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The trim and tilt system of your boat's outboard motor has its own set of problems, many of which you can fix on your own. Simple fixes include adding a set of O-rings or swapping out parts that you can unbolt from the system and replace with new parts.
Check the manual release valve, located on the manifold, usually in the center of the manifold. The manual release valve is the joker, the trickster of the tilt and trim system. All potential problems with the system may result from the manual release valve not being closed, or being partially closed, so make checking this valve the first step you take when going after a problem with the tilt and trim system. The valve is also the easiest of the system's parts to swap out. Before swapping any other part, swap the the manual relief valve for a new one.
Unit Won't Move
When the unit won't move up or down and the manual release valve is in order, check the electrical power supply, starting at the breaker box and working your way to the butt connectors at the motor and from there to the ground. If the circuitry is in order, become a parts-changer: swap out the hydraulic motor for a hydraulic motor you know works. Should the problem persist, swap out the hydraulic manifold assembly for a correctly working one.
Slow Movement and Leaks
If the tilt trim unit moves slowly in one direction or if the unit's hydraulic cylinder -- the piston that moves the motor -- leaks while the system is moving up, swap out the hydraulic manifold assembly for one that you know is working order. Only do this after checking the manual release valve and, if necessary, replacing it.
Trim Issues and Cylinder Leaks
If you find that your motor won't hold trim in either direction, or if you see a small leak around the seal of the hydraulic cylinder, install a new hydraulic manifold assembly. Should the problem persist, however, install an O-ring set for your particular model. If the symptoms still persist, swap out the hydraulic motor for a new one. Here, too, remember to check the manual release valve first.
- "Evinrude Repair Manual -- 2.5 to 250 HP Models, 2002-2007"; Seloc Marine; 2007
- "Mercury Marine Outboard Repair Manual - 2 to 250 HP 1990-2000"; Seloc Marine; 2007
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.