Monthly Archives: November 2012

Hurricane Jake – I NEED More Power (Wires)

A few weeks ago I let a good friend borrow my boat to fish in a pretty large tournament.  After the first day, he was sitting in second place, with a good shot at moving up.  However, about 11 AM the next day I saw his name pop up on my caller ID.  I knew that phone calls mid-tournament are never a good thing, so I was a little nervous to answer, especially since I knew it meant something wasn’t working on my boat.  Well, turns out the steering on the trolling motor quit working, and this happened to be on Lake Guntersville, the same weekend Hurricane Sandy was roaring up the east coast.  So, to say it was a little windy that day would be an understatement.  After a little discussion, I guessed that at least one of the steering cables had snapped, and basically my buddy was dead in the water.  Luckily, Guntersville is full of matted grass, so he was able to park himself in a mat and continue to fish.  The day didn’t end well for my friend, and he ended up falling 10 places, but the best was yet to come.

When he got back in town, I cracked open the head of the trolling motor and took a look.  I was greeted with a snapped steering cable, as expected, but also the universal sonar transducer cable nearly cut in half and the positive and negative power wires pretty severely chaffed.  My heart sank when I initially saw that since I have never really worked on a trolling motor before, and had I decided to take on this project, it would have meant not only learning how to replace the steering cables, but also learning to replace the power wires.  That would mean disassembling the trolling motor from the lower unit all the way to the foot pedal.  Needless to say, it made me a bit nervous.

So, any time I have a major failure on the boat, the first thing I do is hop on Google and start researching the solution.  In this case I found a few forum posts where people were asking questions about the steering cables, but I didn’t see any walk thru’s posted, nor did I really see any instructions on replacing them.  I took this as either a really good sign, or a really bad one, I wasn’t quite sure.  Then, I started looking for information about the lower unit of these motors and turned up even less information.  As a last ditch effort, I made a post on facebook, and finally, a bit of light!  I had a response from a local fishing guide who suggest I tackle the project because it really wasn’t that hard, and if I had any issues, he would be happy to help.  Well, I did just that.  I ordered the parts and the waiting game started.
In my order I ended up with 2 sets of steering cables, a right and a left one, a new power and ground wire, and then a new “seal kit” that contained new o-rings for the trolling motor lower unit.  The transducer wire for the internal transducer was also trashed, but since I have a few transducers laying around, I figured I would not worry about fixing that, and simply run an external transducer since the entire transducer would need to be replaced anyway.

Well, the parts showed up extremely fast, thanks to Jones Trolling Motor, and the following Saturday I got to work.  Since I was more worried about running the power and ground wires (since I have never cracked open a trolling motor lower unit before), that is where I started.  Much to my surprise, it was very easy.  First step is to disconnect the power to your trolling motor!  That is VERY important.  After that, I opened the head of the trolling motor to get access to the + and – wire.  They each have a spade connector in the head, covered with some heat shrink.  Using a razor blade, I removed the heat shrink and unhooked the spades.  I did notice that there was a good bit of corrosion on the connectors, so I grabbed a file and filed as much of that off as I could.  Once those were nice and shiny, I moved to the lower unit to begin disassembling it.

The lower unit dis-assembly turned out to be much easier than I expected!  To remove the prop, there is a nut that you will need to take off, and as you loosen it, be sure to hold the prop to keep it from spinning.  Once you slide the prop off, check for any line that may be wrapped up (as you can see, I had a ton) and remove it.  You will also see two bolts.  That is all that is holding the lower unit together.  These are VERY long bolts, and run the length of the lower unit, holding the front cap of the motor, middle section and rear pieces of the lower unit all together.  Simply unscrew those two bolts and you are then able to crack open the housing.  Be careful not to pull the rear out too far though, since the power and ground wire, along with another, smaller ground wire will still be connected.  Also, as you pull the motor out, keep in mind there are magnets that you will be fighting against.  I was able to pull the motor out and disconnect the necessary wires without too much issue, but as you try and pull the motor totally out, be aware that the magnets will be pulling the other way!  Once you get the motor out, this is what you will be working with:

Now comes the fun part!  Since bass fishing took a back seat to shark fishing earlier this year, I happened to have a giant spool of 125lb mono line laying around, and figured that would be perfect for running some new wires.  So, I took the line, tied it to the old power and ground wire, put some electrical tape over it for good measure, and then pulled old wires out through the lower unit.  Due to the shape of the connectors on the power and ground wire that attach to the electric motor, it is much easier to pull the wires this way versus pulling them through the head of the motor.  They pulled out very easy, and with little issue.  Since the transducer wire was demolished, and going to be replaced with an external transducer, I went ahead and pulled the transducer wire out next.  Due to the connector in the head of the trolling motor, this was a little harder, but with a little finesse, and a lot of hammer, I was able to get it out.  I then cut the wire in the head of the trolling motor and tossed the wiring in the trash.  Now that I had all the old wires out, I tied the spade connector of the positive wire to my 125lb wire snake, and then lined up the ground wire and smaller ground wire on the power wire and taped them all together.  The idea here is to minimize the places for the wires to get hung up as they are threaded through the shaft of the motor.  This is what the taped up monstrosity looked like, and it worked like a charm.  The wires fed though the motor with 0 issues.

The next step was to reassemble the lower unit, hook up the wires and then start on the steering cables.  But, when I went to reassemble the lower unit, I noticed that the motor itself had magically grown about 4 inches.  Despite my best efforts, I could not figure out what was going on.  After about an hour of cussing and scratching my head, I finally had an “Ah Ha!” moment, and noticed how the motor actually works.  There are two brushes (cube looking, spring looking magnets) that needed to be pulled back so the motor could slide into place on the prop shaft.  Once I figured that out, I was able to put everything back together in and get it all hooked up.  Now, after doing a test, I noticed that I have gained a good bit of power back in the motor (my guess is due to all the corroded connections) and I also put some dialectic grease on each connection, so hopefully there will be less corrosion issues in the future.  That’s it!  Now that I know the entire process, I bet you could replace these wires easily in under an hour.