in your owner's manual. Be cautious when tightening the prop nut and do not over tighten it as this can cause your motor to malfunction. Minn Kota's manual suggest a quarter-turn past snug.

Electrical Component Cleaning:
It's also a good idea to regularly inspect the electrical wiring and battery for your trolling motor. Replace worn or frayed wiring as well as unraveling electrical tape. Also inspect all connections, ensuring they are clean from corrosion and properly secured before each use. Brown recommends that the motor be disconnected from the power source when not in use. Ensure that all the wiring is neatly hidden and secure in your boat. Vibrations caused by the boat's outboard and water conditions can cause connections to loosen; verify all necessary straps, screws and nuts are snug.

Your deep-cycle trolling motor battery should be fully charged at all times. Failing to keep your battery charged will limit its ability to hold a full charge and reduce its overall lifespan. Inspect your terminals and clean them with a battery wire brush available at marinas or hardware stores. Always ensure you use extreme caution when handling batteries and wear safety goggles and gloves as a precautionary measure. All wire connections should also be disconnected when charging your battery.

A trolling motor is a welcome addition to any fishing boat. Keeping them in proper working order requires minimal effort, but ignoring basic maintenance can lead to damage and repair or replacement expenses. Follow the above maintenance tips for worry-free trolling motor operation. Specific question on care of Minn Kota Motors can be directed their technical service department at (800) 227-6433.

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