aka $tingy Sailor
Join Date: May 2013
Location: E Washington
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Re: Old boat, new looking keel bolts
It's not as hard as it seems. Assuming you have that couple inches of clearance between your keel and the trailer, take most of the slack out of the keel winch cable but not entirely. You want the cable to hold the aft end of the keel in place but give it room to pivot down in front.
Place a jack under the keel directly below the pin and be sure it has a solid base. You don't want it to pivot with the weight of the keel on it. Raise the jack to the keel tight but not enough to lift anything. At this point, you want check for lateral movement of the keel on the pin. Too much can indicate a worn keel hole and will cause excessive wear and noise when the boat heels as the keel "clunks" between the brackets and/or trunk. It's heavy, so it can take some serious horsing around to move the keel. If there's no slop, it's a good thing.
Loosen all of the bolts a little at a time, rotating between all four bolts so that the brackets loosen evenly and come straight down. You don't want a bracket to wedge in the recess or torque a bolt sideways. As the keel weight comes off the brackets and onto the jack, the brackets will get loose until you can remove the bolts. Keep straight which bolts came from which bracket. On my boat, the bracket on one side is thicker than the other and the bolts longer. If you mix them up, you might not get the brackets tight again and they won't stay still for long and you don't want them coming loose while in the water. You can see where that's going. The brackets should be loose at this point but still in their recesses and the keel should not have lowered much, if any, and the pin is still concealed.
Slowly lower the jack until you can pull the brackets off the pin and get a good view of the pin. Keep straight which bracket goes on which side, they might not fit otherwise. The very top of both ends of the keel should still be a little way in the trunk, which, together with the winch cable, will keep it from falling over.
Inspect the ends of the pin, the sockets in the brackets, and the pin fit in the keel for excessive wear. Some will be normal. None means it was either recently replaced or the previous owner took really good care of it.
To put it back together, basically reverse your steps. Unless you know that the bolts were recently replaced, now is a good time to replace them with new ones using non-permanent LockTite. CD sells a bolt kit complete with the LockTite.
ONLY use a good torque wrench to tighten the bolts to the proper spec. You don't want to snap one off and it's easy to do. Don't ask me how I know this. They can be removed, but it's a chore you don't want to have to do ever. It can easily go bad and the remedy is even uglier.
There's lots of debate and misinformation about how tight. My owner's manual came with an addendum that advised 35 ft. lbs. That will almost guarantee they will snap either going in or (not) coming out. Some guys go 20. The Engineer's Handbook states 138 in. lbs., which is about 12 ft. lbs. That will seem really, really low. I think I went 15 last time. That's why the LockTite, new lock washers, and frequent inspection and torque testing is critical. You don't want to worry about those bolts when you're trying to have a good time out there.
This is long but hopefully it's enough to get you through it. If I missed anything, hopefully somebody else will be kind enough to fill it in. Plan on doing this at least annually so that you catch any abnormal wear early and you don't have to resort to major repairs.
Good luck and enjoy the boat. You're going to love it!
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