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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I recently had a steering cable freeze up. After considerable time and effort, and 4 band aids later, i was able to break the cable loose, and properly service it. It moves silky smooth now.

After reassembly, I put the muffs on it and fired up the main to check the power assist module and make sure everything was working properly, and it works just fine...... But.....

I'm getting a slight noise change when turning the wheel to different positions in neutral. When i get the wheel turned to the center position, the sound disappears. I didn't try putting it in gear and testing this yet, but thought i'd ask what would cause a noticeable noise difference by turning to port or starboard? I never noticed this before, and if i have a problem , i'd just as soon nip it in the bud while i have it in my boat barn rather than a failure on the water of some kind..... Any ideas? or other tests i should do? The noise is hard to describe. Thanks, Kirk
 

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Sounds like you might have a u-joint going belly up. The shaft leaves the engine via the splined "coupler", then through a u-joint, then to the outdrive. It is turning all the time whether you're in gear or not. The shifting is done in the drive unit. It could also be the splined coupler wearing. My outdrive experience was on a Bravo 2 but I think they're similar.
PS, this info is worth about what you paid so just an idea. bb
 

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U-joint or gimbal bearing. Most likely the gimbal. A lot of mechanics say they're good for about 5 years, but in my experience, it's about 8-9 years. Older gimbals can be greased via a zerk on the outdrive, newer ones are sealed bearings and can't be greased.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
U-joint or gimbal bearing. Most likely the gimbal. A lot of mechanics say they're good for about 5 years, but in my experience, it's about 8-9 years. Older gimbals can be greased via a zerk on the outdrive, newer ones are sealed bearings and can't be greased.
I had the gimble bearings done about a year ago , along with a bellows replacement, lower shift cable, and water pump impeller . So I doubt that is the problem. This is a 1990 Bluewater.

How do you check out the U-joint? Are these serviceable? Can they be greased? Or do you just need to replace them? This issue may require taking it into my boat mechanic. I’m a bit hesitant tearing into my out drive with no experience or specialty tools. Kirk
 

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At potentially 30 years old with unknown history, I would be replacing them without question. The good news is that Alpha 1 drives are simple to remove. I believe there are 2 different kind of Alpha 1 U joints, with clips either inside our outside. They are common automotive U joints. The only issue with some is that the grease zerk may interfere with movement, I would purchase sealed units like you have from the factory to prevent any issue.
 

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Removal of the lower unit to service the U joint is fairly easy (I've done it, so there is that :)). Remove speedometer fitting, the aft end of the trim rams, and 6 bolts and it pulls out. My previous set of u joints had zerks but have since been replaced, not sure if they do now, hope so (had them last replaced at a shop when the bellows was replaced a few years ago) and as a matter of fact they are being serviced today, heard from the shop this morning :). Re-installation just takes the gasket/o ring kit. Place in forward gear for right hand drive when installing. Happy to send you the pages from the service manual if you like. I should think your u joints were serviced at the same time as the gimble bearing. I know lower unit service should be done every year but I am guilty of not quite that often, then again I don't use my boat as often as I should either. Mine is the 19' with the larger cuddy. Sometimes wish it had a little more fishing room but it is a great size for me to get in and out of the water in most conditions by myself for the most part.
Rob
 

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At potentially 30 years old with unknown history, I would be replacing them without question. The good news is that Alpha 1 drives are simple to remove. I believe there are 2 different kind of Alpha 1 U joints, with clips either inside our outside. They are common automotive U joints. The only issue with some is that the grease zerk may interfere with movement, I would purchase sealed units like you have from the factory to prevent any issue.
They may not be automotive u-joints. On my Gen II, there are 2 different styles, one being GKN (snap rings) the other being Meritor (circlips). I haven't tried matching mine up yet (that job is coming soon) but I watched a video of some yahoo changing his joints out, and he tried to outsmart Mercruiser by using a size chart with the dimensions of the OEM joints (something that I would've tried, I glad he saved me the trouble). By listed dimension, they were identical to an automotive joint, but Mercury got the last laugh by relocating the circlip groove. So he had to buy OEM type joints from Sierra.
Mercruiser Parts also shows the GKN joint as not having a zerk, and being black in color, and the Meritor with a center zerk and gray. That's their info. And yeah, you might have to change out the zerks if there's an interference issue. A flush zerk (or "button" type) usually takes up less room, but they're kind of a PITA to use. 45 and 90 degree zerks are the biggest in body size, and most likely to cause a problem.
Another thing is the bearing retainer in the driveshaft housing. The lugs might interfere with the u-joint press or the joint caps. Most people get around it by grinding or filing a corner off of a lug or two to get clearance. Try to force it, and you'll break the lug.

