How do I install a cutlass bearing and what tips can you recommend?
Mark Matthews responds:
Cutless bearing extraction and installation varies a bit from boat to boat. The prop shaft generally has to be removed to replace the bearing. Most cutlass bearings are a friction fit and can be tapped out using a wooden dowel and a hammer. Others have set screws that need to be removed before the cutless bearing can come out.
Now, if the bearing starts putting up a fight and refuses to dislodge there are a couple of strategies worth trying. The first I’ll credit to a powerboating neighbor of mine who suggests spraying the bearing with a product called PB Blaster and then letting it sit for a while before having a capable mechanic remove it. That was on a 50-foot Hatteras, so you can understand why the mechanic might be necessary.
Another approach involves making your own extracter. If the cutless bearing is housed in a strut as it is on my boat, you can use a length of pipe, several fender washers, and a threaded rod to make a press. The length of pipe should be large enough in diameter to allow the cutless bearing to slide up inside it. On the other side of the bearing, put a fender washer and nut that fit inside the strut but over the bearing. Begin tightening from the pipe side, and the bearing should begin to press out.
For installing the bearing, you can cool it in ice to cause it to shrink minutely and then slide it in. Or you can lightly grease it and carefully tap it in. If there are set screws, use Locktite to hold them in place. Best of luck with your operation.