Saturday, March 24, 2012

Morse MT-3 Engine Controls

These have always been a bit of a mystery to me. The manual suggests annual lubrication--probably not needed on a PDQ 32, since they are under cover--which I never did. There are no visible fasteners and the direction always made it sound like major surgery, which I have been avoiding with some guilt until...

... I prepared to leave my anchorage this morning and the starboard handle fell limp. Oh, it would shift gears and felt normal when doing so, but the engine wouldn't rev. If the handle was pulled out as you do to adjust the throttle with the engine in neutral, the handle was limp. When I removed the engine cover and moved the throttle from there, everything felt normal and the engine was fine. I could only assume I had torn the head off the cable or that some crucial and unobtainable small part had disintegrate. Visions of boat bucks melting away filled my eyes.

Opening the control for a better look turned out to be easy:
  • Leave the handles on. They aren't in the way and will help with trouble shooting.
  • Remove the 4 screws that hold the control head to the bulkhead. Lift about 2 inches.
  •  Remove 2 screws about 3/4-inch below the mounting flange, one fore and one aft. Both are in recesses and hold the cover haves together. No other fasteners need be removed and no spring-loaded parts will fly out.
  • Pull the 2 halves apart. While you're in there, grease everything, including the exposed cable. In my case, after 14 years, the factory grease was just running thin but not gone; however, in more exposed locations, lubrication every year or 2 would be smart. Check for loose bolts--I found a few. 

The problem was delightfully simple. An E-clip (a type of external retaining ring) had fallen off of the throttle control lever and allowed the cable to come free from the control. Why? In part, because a pair of screws retaining the cable end had loosened and allowed the cable angle to change. In part, because the clip was stainless and not all that strong. I replaced it with a spring steel clip, buried in grease.

Carrying a few spare clips might be smart (5/16-inch E-clip--be aware these come in 2 thicknesses and that the thicker ones will not fit the shaft grove). The motor end controls are also 5/16-inch clips (a different design, and I have had failures there as well--the same E-clips will fit).


  1. This sort of thing always embarrasses me: Stuff falls apart because I've ignored maintenance. This is typically the time when I have an epiphany: "That's why the 'authorities' recommend maintenance of..." Nothing like learning the hard way - for me, anyway.

  2. This is very often true, but if we add up all the maintenance we should do against a few failures, I guess there is a balance to be struck. In this case, the lubrication was still fine. I might have noticed the loose bolts sooner.. or not.

    Then there are the maintenance items where the manufacturer hasn't done anything to help: pulling the lower units on outboards, winches that must be removed for full service (often mounting bolts are above a ceiling), windlass gearing (generally horrible to get to), steering gear, and tanks with no access holes.

    It's not all our fault. No guilt.