By: Grid Michal
I have heard of and seen two different ways to position the outdrive for winter storage: full up and out of harm’s way, or full down to relieve the pressure on the hydraulic system. Is there any real harm to the hydraulics when you leave the drive up for the winter months, or is it truly best to store the boat with the outdrive fully deployed in the down position?
A lot depends on the outdrive type. Because it takes less hydraulic pressure to lower a drive than to raise it, sometimes folks with MerCruiser Alpha drives — and, rarely, Bravo — find that upon spring commissioning, the drive is stuck in the Up position and requires all kinds of jumping on the drive, or fluid draining, to lower it. You’ll find that problem mostly in areas where the unit has been used in salt water and corrosion has built up behind the ram seals. I haven’t seen the problem in any type of dual-prop drive, but since they have the same sort of setup, assume it can happen — though the dual-prop systems have much more weight to assist in lowering the drive.
If you want to compromise, you could run the drive all the way up, then place a two-by-four board where it won’t damage the boots or the rams and lower the drive lightly onto the board. That will take most of the hydraulic pressure off the system, keep the unit safely up for reversing the trailer and give you a fighting chance in the spring by allowing you to push the drive upward first. Obviously, if the drive rams are sticking on corroded seals, it would be best to replace them and make this whole conversation moot. Except the two-by-four part.