How to Fix Outboard Trim Problems

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When your boat's power trim system acts cranky---refusing to rise or to settle without difficulty---then it's time to find the cause of the problem, whether it's related to grease, fluid levels or air in the system. Continuing to force the trim system to operate is not only bad for the hydraulic rams that raise and lower the motor, but also for the hydraulic system as a whole, promoting system-wide leaks.

Disconnect the steering link rod from the motor---unscrew the nut on top of the steering rod and lift it off---and try to turn the motor. If the motor is difficult to turn when the steering link rod is disconnected, the problem is the result of inadequate lubrication.

Look under the motor's power head---the engine part of the outboard---near the top of the piston that controls the trim and find the grease nipples that lubricate the shaft on which the motor pivots.

Connect the nozzle of a grease gun to each nipple and pump grease into the nipple until grease begins to squeeze out around the grease gun's nozzle. Repeat for each nipple.

Remove the cap from the hydraulic reservoir and activate the trim system with the trim switch on the boat's throttle handle. Cycle the trim up and down several times to bleed any air out of the system and to work the grease around the pivot shaft.

Check the level of the hydraulic fluid in the reservoir. Continue to cycle the trim system and add fluid as needed until the fluid stays at the "Full" line on the filler of the hydraulic reservoir. Cap the reservoir.


  • If you continue to cycle the trim system and fill the reservoir to no avail, look for a leak at the hydraulic control, along the length of the hydraulic lines, around the fittings on the lines or at the reservoir itself.


  • Pivot shaft are typically greased once a year. When it begins to get difficult to trim, it's time to grease.

About the Author

Will Charpentier is a writer who specializes in boating and maritime subjects. A retired ship captain, Charpentier holds a doctorate in applied ocean science and engineering. He is also a certified marine technician and the author of a popular text on writing local history.

Photo Credits

  • toy outboard motor image by pearlguy from Fotolia.com