Mailport September 2017 Issue

Rebuilding a Water-Damaged Torqeedo Motor

Travel 801L
The original Travel 801L we tested in 2008 (since replaced by the Travel 1003) is still operating.

We’re been following the Torqeedo portable electric outboard since our first test of the Travel 801 in 2008. Since then, we’ve put two of these motors into long-term service on test boats. Both are still operating with no major problems, but we have received a few reports from disappointed owners. PS reader John Poindexter, a retired naval officer who sails on the Chesapeake Bay, sent us an account of his experience with the Torqeedo.

The Torqeedo Travel 1003 was purchased in 2013 from West Marine at Annapolis Boat Show and saw little use. At the beginning of the 2017 sailing season, Poindexter tried to start the motor and received error E45 on startup. Torqeedo tech support said there was probably water in motor housing. Since the motor was out of warranty, he decided to open the motor housing.

Upon pulling the prop, he found inner and outer washers and prop-pin were badly corroded and in pieces. According to Torqeedo, these components are now made of more corrosion resistant material. It appears the rust from these components might have degraded the shaft seal, leading to further damage.

When he opened the prop side of housing which contained the reduction gear, there was a small amount of water. On the motor side of the housing, he found some moisture coating the electronics and corrosion on the outside of the electric motor, indicating that moisture had entered this area as well.

One way water might travel between these areas is by following the power cable conduit. The reduction gear side and the motor side has an opening where the power cables come down from the battery. This connection can be seen on the right side of Photo 3 (top right; indicated with an arrow); so there is communication between the two areas.

It appears the initial cause of the water intrusion was a failure of the O-ring seal on the motor side of the housing. There was no physical damage to the motor housing, fin or pylon.

Here are some other observations he made regarding the experience.

• Owners should receive notice of the new prop shaft parts so that the more corrosion-prone ones can be been replaced.

• The motor needs a better seal. Four screws seated in plastic hold the three-part (plastic-aluminum-plastic) assembly together like a sandwich and compress the O-rings. More screws from each side seated in the aluminum would allow more torque on the screws and more compression around the circumference.

• The power and control plugs are very fragile and make it difficult to make a good connection.

• Assemblers must apply a dielectric grease on the contacts regularly and be careful in screwing on the connectors.

• He could find no detailed repair manual for users beyond changing the prop.

• He could locate no exploded view of parts.

• There is a lack of repair facilities—nothing in the Annapolis area which is sailing capital of the United States.

• A two-year warranty is too short for such an expensive piece of gear.

Because of the complexity of ensuring a good seal, Torqeedo recommended replacing the entire pylon assembly, which extends from the motor to the battery. The price of this assembly is $631 plus shipping. They gave him about 30 percent discount, easing the pain somewhat. He said Daniel Witczak in customer support was very helpful with the technical details. Perhaps the design engineers at Torqeedo will take note of some of these observations as they develop new models.

Comments (7)

Be curious to see how long the useful life is, and the total cost (mentioned earlier)

So many people love my 1968 Evinrude mate outboard... still runs great.. like new..and its 49 years old. I can get gas anywhere, and most of the parts are still available!

How valuable and useful will the battery operated outboards be in 2-3-4-5 decades? Will the batteries and parts still be available? How DIY friendly is it to service?

It kinda reminds of a battery operated drill, after 10 years, the batteries are hard to come by, as there is new technology, and the battery cost is close to the price of another drill! Almost to the point that most battery operated tools are virtually disposable. Why pay $90 for a drill battery when a new drill with 2 new batteries is $119?

I would find it amazing someone buying a $500-1000 battery on a decade or 2 old electric outboard. Maybe they will . .. but with technology marching forward, i doubt many would..if the battery (or the company) is still in business.

I think we are at the bleeding edge, but the cost is still way disproportionate to the usefulness compared to time proven gasoline outboards

Posted by: Phantomracer | September 29, 2017 10:05 AM    Report this comment

Before purchasing I always consider TCO (total cost of ownership). I know all of us love the idea of electric, it's even being explored for small airplanes, but the cost to own vs the usefulness in range and reliability is not compatible with gas power. A travel 1003 costs double that of a comparable gas outboard. $1200 of gas in a 3hp outboard will take you a very long way. Much further than batteries which must be replaced after 5-6 years of use which is a cost of an additional $650. Sure it can be argued that there are more moving parts in a gas motor vs an electric but cost of maintenance is still higher for electric than gas and whereas you can usually find a mechanic on every spit of land, try finding someone who will work on an electric. When TCO comes down for electric and reliability goes up, I will reconsider but for now I'm staying with my gas motor.

Posted by: seabob | September 27, 2017 9:48 AM    Report this comment

Been thinking hard about getting one.

I am discouraged. Very discouraged.

Hope Torqeedo will have some response.

Posted by: wrapper | September 27, 2017 7:36 AM    Report this comment

I bought a travel 1003 in June, 2016. In July, 2017 as I attempted to return to mt boat I realized that the screen on the tiller was dead. I checked the connections and they showed no corrosion or any other problem. Since I had bought the outboard in Kos, Greece I contacted the dealer there and he contacted the main service center in Athens.
After many calls and waiting for a week for a reply I gave up. The only thing we heard from them was that they were very busy. We found solace in Turkey but' unfortunately they charged us about $ 50 even though it was Torqeedo service center. The problem was a disconnected cable inside the tiller.

Posted by: harmanci | September 27, 2017 4:39 AM    Report this comment

I bought a travel 1003 in June, 2016. In July, 2017 as I attempted to return to mt boat I realized that the screen on the tiller was dead. I checked the connections and they showed no corrosion or any other problem. Since I had bought the outboard in Kos, Greece I contacted the dealer there and he contacted the main service center in Athens.
After many calls and waiting for a week for a reply I gave up. The only thing we heard from them was that they were very busy. We found solace in Turkey but' unfortunately they charged us about $ 50 even though it was Torqeedo service center. The problem was a disconnected cable inside the tiller.

Posted by: harmanci | September 27, 2017 4:39 AM    Report this comment

Had similar experience with corrosion and plug fragility. Transom screws froze and required an extraordinary effort to free.

Posted by: Phil J | September 26, 2017 4:14 PM    Report this comment

We have experience similar issues with our Travel 1003 purchased in 2013. In first year after a rain with only the shaft on a dinghy got an error message and "no gps" message. Torqueedo told me it was overcast conditions and after awhile it did get gps and started about 1/2 hour later. Later after sitting in dry locker got error message E45, played with it, unplugged and replugged cables and again after about 1/2 hour it came on. Most recent just a month ago, after storing in dry locker for a period of nearly 6 months, charged the battery and put it on dinghy, again error messages (2 different ones) and it wouldn't start. Again unplugged everything, replugged cables and played with throttle and it eventually started. GPS and battery monitor said it was full 100%, took it out to test it and it ran for about 15 min when suddenly two clicks and the monitor said battery had 2% left "drive slowly". We carry both a Torqueedo and a gas outboard. While I love the idea of an electric motor, and would use it much more than we do, I don't have confidence that it will always start or run consistently. Too bad, great idea that isn't quite ready for cruising use !

Posted by: sailingjoy | September 26, 2017 3:34 PM    Report this comment

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