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Ask Capt. Gary

June 26, 2018

Making a Swim Platform and Replacing a Trim Tab Actuator

Nobody asked, but I’m going to tell you anyway.
Here are two fairly simple projects. One was necessitated by a trim tab that crapped out, the other by a swim platform that was in falling-apart-to-unsightly-to-unsafe condition. The swim platform (for an outboard) first.
The origi
nal platform - on the port side of the outboard - was chalky as hell, had some cracks that someone already sliced their foot on, and just look plain old cruddy. Plus, I needed to fix the trim tab on that side, and the platform would have to come off anyway.
To my surprise, after a strenuous internet search, I couldn’t find just “a” platform. Everything came with braces and a ladder, and I’d already upgraded the ladder to a good collapsing three-stepper. After some more searching, I came across Boat Outfitters (www.boatoutfitters.com) and scored an 18 x18 x .75-inch piece of Starboard for the project. The cost was $46 (damn shipping was $10!). Most good marine supply/chandleries carry the stuff.
Taking off the platform was simple (don’t toss it. It’ll be the template for the new one). I had to squirt some WD-40 on two bolts and use a Vise-Grip, but otherwise, it was a snap. Man! It was definitely dirty under there and it took some serious elbow grease and several applications of Davis’ FSR to get the stains and crud off the transom. But it was long overdue for that.


Tools
I’ve got everything to do this project. Working with Starboard is no different than working with wood, but it is a bit messier.
Jig saw.
Table saw (a skill saw will work if you can cut a straight line with it. I can’t, thus the table saw).
Router (you can purchase the piece with the edges already routed for an extra $10).
Power drill.
Marker (use a pencil).
Screwdrivers and wrenches (the usual nut-and-bolt stuff).
Stainless hardware (you could use the old hardware, but why?).
Spring hand clamps (you’ll need something to keep the old swim platform and the new exactly lined up, so you can pre-drill holes).
Shop-Vac (if you’re cutting or drilling Starboard, it’ll get everywhere).
 
Doing It
This is fairly straight forward. Clamp the old platform to the new material, trace it out, and cut to size. Test for fit, then re-clamp and drill the holes for the mounting hardware. Don’t forget to pre-drill for your ladder. My platform had to have a cut out for the trim tab actuator, so I rough cut that with the jigsaw, then routed all the edges top and bottom. Then I routed the edges of the entire platform (as noted, you can buy a piece with the edges finished). I just had to take off about two inches-plus off one side (keep it so you can check your router settings). I was going to cut drainage slots across the platform but decided on doing just drainage holes. I used a one-inch spade bit to drill the holes (the Starboard makes cool looking plastic ribbon scraps with the spade bit). That’s it. Remount it and you’re done.
This is a 1-1/2 on the Boating World difficulty scale of 1 to 5.
 
Trim Tab Actuator Replacement
My portside actuator quit at the end of last season (which was January 28 for me. Long story). Mine are Lenco electronic trim tabs and have worked trouble free since I’ve had Irish G’bye.
First, I had to find out where the problem was. For starters: the Lenco Marine folks are, extremely knowledgeable and helpful about their product. Their troubleshooting number is 772-288-2662, ext. 452570. Put that in your phone.

Tools
The usual electrical cutters, strippers, splicers, etc.
Waterproof butt connectors.
Phillips head screwdriver.
Shrink tubing.
A small wrench or two (if you’re disassembling an older actuator).
3M 5200.
 
Doing It
All the wires were solid from the switch to the control box. When I pressed the port switch, the clicking sound in the control box was a different tone than the one on the starboard side which was still working. From this point, you’ll want to check down the line. This can be problematic because in most cases, the line is going to be buried in your boats innards. My portside tab was spliced into the mainline, so I opened the line at the splice and threw the ohmmeter on it, and it was getting juice, so I knew the actuator (the black tube-thing that controls the trim tab’s up-and-down movement) was shot. Problem one solved.
Removing the tabs is a bit of pain the way I did it, what with marine growth, corrosion, etc., but was accomplished with nary a cut knuckle. You’ll need some different sized tools … a set of mini-pliers came in very handy when removing the barrel of the actuator (especially if it’s an older model. The new ones have a Phillips head barrel screws) from its top seal plate. The simpler (and much, much smarter!) way is to leave the actuator “foot” attached to the trim tab and merely pop out the Delrin pin which connects the actuator to the foot. This is accomplished with a blunt punch (yes, Phillip’s head screw driver will work) and few light taps from a hammer. Then you can remove the top to see if it’s just a motor problem with a lot less pain and effort.
Okay. So now you have the actuator in hand. Twist the foot (remember, I disassembled mine from the top cap) and … if water squirts out, you now know why the thing ain’t working. It’s supposed to be watertight. Mine wasn’t, nor was it rust free. What a mess.
I further separated the motor from the actuator and everything had water in it, so I put it down and did what I usually do when I’m doing something I don’t know anything about. I hemmed and hawed, shopped online (there are some good videos for tackling this project) and otherwise procrastinated.
Bottom line was I wasn’t going to get away with replacing the motor ($55 on e-Bay with new seals) but would have to go for the complete actuator. I finally hit the “send” button when I found a good price at Hodges Marine and had the new Lenco Marine actuator in hand four-days later. The unit comes complete with about 15 feet of cable pre-attached to the actuator, a Deutsch connector and two new Delrin pins.
From here on it merely a case of reversing the steps, taking the old wire out, sliding in the new (remember: you’re going through your transom. Lenco has a rubber gland/seal/washer which comes with a new upper actuator mount. I — and this probably isn’t bright — used 3M 5200), splicing it into the control line (the Deutsch connector was buried somewhere mid-boat, so I simply cut the old line at the splice and re-spliced into the line; I used waterproof butt connectors and shrink tubing to make sure everything stays dry) and … presto. A new trim tab. The new Delrin pins go in a lot easier than they came out; line everything up, tap, tap and they’re in.
A DIY caution: I’m sure almost everything I did voids a warranty of some kind. But you knew that, didn’t you?
Good luck … see ya’ on the water.


 

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