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Old 04-23-2017, 02:40 PM   #1
Steveo
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Default Help with repair issue

I just had my boat put in for the season. When the marina launched it they made me sign a waiver due to a worn out gimbal ring that they didn't want to be liable for. It is a Mercury 350 Alpha Drive. There are two issues I need help with:

First: I ask what was the liability with not repairing now other than sloppy steering (which I have become accustom to) until a time where I guess I would eventually just lose all steering. The marina stated that the pin (that is the problem because it is wearing round) could have a "catastrophic" failure whereby it snaps off and the outdrive falls off and the boat sinks. I find this a bit extreme and just wanted the forum's opinion.

Second: They said there are two ways to repair. Either replace the gimbal ring or replace the ring and transom plate at the same time. Both repairs would be around $4,000. That seems pretty high to me.

I don't want to put myself or my family in danger but I was hoping to be able to have time to shop the work around and have it done during a time later in the season when the marinas aren't as busy launching boats; maybe get a better price.

Thanks for any advise.

Steve
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Old 04-23-2017, 03:09 PM   #2
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Default It is a Dangerous Condition

The marina is correct that if left unrepaired you could have a catastrophic failure. It has happened to others and I know of one who luckily was able to limp back to their marina with a totally broken gimbal assembly/ring. I would not use the boat until you have it looked at by another marine mechanic for a second opinion.
What make/model/year/hours do you have? That could determine if the boat is worth the repair investment.
So I also suggest that you check around with other marina's like Dave's Motor Boat Shop in Gilford http://www.davesmotorboatshop.com/ or Andrews Marine www.andrewsmarineservice.com/ There are others and someone may have another suggestion.
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Old 04-23-2017, 04:17 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steveo View Post
...

I ask what was the liability with not repairing now .... until a time where I guess I would eventually just lose all steering...

...I don't want to put myself or my family in danger
Parsed from your post, When you think about liability you also need to consider other boaters, PWC users, swimmers, and etc, if your steering lets go. (probably not what you meant when you say "liability" but please factor this in to your decision.

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I was hoping to be able to have time to shop the work around and have it done during a time later in the season when the marinas aren't as busy launching boats; maybe get a better price.
You can't put a price on safety. Perhaps keeping the boat ashore for a few weeks in the spring until you can get the repairs done?
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Old 04-23-2017, 04:35 PM   #4
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Often the marina will recommend this or that and you make your choice. When they ask you to sign something, I'd say they think it is really serious. A sudden loss of steering at speed can be really dangerous for you, if not for others.
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Old 04-23-2017, 05:06 PM   #5
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Is this the part that is worn out?

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Mercruiser-B...ZWdptl&vxp=mtr
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Old 04-23-2017, 09:17 PM   #6
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Default A vs B

Looks close. The OP said Alpha drive, the ebay part seems to be Bravo drive. Are thy interchangeable? Anybody?
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Old 04-24-2017, 07:38 AM   #7
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Looks close. The OP said Alpha drive, the ebay part seems to be Bravo drive. Are thy interchangeable? Anybody?
They are similar but not interchanageable.
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Old 04-24-2017, 07:48 AM   #8
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Get it fixed, now. If it happens during peak boating season, you'll lose prime time, or maybe more boat damage or sinking, with possible loss of people too!

Imagine if you i/o falls off, how big a hole is in the back of your boat?

Parts aren't too expensive, just google:

http://www.mercstuff.com/gimbalrings.htm

It's usually the labor added to the parts that adds up. Some times the part can be $15, but it takes $2,000 of labor to get to it and replace it. Hours at $100 per hour can add up fast.

We all hate surprises at launch time!

Good luck, let us know how this ends up.
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Old 04-24-2017, 08:19 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steveo View Post
I just had my boat put in for the season. When the marina launched it they made me sign a waiver due to a worn out gimbal ring that they didn't want to be liable for. It is a Mercury 350 Alpha Drive. There are two issues I need help with:

First: I ask what was the liability with not repairing now other than sloppy steering (which I have become accustom to) until a time where I guess I would eventually just lose all steering. The marina stated that the pin (that is the problem because it is wearing round) could have a "catastrophic" failure whereby it snaps off and the outdrive falls off and the boat sinks. I find this a bit extreme and just wanted the forum's opinion.

Second: They said there are two ways to repair. Either replace the gimbal ring or replace the ring and transom plate at the same time. Both repairs would be around $4,000. That seems pretty high to me.

I don't want to put myself or my family in danger but I was hoping to be able to have time to shop the work around and have it done during a time later in the season when the marinas aren't as busy launching boats; maybe get a better price.

Thanks for any advise.

Steve

There's no need to replace the transom assembly and this repair should not cost anywhere near $4000. I did the repair on my Bravo 3 (the process is almost identical on an Alpha drive) myself in a day (plus I replaced the bellows and shift cable at the same time) and documented it all right here: https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?...1&l=a95d978078

My gimbal ring was worn for years, but only failed because I backed into a rock at a launch ramp. I ended up using the boat all weekend with a broken gimbal ring and had no idea until I put it back on the trailer and noticed a huge amount of side to side play.