I had the gimble bearings done about a year ago , along with a bellows replacement, lower shift cable, and water pump impeller . So I doubt that is the problem. This is a 1990 Bluewater.
Not trying to question your mechanic, but I wouldn't rule out the gimbal without checking it out. They're easy to damage or install incorrectly. If you have the greaseable type, maybe give it a shot of gimbal grease and see what happens. Or water could have gotten to it as well. Ya never know.
 

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They may not be automotive u-joints.
If his drive is early 90s as it appears to be, it almost certainly uses the older style U joints. The Sierra part number is 18-2174, which is the same as a common Chrysler U joint, Spicer 5-789X, among others. I believe the change to the Sierra 18-6406 U joint was in the late 90s. That is the one the yahoo of youtube likely had issues with. I don't know of a cross reference to that one that actually works.

It's always easy enough to buy the Sierra U joints, they usually aren't too much more, but there are other options for the older drives that are a direct fit and will save money.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Well I certainly appreciate all the feed back and help with this. I’m going to rattle my mechanics cage today and see when he’ll have time to look at it. Typically things slow down a bit in his shop as Fall fades into winter, and I shouldn’t have a long wait time. I don’t really have a good place to try and pull this outdrive myself. My boat shed has a gravel floor, not concrete, and that outdrive is a bit much for me to muscle any more. At age 66 I use my head instead of my back anymore, and I think the only way I could pull that off is with help, or an outdrive lift. Getting it apart wouldn’t be an issue…. It’s getting things lined up correctly and back together that has me concerned. That and I don’t have an alignment tool.

think I better take it in and have it serviced, and let the pros take a look at it. Kirk
 

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You don't have to aline it to put it back together if you didn't change the gimble or repower. If you had the leg off a year ago, it should slide out fairly easy. Sometimes the ones that have been on awhile need some extra effort. You have to put the shifter in forward before you pull the leg to have access to release the paw fron the shift cable, you'll see it, no big deal on that. Sounds like maybe a u joint on the output drive shaft, but maybe not, a inspection is the only way to tell. If you do have it apart, also a good time to replace the water pump if its a few years old,,,gregg
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
You don't have to aline it to put it back together if you didn't change the gimble or repower. If you had the leg off a year ago, it should slide out fairly easy. Sometimes the ones that have been on awhile need some extra effort. You have to put the shifter in forward before you pull the leg to have access to release the paw fron the shift cable, you'll see it, no big deal on that. Sounds like maybe a u joint on the output drive shaft, but maybe not, a inspection is the only way to tell. If you do have it apart, also a good time to replace the water pump if its a few years old,,,gregg
Thanks for the reassurance bro. If my back was against the wall in full swing boating season, and I couldn’t get my mechanic to look at it for 4-6 weeks, I might be tempted to pull it apart myself and check things out with my limited experience. Fortunately things have slowed down in the boat shop as we ease into November and he can get me in on the 15th to service the outdrive and check things out with a trained eye.
My boating time this time of year is less too. A couple crabbing trips is all I’m missing this month. So I can live with it. Salmon season is done for me…. I typically drain my water to winterize in December, and don’t start fishing in earnest again until March/April for Spring chinook.

I’m going to try and be there when he pulls this outdrive, and watch the procedure if possible. It’s not a huge shop, and he may let me watch. The guy has been really helpful talking me through small repairs a few times, telling me to save the trip and do it myself. Lord knows they got plenty of work year round fixing boats.

I’ll follow up here with the findings after I get her home again, and share the mystery and repair / service needed.

Kirk
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I thought id do an update on this noise issue and let you know what it turned out to be....

Greg got the outdrive pulled, and sure enough, it was the gimble bearing. He said there was some water in the bellows too.

That surprised me considering i had those bellows all replaced about 18 months ago as well as the gimble bearing and the lower shift cable..... Also.... my bilge has been bone dry the last few times we took it out. Not even a teaspoon of water pulling the plug.

That sure doesn't seem to be a very long life span for new gimble bearings and bellows..... But it is what it is i guess....

How often do you guys grease the fittings on your out drive? I greased mine last spring, but didn't see the fitting for the gimble down towards the bottom. That might have played a part in it going out. Kirk
 

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I greased mine last spring, but didn't see the fitting for the gimble down towards the bottom. That might have played a part in it going out.
My Alpha doesn't have one either, but it's probably newer than yours. BUT- I had to replace mine after hitting a floater on the MC, and I let a dealer do the work since insurance was paying for it. They put an aftermarket drive in, but everything on it appears to be identical to the Mercruiser. I'm guessing you're not the original owner, so yours might have been replaced with a newer version. The zerk for the gimbal bearing is in the gimbal housing. If the mechanic got a sealed bearing, it probably came with a plug to replace the zerk.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
My Alpha doesn't have one either, but it's probably newer than yours. BUT- I had to replace mine after hitting a floater on the MC, and I let a dealer do the work since insurance was paying for it. They put an aftermarket drive in, but everything on it appears to be identical to the Mercruiser. I'm guessing you're not the original owner, so yours might have been replaced with a newer version. The zerk for the gimbal bearing is in the gimbal housing. If the mechanic got a sealed bearing, it probably came with a plug to replace the zerk.
That’s interesting….. I’m trying to wrap my head around how hitting a floater could effect the gimble bearings? You must have hit something pretty hard at a good rate of speed. Did you tear the outdrive loose?

