How To Remove a Sterndrive

Remove your sterndrive to perform essential maintenance tasks.

April 9, 2020
Removing a sterndrive
Sterndrive removal is important for annual maintenance. Tim Barker

Removing a sterndrive is important for annual service and inspection. Here, we detail the five basic phases of removing a MerCruiser Bravo drive. Other drive models and drives made by other makers will come off similarly, but not exactly like the process outlined here. We will call out some of these differences. This is not step by step. We grouped steps to show you what needs to be done. We recommend you get the service manual for your drive’s make, model and year for specific step-by-step instructions.

Removing the prop
Remove the prop, shift the drive to the required gear and remove the trim rams. Tim Barker

First: Remove the prop, shift the drive to the required gear, if necessary, and remove the trim rams. Rest the rams gently against the boat, and tie them with cord to support them. Then remove the speedometer tube from the drive (not from the boat) inside the “helmet” near the exhaust inlet. Remove the bonding wire on the side.

Removing the drive
When breaking the drive free, consider leaving two nuts on, but at the very end of the studs so that the drive doesn’t pop off too quickly for you to react. Tim Barker

Second: Remove the fasteners holding the drive onto the bell housing. The drive may release a little on its own now, or with a few wiggles by you.


Third: If it is stuck, try this tip: Place a short length of lumber atop the joint between the drive and gimbal ring, as shown in the main illustration. Lift up the drive and gently drop it. The wood block will fall into the space between the drive and gimbal lever, freeing the drive.

Disconnecting the shift cable
Disconnect the shift cable. Tim Barker

Fourth: When the drive is separated but not yet removed, reach in and disconnect the shift cable by spreading open the clip that retains it. The drive can now be removed. Note that a Bravo drive weighs about 180 pounds, so you will want to have a friend to help you. Better yet, buy or build a sturdy stand with a slot for the skeg. Position this support so you can balance the drive atop it as it slides off. Some Volvo Penta drives boast tapped holes for a lifting eye.

Fifth: Now you can service your bellows, gimbal bearing, universal joints and more. Apply a coating of quality grease to the splines. You’ll need a new gasket kit for when you reinstall the drive. Do not reuse the old gaskets.


Shift Positions for Sterndrive Removal

This is a guideline. It’s always best to consult the owner’s manual for your specific sterndrive to determine the correct service and maintenance procedures.

MerCruiser Alpha: Forward for standard RH rotation (reverse gear for LH rotation)


MerCruiser Bravo One, Two, Three: Neutral

OMC Cobra: Neutral

Volvo Penta SX: Forward for standard RH rotation (reverse for LH rotation)


Volvo Penta DuoProp: Neutral


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