The pin (swivel pin) will not break or wear round. The problem is with a square-shaped hole that is cast into the aluminum gimbal ring and mates with a square portion of the steel swivel pin. The aluminum, being much softer, will wear first. There might be a bit of slop in the swivel pin to steering lever (which are both steel) junction too, but that is generally a non-issue that you could live with forever. The gimbal ring is a fairly massive chunk of aluminum and won't just suddenly snap leaving you with no steering, that's just not how they fail. Here's a picture to show you how rugged they are:


My recommendation is to measure the slop at the back of the drive and if it's less than 4" side to side, just keep using it and make sure the gimbal ring pinch bolts are routinely torqued to 55 ft-lbs. Those are the two bolts that are obvious in the picture.

When you do eventually replace the gimbal ring, I strongly urge you remove the engine to do this work. It will give you a great opportunity to inspect and clean the bilge, install a new or backup bilge pump, install new water shutters, clean up and re-support the plumbing and wiring stuff you can't get to easily with engine in place, and inspect the coupler, starter wiring, ground connections, bilge blower plumbing and oil pan.

I did NOT pull my engine when I did the gimbal swap, but I did pull it last year to replace the flywheel ring gear and in hindsight wish I had done it sooner. It's incredibly easy to do and make the gimbal swap MUCH easier. I will never hesitate to pull the engine if needed anymore. It's a nothing job... Also, if you pull the engine, you can skip the cutting and drilling I did in the first few pics of my facebook album and save money on the transom plate kit.
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Old 04-24-2017, 10:26 AM   #10
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The issue is time.....

Gimbal rings can break and fail... sometime with disastrous results. You WILL have to get it fixed.

You could do the repair yourself... like Dave R talks about. It will save you some $$ but cost you time and if you aren't as mechanically inclined....

How old is your boat?

I would call around to a couple different Marinas and get some quotes. My BiL is a tech at a local marina (not going to name it) I asked him about it last year for my Donzi... I just need the helmet the rest of my setup is tight. He said to replace the transom assembly was about $3K for a Bravo setup. The transom assembly for a Bravo is $2k. It's an 8-10hr job = approx. $3k.

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Old 04-24-2017, 11:01 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Woodsy View Post
The issue is time.....

Gimbal rings can break and fail... sometime with disastrous results. You WILL have to get it fixed.
I dunno about that, I have never heard of one breaking from wear at the top, they always seem to break from hitting something or from over-torqued pinch bolts. If it's still serviceable, I'd use it for this season and get the fix done during the next off-season when boat mechanics are hurting for work.
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Old 04-24-2017, 08:12 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave R View Post
I dunno about that, I have never heard of one breaking from wear at the top, they always seem to break from hitting something or from over-torqued pinch bolts. If it's still serviceable, I'd use it for this season and get the fix done during the next off-season when boat mechanics are hurting for work.
Dave, At Fay's I saw a boat that the gimbal housing that broke due to wear. That is the one I mentioned earlier. The OP needs to get a second opinion to be sure and confident the boat is safe.
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Old 04-25-2017, 09:09 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ITD View Post
It is not the ring itself but the pin at the top that gets rounded from wear that is the problem.
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Old 04-25-2017, 01:35 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steveo View Post
It is not the ring itself but the pin at the top that gets rounded from wear that is the problem.
I find that hard to believe unless it's the small square.



The big square fits in aluminum and there's no possible way for the aluminum to wear on the pin, it's too soft. The smaller square sits in a forged steel steering lever and can wear a bit. The steering lever and swivel pin area much less money than a gimbal ring, but the labor to replace them is the same as a gimbal ring.
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Old 04-25-2017, 01:37 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Just Sold View Post
Dave, At Fay's I saw a boat that the gimbal housing that broke due to wear. That is the one I mentioned earlier. The OP needs to get a second opinion to be sure and confident the boat is safe.
How can you tell the break was from wear alone?
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Old 04-25-2017, 01:50 PM   #16
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Steveo...

The pins are steel..... the gimbal Ring & tiller arm are aluminum. The aluminum is much softer than the steel. The stress & vibration elongate the holes and it wears out. Its also quite possible the aluminum "work hardens" over time, then becomes brittle & cracks.. causing a failure.

Dave R.... "The steering lever and swivel pin area much less money than a gimbal ring, but the labor to replace them is the same as a gimbal ring."

This why most marinas recommend you replace the whole transom assembly! You get a new tiller arm, new gimbal ring, new gimbal bearing and 2 new trim cylinders all replaced at the same time. If your smart, you replace the engine coupler too.... then you know your transoms health, have no issues, tight steering and a warranty!

Not a bad setup for $3K!

Woodsy
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Old 04-25-2017, 02:50 PM   #17
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Sometimes the cost of the labor is so high, due to the amount of work involved to take it apart, and put it back together, that it's worth replacing as much as you can (in parts cost) to make smart use of that expensive labor charge.

PLUS (this is important in my eyes), you don't want this to fail right at the peak of summer, when you want to use the boat the most.