The reason I ask is that I trashed out 4 props last year. Two of them hitting submerged pilings at trolling speed, and the last one I was on plane and hit a log or branch a bit harder. That one didn’t do much prop damage, but it whacked something pretty solid. The last prop I trashed I forgot to trim up the outdrive and hit the concrete ramp running it up on the trailer…..

Our boat is a 1990 Bluewater, and we bought it in the Spring of 2020. It was in surprisingly good shape over all to look at, and the motor ran well. But…. I had to really roll up my sleeves getting this old girl back in ship shape maintenance wise. Being my first inboard vessel, I learned a lot too.

Kirk
 

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That’s interesting….. I’m trying to wrap my head around how hitting a floater could effect the gimble bearings? You must have hit something pretty hard at a good rate of speed. Did you tear the outdrive loose?

The reason I ask is that I trashed out 4 props last year. Two of them hitting submerged pilings at trolling speed, and the last one I was on plane and hit a log or branch a bit harder. That one didn’t do much prop damage, but it whacked something pretty solid. The last prop I trashed I forgot to trim up the outdrive and hit the concrete ramp running it up on the trailer…..

Our boat is a 1990 Bluewater, and we bought it in the Spring of 2020. It was in surprisingly good shape over all to look at, and the motor ran well. But…. I had to really roll up my sleeves getting this old girl back in ship shape maintenance wise. Being my first inboard vessel, I learned a lot too.

Kirk
Snapped the outdrive in half. Had to replace everything except the engine. Also had to get the transom repainted. Boat was only about 6 months old. Didn't hurt the hull a bit, but ol' Sterny was annihilated. That's the bummer about stern drives; if it was an outboard, it would have just swung up out of the way, maybe tore up the prop and/or dinged the gear housing.
I hit the floater at about 30 MPH, with some help from my semi-son-in-law. It was quite the memorable evening. I apologize for the oil slick, but I was busy dealing with the water pouring in through the transom. Would've have been a hell of a time for the bilge pump to quit.
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Wow! I bet that was exciting….. hopefully you had a kicker to get you back to shore.

That was one of my first priorities when we bought our old boat was upgrading the bilge pump. I installed something with a larger discharge hose for emergencies , and kept the smaller pump for rain and smaller amounts of water taken on.

We had an opportunity to test out this new pump too not long after buying the boat too. One of the bellows split open, and turning hard over , or trimming up the outdrive was scary how fast that water was coming in.

Funny thing was, that it didn’t leak at all, or very little unless it was turned just right or trimmed up to high. I found it when we were fishing and thought I’d try trolling with the kicker with the main lifted clear up to see if it effected the steering on the trolling motor. The bilge pump was kicking on every 10 minutes and pumping a LOT of water. So I pulled the engine cowl and checked it out. As soon as we lowered the outdrive, it quit leaking completely while trolling….but…. When running the main only , it was still taking water on at different rates. I finally put the Admiral at the helm and had her turn the wheel back and forth while I inspected the bilge behind the motor….We were at the dock when doing this…. Bingo! Found the problem.

That is definitely an unsettling thought knowing that just one of those bellows hoses failing could sink your boat rather quickly if your bilge pump failed. I opted for a secondary pump. It was easily installed myself.

Kirk
 

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Definitely need two bilge pumps on a saltwater boat. I have my secondary bilge,, 2000 gph ,, mounted about a inch higher with it's own hose and thru hull. The primary bilge pump is 1000 gph and more then enough for normal conditions from a days fishing, the secondary never comes on even with guys in the back corner reeling/netting fish and water coming in the scuppers. Even if I were not to notice the indicator panel light on the dash for that secondary pump, if that big discharge stream shoots out that thru hull, there is something wrong and the bilge needs to be inspected right then,,,gregg
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
We don’t take this boat out in blue water and fish the ocean, but have spent enough time in the jaws and along the jetties to warrant a secondary motor, a back up bilge pump, and a marine radio.

Fishing big water like the Columbia can be humbling at times when the weather catches you way up or down stream and it stands up ….. even in a boat designed for it, it can be dicey….. I’ve had some white knuckle rides in smaller boats on that river that could have gone one way or the other. My wife doesn’t care for big water adventures, so I keep a close eye on boat maintenance to insure smooth sailing. Kirk
 
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