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Do you really need a spare propeller?

Do you really need a spare propeller?

Posted by Chris on Oct 26th 2021

Do you really need a spare propeller?

Michigan Wheel used to have a tagline, “Weekends last longer when you carry a spare propeller.” While I’m sure it helped sell a lot of propellers for them, it was not a marketing ploy. We highly recommend that everyone with a boat carry a spare propeller. Whether they buy from us or from somebody else, it can save a lot of frustration, money, and give peace of mind. I have broken out the reasons that we believe that this is a must below:

Safety:

I compare a spare prop to a spare tire on your car. Hopefully you won’t have to use it, but when you do, you will be glad that it is there. If you’re five miles from the boat launch, do you really want to try to paddle in or rely on another boater to give you a tow? Along with a spare prop, we also recommend carrying spare hardware (nut, cotter pin, thrust washer, or a hub kit if applicable) and a wrench to get the nut off. The chances of your nut or thrust washer being damaged are pretty slim, but if you drop one of them in the water and lose it, you won’t be able to run your prop.

Convenience:

How many times a year do you get to use your boat? For me, it is strictly weekends in the summer and a couple of trips a year. We get so many calls during the summer where a customer has damaged their prop, they don’t have a spare, and need one to save their weekend/vacation. This becomes an expensive problem (which I will get into below) and sometimes it is an impossible task. We often get these emergency calls on a Thursday or Friday and logistically cannot get a prop to some locations quickly. Many places, especially rural areas, do not have overnight or Saturday delivery and as I am writing this in 2021, we have seen issues stemming from COVID wreak havoc on the shipping industry and no shipments are guaranteed. Another thing to consider is that during the summer, repair shops can be out several weeks, so if you have a spare, you can put that on while your primary prop is being repaired and you do not miss any time out on the water.

Scarcity:

Due to explosive demand and supply chain issues, there has been an industry wide shortage of boat parts including propellers. We have had some outboard/sterndrive props on backorder for over a year, and have started carrying more brands in order to have something to sell, but even then, we sometimes don’t have anything that will work for a specific application.

Inboard propellers are all custom ordered from the manufacturer. Except for ski boat propellers, the manufacturers do not stock any props, they are all made to order. We do several large purchases a year for our inboard stock as well as special orders for smaller quantities. To get an inboard propeller it is 8-16 weeks depending on the manufacturer and shipping lead times. The issue with inboard propellers is that they are very specific to the boat, engine, gear ratio, weight, and other factors. This means that if the particular prop you need isn’t in stock anywhere, you are either waiting 8-16 weeks or you are buying something close to what you need and spending $100s-$1000s for a prop that may not work well for your application.

Costs:

We can ship an outboard propeller pretty much anywhere in the US for $15-$25 using regular ground shipping. If you need it next day, assuming it is available, you are looking at $80-$200+, and as I mentioned above, there are no guarantees that you will get it by the requested date.

Due to the increased weight and dimensions of inboard propellers, expedited shipping becomes much more expensive than ground. Also, if you can’t find exactly the inboard propeller that you need, we can usually pitch change or cut down a different prop to make it work (again, assuming that there is something close in stock.) This process increases cost and lead time.

While it costs some money up front, and hopefully you never have to put on your spare propeller, it can save you money in the long run. Add to that the convenience and peace of mind you get by having a spare, we think it is well worth the investment.