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(August 2001, pg 41, continued on pg 43)

by Rich Armstrong

 

The Soundings 2008 Article

The Nation's Boating Newspaper

 

Cheap Fix For Gimbal Bearing Problem

 

Ed Hamlin is a mechanic with a busy central Florida shop and a life long love of boating. About four years ago he discovered that the gimbal housing on one of his twin 260hp MerCruiser outdrives was leaking, and the universal joints and gimbal bearing inside were corroding. When he brought his 1986 Regal Commodore 277 to his local yard, he was surprised by the $3000.00 estimate.

"I said, 'You've got to be kidding,' " recalls Hamlin, 42, owner of Tune-up Specialties and Marine in Longwood, Fla. "I found out that if you've got a MerCruiser and have this problem, there's no easy way to repair it. And I figure there's got to be a better way."

Hamlin believes he's come up with a quick easy and relatively inexpensive solution. Hamlin says his Gimbal Housing Repair Kit for MerCruiser outdrives can mean the difference between a bill of $3000 or more and one for about $600.

"One good thing about the repair kit is that you get your boat back in the water in a hurry," Hamlin says.

The trouble usually begins with a tear in the rubber bellows that protects the gimbal bearing and universal joints, allowing salt water to damage the components, says Hamlin. To repair the gimbal housing, the engine has to be removed and extensively disassemble.

Hamlin's $279.95 Kit consists of a tapered PVC ring designed and tooled to fit snugly on the transom shield. Waterproof epoxy seals the ring to the shield and a MerCruiser universal joint bellows. The bellows is installed onto the bell housing just like with a normal bellows replacement.

The entire job should take about two hours, according to Hamlin.

The kit took Hamlin about six months to develop, and he tested it on his own boat for three years before bringing the kit to the market.

"I took three trips to Key West and back, down to Bimini, just looking for vibrations and weaknesses," Hamlin says. The kit is still holding together fine, he says. As of late May, Hamlin counted 90 of his kits installed, "with zero failures." He says the kit comes with a one-year warranty.

Hamlin says he's seeking corporate backing for his kit and has tried unsuccessfully to interest Mercury Marine in the product.

"Since we haven't been involved in the development or had a chance to evaluate the product, we can't comment on it," says Tom Mielke, director of public relations and marketing communication for Mercury Marine.

"We certainly recommend customers replace parts on their MerCruiser engines with genuine MerCruiser parts, which come with a factory warranty and are engineered and built to our standards," Mielke adds.

Of course Hamlin says, annual servicing of the drive can help a boater discover a leak before it becomes a major problem. However, the only way to detect housing corrosion is to pull the drive, which typically adds $100 to $150 to the bill, he says.

Hamlin says he can ship the kit anywhere in the world (UPS, for an additional $5 to $8 typically). A special tool is required for installation, which Tune-up Specialties sells for $11.

For Information visit www.ghrkits.com or contact Hamlin at (407) 925-4474.

E-mail: ghrkits@aol.com

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