Who Needs A Transom Saver?

By Scott Henze

Some boatbuilders think they're vital, while others are offended at the idea.

Photo of a transom saver

Are transom savers essential protection for your boat and motor, or simply snake oil designed to drain an extra nickel from you? It depends on whom you talk to. My assumption before writing this article was that they are, at the very least, a good idea if not a requirement. In some cases, this is true. The deeper I delved into this, however, I discovered that isn't necessarily so.

Getting to Yes and No

Its name would imply that the transom saver is a device designed to protect your boat's transom from undue stress while trailering your boat. A common argument against the need for one of these is that the forces exerted upon your transom during typical boating conditions greatly exceeds those encountered while trailering. To clarify this point of contention, I went directly to the source and contacted several major boat manufacturers to get the official company line and was surprised by what I found. Not only did the majority of the boatbuilders I contacted dismiss the need for a transom saver, but a couple of them seemed to almost be offended by my calling into question the structural integrity of their hull. As one tech put it, "You will be hard-pressed to find any builder willing to admit that their transom isn't strong enough to handle the load," and he was right. Tracker Boats, on the other hand, endorses their use and includes a "motor toter" with all of their packages. These findings fall in line with the general notion that smaller jonboats and bass boats are more susceptible to transom damage due to their higher motor-to-boat weight ratio. Aluminum boats also seem to be more prone to damage (broken welds, popped rivets) than heavier, reinforced fiberglass transoms.

Ranger Boats is another transom saver advocate. "There is a great deal of impact on the transom while traveling down the highway," notes Ranger's Trailer Engineer Rick Huddleston, "and a transom saver [connected to the rear cross member of the trailer] is far more effective at preventing stress at the engine bracket and transom than using the 'tilt/lock' feature on many outboard motors."

Indeed, many outboards trailered across the country are set in the "up" position and held in place only by the powertrain tilt/lift system support. Advocates of this idea point to the fact that the weight of the powerhead is shifted forward so the transom actually is used as a fulcrum of sorts. It may work but one must remember the power tilt on an outboard was never designed to support the engine for trips over potholes and dirt roads, other than to lift it when in shallow water or when leaving the boat ramp.

Mercury, for example, recommends trailering with the motor in the full vertical position, and no additional support is required. If this is not possible due to limited ground clearance, additional support is recommended. Newer Evinrudes, on the other hand, have a built-in spring-loaded support that completely eliminates the need for an aftermarket product. One universal word of caution is that the outboard's tilt bracket is designed to support the motor during maintenance or storage only and should never be used when trailering.

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If You Use One:

  • Put the engine in gear so the propeller doesn't spin while underway.
  • Many boaters have said the transom saver works great except when they'e leaving home, where the outboard's skeg bottoms out as the trailer goes from the raised driveway to the street, or returning, where the reverse happens.

 

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