How to Replace a Gimbal Bearing

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Only three things cause a gimbal bearing to fail. These are: improper lubrication, an improperly aligned engine or a torn U-joint bellows, which lets water in. A turn of the wheel in either direction causes the bearing to make an unmistakable growling sound when a gimbal bearing goes bad. Once the bearing starts to growl, the owner can be sure that he has a costly repair on his hands. That is because most boat owners will call on a boat mechanic to do this type of repair. On the other hand, those with mechanical skills and a toolkit can perform the task themselves.

Things You'll Need

  • Toolkit
  • Phillips-head screwdriver
  • Utility knife
  • 5-pound slide hammer
  • Three claw gimbal bearing puller
  • Permanent marker
  • Gimbal bearing driver
  • Snap ring pliers
  • Hammer
  • Engine alignment tool
  • U-joint bellows
  • Exhaust bellows
  • Bellows adhesive
  • Remove the boat from the water. To prevent damage to the propeller, remove it from the output shaft using whatever tools are necessary from a toolkit.

  • Remove the nuts and flat washers that hold the power trim pistons on the piston studs. Remove the pistons and suspend them out of the way by running a piece of rope through the eyes of the power pistons tying the ends of the rope to any object above the work area.

  • Unscrew the nuts from the out drive mounting studs in the bell housing. Slide the out drive off the mounting studs. Set the out drive aside.

  • Remove the two screws that hold the trim sensor and trim stop on the sides of the bell housing with a Phillips-head screwdriver. Remove the trim sensor and stop.

  • Remove the pins or bolts attaching the bell housing to the gimbal housing, exposed after removing the trim stop and trim sensors.

  • Sever the U-joint bellows using a utility knife while pulling back on the bell housing. Sever the exhaust bellows. Let the bell housing hang down out of the way.

  • Remove the snap ring in front of the gimbal bearing, if applicable, from the gimbal housing with a snap ring pliers and discard it.

  • Screw the threaded end of a 5-pound slide hammer into a three-jaw gimbal bearing puller.

  • Depress the jaws of the puller and slip them inside the inner race of the gimbal bearing. The spring-loaded jaws will expand to grab the back of the bearing's outer race. Move the slide portion of the slide hammer away from the boat rapidly and forcefully until it hits the stop at the end of the slide hammer. Do this several times until the gimbal bearing is out of the gimbal housing.

  • Align the open end of the tolerance ring on the outside of the gimbal bearing with the lubrication hole. Make a mark on the front side of the bearing that corresponds with the position of the lubrication hole. The front side of the bearing is the side with two elongated notches. Make another mark on the outside lip of the gimbal housing that corresponds with the grease fitting on the gimbal housing.

  • Slip the gimbal bearing into the gimbal housing, making sure that both marks are aligned. Insert a gimbal bearing driver into the inner race of the gimbal bearing. Strike the other end of the bearing driver with a hammer until the bearing seats. Remove the bearing driver.

  • Slide an engine alignment tool into the inner race of the gimbal bearing and then into the engine coupler. If the engine alignment tool does not slip into the engine coupler, align the engine.

  • Clean the exhaust port on the boat side. Apply bellows adhesive to the inside of the new exhaust bellows. Slide a clamp over the end of the exhaust bellows, slip the exhaust bellows onto the exhaust port and tighten the bellows clamp in its original position.

  • Slide a bellows clamp onto the bell housing side of the U-joint bellows. Apply bellows adhesive to the inside of the bell side of the U-joint bellows. Slip the bellows onto the bell housing and tighten the clamp in its original position.

  • Slide a bellows clamp onto the other end of the U-joint bellows. Apply bellows adhesive to the inside of the U-joint bellows. Slip the gimbal side of the U-joint bellows in the bell housing onto the shoulder on the gimbal housing. Check the position of the U-joint bellows on the gimbal housing by sticking one hand inside the U-joint bellows and feeling the connection between the bellows in the gimbal housing. Adjust the position of the U-joint bellows on the gimbal housing as necessary. Allow the bellows adhesive to set up. Tighten the bellows clamp its original position.

  • Align the holes in the sides of the bell housing with the holes in the gimbal housing. Reinsert the bolts or pins that attach the two. Reinstall the trim sensor and trim stops.

  • Slip a clamp on the bell side of the exhaust bellows. Apply bellows adhesive to the inside of the exhaust bellows and slide the bellows onto the exhaust port on the bell housing.

  • Slide the input shaft of the out drive through the gimbal bearing and into the splines in the engine coupler while aligning the out drive mounting studs on the bell housing with the mounting holes in the out drive. Push the out drive in until it meets the bell housing. Screw the nuts back onto the out drive mounting studs and tighten them.

  • Untie and remove the rope suspending the power trim pistons. Slip the studs on the sides of the out drive into the holes in the power trim pistons. Slide a flat washer onto each stud. Screw the nuts onto the studs and tighten them. Attach the propeller, completing the replacement of the gimbal bearing.

Tips & Warnings

  • Since power train manufacturers have different procedures for removal and replacement of power train parts, and wrench sizes vary from power train to power train, refer to the power train manufacturer's and boat builder's shop manuals for specific instructions.
  • Out drives are very heavy. Enlist the help of another person when removing or replacing one.
  • Do not rest the weight of the out drive on the input or output shaft. Damage may result.
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