Transom Brackets For Small Outboards: Fulton Rates Best
In our test of eight transom-mounted brackets, the Fulton was the easiest to operate. Garelick's model for motors up to 20 hp earns runner-up honors, and OMC's unit deserves consideration.
The most common form of auxiliary propulsion for small sailboats is the outboard motor. On some boats, it is mounted in a well forward of the transom. Such arrangements conceal and protect the motor but may not allow it to be tilted up to get the prop out of the water when sailing. More common, perhaps is the mounting of a bracket on the transom. These generally have two positions—up and down—for lowering the motor’s prop into the water, and raising it. Brackets should be strong, durable, and, most importantly, easy to operate without having to hang out over the transom.
What Was Tested
We rounded up eight brackets from five manufacturers—Fulton, Garelick, Triangle, Minn Kota and Outboard Motor Corp. (OMC). Prices ranged from $95 to $380. All are manually operated, except for the electrically powered Minn Kota.
Early on we discovered that your choice depends not only on the outboard’s horsepower and weight but also on whether it’s a two- or four-stroke. We understood why weight and horsepower make a difference but weren’t sure why a four-stroke would require a special, and subsequently more expensive, bracket.
“It’s the increased torque and thrust of a four-stroke,” said Jayson Klade, a Fulton Industries technical representative. The four-stroke’s greater force imposes more stress on the bracket; therefore it needs to be stronger than a bracket for a two-stroke.
How We Tested
The main criteria for evaluation was ease of use, but also considered was the ease of assembly and mounting, quality of materials, price and instructions. We noted how sturdy each bracket was by shaking the motor from side to side and fore and aft while placing the bracket in several positions—a “wiggle test,” if you will. We also measured the range of motion, or vertical distance, of each.
To test, we collaborated with our sister publication, Powerboat Reports, whose editor owns a 21' walkaround with a large outboard; his interest was mounting a small backup “kicker.” We had a local machine shop weld up a stainless steel plate that could be bolted to his boat’s transom and used to mount the brackets.
Three motors were used—a 2000 Nissan 5-hp four-stroke, a 1980’s-era 9.9-hp Mercury two-stroke and a 1970’s 15-hp Evinrude. We hauled the boat, mounted each bracket and tried all three outboards on each one.
What Was Found
The three Garelick models, the four-stroke Fulton model and the OMC bracket included 3" bolts; the other Fulton bracket came with 2-1/4" bolts, too short for the 2-1/2" thick transom. This was annoying as no one likes to interrupt a project with a trip to the hardware store.
Minn Kota and Triangle included no hardware.
Instructions that came with most of the brackets were fairly good, advising where to mount them so the outboard could perform properly. Minn Kota failed to offer this information, and the Triangle came with no directions.
All but one bracket—the two-stroke Fulton—offered clearance between the motor and the bracket handle when tilted. Most used some sort of spring as its primary lifting and lowering mechanism. All except the Triangle and Minn Kota included raised strips of polypropylene or stainless steel on the mounting boards to prevent the motor from sliding off.
We were surprised that OMC and Garelick’s instructions advised that the motor be taken off before trail-ering the boat. We figured the brackets would face much more stress at sea than rolling down the highway. But representatives from both companies told us otherwise. A bump in the road can cause more damage than a large wave, they said.
“The G-forces are greater on the road,” said Dean Devore, OMC director of product development.
Only one bracket, the four-stroke Garelick, came with a safety harness to prevent the motor from sinking to the bottom if it came off the bracket.
All Fulton and Garelick models offered at least four levels to adjust outboard trim. Two of the three Garelicks—the up-to-8 hp and up-to-20 hp models—included flange-type brackets that allow you to convert the unit from a negative transom setup (an angle greater than 90°) to a positive transom (an angle less than 90°, seen mostly on sailboats). But the conversion involves swapping the brackets, reversing their position and adjusting the springs. Each of the five adjustment holes represents a 7° increment.
With most of the coil-spring models, you must be very careful while operating the bracket when it is not mounted on the boat. The force of the springs is so great that you could seriously injure yourself if you trigger the release with a finger or hand inside the mechanism. Garelick’s instructions provide several warnings; Fulton’s instructions do not.
