Boating has skyrocketed in popularity in recent times. Tired of lockdowns and desperate for fun, people have been snapping up watercraft and hitting the water like never before! Heck, boat sales in the US were up 10% last year alone.
You can’t blame people either. After all, whether you’re going fishing or frolicking as a family, few things in life are as enjoyable as taking your boat out on a sunny afternoon. Find ways to optimize your vessel’s performance, though, and the entire experience becomes even better!
That’s where boat props come into play. Trust us, changing or upgrading your propeller is one of the simplest ways to get more from your boat. It can impact everything from speed and fuel efficiency to its RPM.
The tricky part’s finding the best prop for the job! Want some help with the endeavor? Check out our boat propellers buying guide.
Know Thy Boat
The first rule of boat prop buying is that you have to understand your craft!
Think of it like buying yourself running sneakers. You can’t purchase any old pair and expect them to do the job. They have to be the right size, the right fit, and well-suited to your particular running style, right?
The same applies to boat props.
For instance, a big pontoon boat’s going to need a very different propeller to a speed boat. The recommended boat prop for the former vessel may require 4 larger blades with a big diameter and low pitch. The latter would be better off with a high-rake, high-pitch prop to accommodate the need for speed.
Don’t worry about those terms for now. The key take-away is that you’ll never be able to buy the best propeller without taking your actual vessel into account. Check the owner’s manual, engage on forums, and talk to the pros if you’re unsure of the specs that make sense.
Know Thy Needs
It’s one thing to understand your boat. It’s another to consider your needs.
Back to the running sneakers example. You could buy a pair that looks, fits, and feels great. But if your last pair didn’t offer enough ankle support or grip, then your new ones should address those issues too.
Think about the specific boat problems your prop needs to solve.
Are you struggling to hit top speed? Are you burning too much fuel on each outing? Or are there more fundamental issues related to its age, excessive ventilation, and blowouts?
What if you need to counteract the Magnus effect (where fluid pressure decreases when speed increases)? If that’s the case you may need to upgrade your stabilizers with something that mitigates the effect by rotating cylinders, reducing drag, and preventing speed issues at anchor or in motion.
Your answers to these questions will determine what you should look for in your new prop. In other words, set your goals before starting your search! It’ll narrow your focus, speed up your search, and guarantee you purchase an effective propeller.
Consider the Blades
Have a think about the number of blades you might need too. Once again, there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer. It’s a matter of addressing your specific boat and your individual needs.
Props tend to come with either 3 or 4 blades on them.
The most common varieties have 3 blades, which makes them the cheaper option. It also means you have a wider array of options in a variety of sizes to choose from. Expect them to produce faster speeds through the water on the whole.
4-blade props are less about speed (although they’re far from slow) and more about control. Your boat will feel smoother on the water and experience a greater degree of thrust. These attributes make 4-blade props a good choice if you enjoy water-sports where you pull people behind the boat.
Pitch Is All-Important
Most people think about sound when they hear the word ‘pitch’. In the boating industry, though, this word describes how far a single revolution would move the prop through the water. If you have a 10” pitch, for instance, then your propeller would propel your boat 10” per revolution.
Why is this important? Because it impacts everything from speed to the engine’s RPMs! More pitch equals lower RPMs and vice versa.
Imagine that your engine has a nasty habit of over-revving. Let that continue and it’ll eventually get damaged. Buying a prop with a higher pitch should lower those revs per minute and solve the problem.
As an aside, you should check the owner’s manual to find out the RPM range your engine should be hitting at Wide Open Throttle (WOT). You can then determine whether it’s performing as intended and buy a prop with a pitch to rectify the situation.
Consider the Material
The materials used to make a prop affect its performance and price-tag too. In general, you’ll be choosing between aluminum and stainless steel options.
As you’d expect, aluminum props are lightweight, versatile, and a good choice for most boat owners. The ubiquity of the material also makes it a cost-effective option. Alas, you can expect aluminum propellers to weaken over time too (especially after repairs).
Stainless steel props are stronger, stiffer, and higher-performing. The qualities of this material also lend it to thinner blades, more technical designs, and faster speeds in the water. Those attributes come at a price, though!
You’ll always pay more for stainless steel versus aluminum props. But you could treat this as an investment. The extra strength and durability mean they’re longer-lasting, less susceptible to damage, and less likely to require expensive repairs.
Remember This Guide to Choosing the Best Boat Props
More and more Americans are experiencing the joys of owning a boat nowadays. Are you one of them? Well, sooner or later, there’ll come a time when you want to maximize its performance and kick the experience up a notch.
When it does, upgrading your boat prop will be an effective way to do it. Hopefully, the insights in this article will prove useful in that regard! Keep these ideas in mind and you should be one step closer to recognizing the best outboard boat props when you see them.
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