I had a problem a few years ago, suddenly one of my engines wouldn't run at all. This was the start of the Independence day week. I had a weeks vacation planned and with the 4th of July just a couple of days away and I had a boat full of friends and relatives on their way, some were flying in.

It turned out to be a lot of water in one of my fuel tanks. Luckily my boat was setup to allow either engine to be switched from one tank, to another.

Catastrophe diverted, and everyone had a great time on the boat, while I ran both engines on the one tank that didn't have water in it.

So, do you want to have a failure during a peak time of the summer? Or would you rather pay now, before the season is in full swing. To me this is worth it to fix it ahead of time and not have this fail right when you would prefer to be using the boat the most.

As to the cost of labor vs parts, this reminds me of hearing my Dad complain about a bill he got back about in the year 1972 (he was a joint owner for a 44ft Egg Harbor Sport Fish). He was complaining about a bill he received from the boat yard that stated:

Parts: $2.75
Labor: $2,500.00

He was livid about the bill until he called and found out what the bill was for.

Evidentially, they had to remove the 'tuna tower' from the boat to allow the boat to be brought into a storage building for winter storage. The $2,500.00 was for the labor to remove the tuna tower from the boat. The $2.75 was for the piece of rope to tie the tower against a wall during storage.

To the OP, please let us know what happens.
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Old 04-25-2017, 10:15 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steveo View Post
It is not the ring itself but the pin at the top that gets rounded from wear that is the problem.
So it sounds like the casting is wearing out? The hole where pin 14 inserts in this picture? If so, that part should never really wear unless the bolts loosen up, my opinion anyway. That looks like a pain to replace, most of your quote is probably labor as mentioned before.




Pic is gone, guess they don't like hot linking....

Last edited by ITD; 04-26-2017 at 04:19 PM. Reason: Better pic
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Old 04-26-2017, 09:00 AM   #19
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The casting where P/n #14 goes does wear out.... there is a lot of vibration and stress on that casting & the tiller arm. The steel pin is harder than the soft aluminum, so it tends to enlarge the hole over time.

The issue is, like Rich pointed out time/labor cost...


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Old 04-26-2017, 10:27 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Woodsy View Post
Steveo...

The pins are steel..... the gimbal Ring & tiller arm are aluminum. The aluminum is much softer than the steel. The stress & vibration elongate the holes and it wears out. Its also quite possible the aluminum "work hardens" over time, then becomes brittle & cracks.. causing a failure.

Dave R.... "The steering lever and swivel pin area much less money than a gimbal ring, but the labor to replace them is the same as a gimbal ring."

This why most marinas recommend you replace the whole transom assembly! You get a new tiller arm, new gimbal ring, new gimbal bearing and 2 new trim cylinders all replaced at the same time. If your smart, you replace the engine coupler too.... then you know your transoms health, have no issues, tight steering and a warranty!

Not a bad setup for $3K!

Woodsy
I guess it would make some sense to replace the whole assembly, but not for me, I keep stuff a long time, buy good used parts when possible, and only replace things that fail. I'm on my 9th season with a rebuilt Bravo Driveshaft Housing (upper gear case) that I only paid $500 for... My lower gear case, trim cylinders and all other major parts except for the gimbal ring, swivel shaft, and steering lever, are 17 years old and working great.

BTW, The steering lever is absolutely not aluminum. It's ferrous and appears to be a nice forged steel part; very strong but not brittle like cast iron.
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Old 04-26-2017, 06:46 PM   #21
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DaveR..

Don't get me wrong.... I am all for saving a buck. If you can do the work yourself, more power to you. And once you dive in you are along for the ride... Sometimes its not that bad, other times you find out you to replace more parts. Sometimes used parts work.. sometimes they don't... Sometimes I have been lucky.. other times I might as well flush the cash down the toilet. (my personal experience with used boat parts)

In any case, the OP indicated he was going to shop the work around so my guess was he was not doing the work himself. It obviously has to be really bad if the marina made him sign a waiver...

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Old 05-01-2017, 05:20 PM   #22
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$4,000 for that job seems high to me. If it truly is worn it should be fixed. If it were me I'd suck it up now while the weather is still cool and you can live without the boat a weekend or two. Nothing worse than getting towed in on the fourth of July weekend and then having the boat in the shop a week or two when the weather is hot and company arrives..............
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Old 05-01-2017, 08:31 PM   #23
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Do us a favor and take a picture of your drive and transom assembly.

A new transom assembly for an Alpha 1 Gen 2 drive is around $3k. $1k in labor to remove the engine, the assembly, and reinstall is not that far fetched.

If the transom assembly is salvageable you have some options. Your best bet would be to send your Gimbal Ring to JR Marine to have it repaired (I assume they can do Alpha drives)...otherwise you need a new Gimbal Ring @ ~$1k.

You will most likely need need to purchase a new steering pin, OEM is around $400. ...there are aftermarket options for close to $150...then the bushings and seals to replace the ones in the Gimbal housing.

Add everything up using OEM prices it makes sense to buy a new transom assembly...using aftermarket parts makes it a whole lot cheaper though.
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