Fulton: Two-strokes up to 10 hp
We found this model extremely difficult to raise, so much so that we had to put our left knee on top of the transom and our right foot in the motor well to gain enough leverage to move it. The difficulty stems from the unit’s lack of springs and the fact that you must simultaneously push the one-arm lever aft and up, which is very awkward. Lowering the unit wasn’t much easier.
Fulton representative Jayson Klade said the company recognizes this problem and may discontinue this model because of it. He said he has had calls from older owners who have had trouble moving a 2-hp outboard on this bracket.
The unit itself is solidly built, with an anodized aluminum bracket and a polypropylene mounting board. However, the bolts used to secure this board to the bracket were rusted. We suggest replacing them with stainless steel.
This was the only bracket that presented clearance problems. The Evinrude 15’s steering arm hit the bracket’s lever handle, and the Mercury’s choke smacked it when the motor was tilted.
Bottom Line: Not recommended, mainly due to the difficulty we encountered raising and lowering the unit.
Fulton: Two- and Four-strokes up to 30 hp
This model, also anodized aluminum, was much easier to operate than its little brother, due to its four springs, 1-3/4" wider stance and larger, two-arm lever. With all three engines, we needed only one hand to operate it.
However, we found two drawbacks. First, installation requires shimming (placing a 1"- to 2"-thick block of wood or aluminum between it and the transom) if mounted below the rubrail and on a flat transom, such as ours. Without a shim, the lever handle will hit the transom. In addition, shimming may require longer mounting bolts. Second, the springs obstruct eight of the 12 mounting holes, making installation more difficult. (Use a long screwdriver to bend the spring ends out of the way.) Fulton recognizes this design flaw and is working on it, said Klade.
Bottom Line: Recommended. The easiest to operate.
Garelick: Two-strokes up to 8 hp
The body of this unit is stainless steel. Its four torsion springs helped us lift and lower it easily. You can also lessen the spring tension by cutting up to three of the four springs if lowering the bracket is too difficult due to the use of a light motor.
Our main complaint with this bracket was the sloppy play (fore and aft) in the up position encountered during the wiggle test. Even with its locking mechanism engaged, the bracket afforded too much play.
Bottom Line: Easy to use but its sloppy play is a drawback.
Garelick: Two-strokes to 20 hp
This is essentially the same bracket as the smaller Garelick, except its longer body gives greater vertical travel, and it includes eight springs instead of four. We encountered no wobbling and found it to be even easier to operate than the smaller Garelick.
Bottom Line: Recommended. Only the Fulton four-stroke model is easier to operate.
Garelick: Two- and Four-strokes up to 30 hp
This model is well-made and the only one equipped with two locks and a safety harness. Unfortunately, we had great difficulty lowering all three outboards.
The motors were not heavy enough to overcome the unit’s spring-loaded tension. Garelick says it becomes easier after you get the feel for it. We never did. The company does not advise cutting the springs on this model, so we have little confidence that it will work with motors up to 15 hp. We’d only use it for heavier motors, such as those from 20 to 30 hp.
We also discovered that this unit requires shimming to be installed on a boat with a flat transom. (Like the small Fulton, we were only able to mount it because the stainless steel plate acted as a shim.) The directions do point this out: “Add a 1" shim if the release handle is at or below the rubrail or the top of the transom.” But some of the diagrams show a successful mounting on a flat transom. This is misleading and confusing to the installer.
Note: Garelick listed the wrong telephone number in the directions. The correct number is listed at the end of this story.
Bottom Line: Recommended only for use with engines from 20 hp to 30 hp.
OMC: Two- and Four-strokes up to 15 hp
Unlike the Fulton and Garelick brackets, this model operates with a gas-filled cylinder. It was easy to operate, accomplished by moving a small lever with a red handle to positions marked “raise” or “lower.” To lower, simply jerk the motor up slightly and push down; to raise, push down on the motor, and the lift unlocks and rises. However, unlike most of the others, the OMC does not have multiple positions for engine trim—only two, up and down.
“We’ve found that most people only use one level anyway,” said OM’s Devore. “Rarely do they want to change settings.” For $380, the most expensive motor lift in our group, the consumer might prefer this option. (The device’s shock alone costs about $100, according to Devore.)
Like Garelick, OMC warns against trailer travel with the engine on the boat. It goes a step further, though, advising the owner to attach a rope to the engine in “choppy water,” suggesting to us that the manufacturer is not very confident of its product. “Perhaps that could be worded better; we are just being overly cautious,” said Devore.
OMC recently introduced a larger bracket made of die-cast aluminum (the model we tested is a combination of die-cast and stamped aluminum) for outboard motors up to 125 pounds that retails for $380.
Bottom Line: Works very well, but price is a drawback.
Triangle: Up to 10 hp
This unit came without hardware or directions. Its wooden mounting board is susceptible to rotting because raw wood is exposed on the inside of its four mounting holes. In addition, we couldn’t safely attach the 9.9-hp Mercury because the 7"-wide mounting board was too narrow. The circular pads of the engine’s bolts hung off the plate. With no directions, we weren’t sure whether this bracket could hold four-stroke engines. We called Triangle, and a representative ruled them out.
Another concern is the spring on this stainless steel unit; it failed to hold the weight of the Nissan and Mercury motors. We discovered this abruptly when the Nissan came crashing down after we had released the locking mechanism. Needless to say, we believe that this bracket needs a stronger spring.
Bottom Line: Not recommended, due to its weak spring, very narrow and unprotected wooden mounting board.
Minn Kota: Two- and Four-strokes up to 20 hp
This was the only electrically powered (12V) bracket tested. We found installation easy, the directions simple and the motor, which turns a jack screw to raise and lower the mounting board, worked effectively.
Even though this unit is listed in the West Marine catalog, it is not intended for saltwater use, which explains the steel components (only the mounting board is anodized aluminum). Minn Kota may come out with a saltwater version in 2002, said spokesman Dave Golladay.
We thought the electrical connections were inadequate (for salt- or freshwater use), especially the two spade connectors that attach to the unit’s motor. They are directly exposed to the water.
The silicone meant to protect the motor’s housing was sloppily applied, hanging off and failing to cover certain spots.
The Minn Kota flunked our wiggle test. The two arms attached to the jack screw don’t offer enough support. We would attach a third arm—there’s room.
The jack screw is a potential problem, too, because it sticks out when the unit is up, leaving it open to be struck by the corner of a dock or other solid structure. Golladay said, “These are all very good points. We’re trying to enhance that product line. Our primary focus is trolling motors.”
Bottom Line: Not recommended. An automatic bracket is a great idea, and one we’d like to see developed, but the Minn Kota’s subpar materials and construction make it difficult to recommend.
The Fulton four-stroke bracket is our top choice for any size outboard. It does require some shimming, but its solid construction and ease of use place it ahead of the pack.
Our runner-up, the Garelick (up to 20 hp) was extremely easy to use, and it’s $60 less than the Fulton. But it’s limited to two-stroke engines, which leads us to this point: Because four-strokes are becoming more popular, it does not make sense for manufacturers to continue producing brackets for two-stroke use only. We think it only confuses the consumer. (For instance, we’ve received reader letters asking why some motor lifts are restricted to two-stroke motors.)
Case in point: A 5-hp four-stroke does not produce as much torque as a 20-hp two-stroke, and yet the Garelick (up to 20 hp) restricts all four-strokes.
The OMC bracket was also impressive, but you have to be willing to pay. The smallest Garelick worked well, but its failure in the wobble test is a concern.
We don’t think you should consider the other models because they had, in our opinion, too many flaws.
Contacts- Fulton Performance Products, Inc., 50 Indianhead Drive, P.O. Box 8, Mosinee, WI 54455; 715/693-1700. Garelick, PO Box 8, 644 2nd St., St. Paul Park, MN 55071; 651/459-9795. Minn Kota, Johnson Outdoors, 706 Holly Lane, Mankato, MN 56001; 800/227-6433. OMC, 3225 Prairie Ave., Beloit, WI 53511; 847/689-5630. Triangle, Inc., 51 Fernwood Lane, Roslyn, NY 11576; 516/365-8143.