Propeller 101

Selecting the Right Propeller For Your Boat and Engine

The best propeller size for your boat and engine combination is based on the recommended operating range at wide open throttle (w.o.t.) for your engine, which you will find in your operator’s manual. This will be expressed in terms of a certain horsepower at a certain RPM (revolutions per minute).

The goal in prop selection is to determine what propeller style and size will maximize performance for your boat, while allowing your engine to operate in the recommended RPM range. The correct propeller will prevent the engine from over-revving, yet allow it to reach the minimum RPM where maximum horsepower is produced.

Run the boat/motor at w.o.t. under normal operating load to determine the maximum RPM you are able to obtain. A tachometer is necessary for this test. Adjust the motor trim angle for the optimum performance. If during this test, you begin to exceed the maximum rated RPM of the engine, reduce throttle setting to a position where maximum RPM is not exceeded.

If your test results in your being able to over-rev the engine, you need to increase the pitch of the propeller. Increasing the pitch increment by 1” will result in approximately a 200 RPM drop. If your testing shows, however, that you are only able to obtain a RPM somewhat lower than the maximum rating given by your engine manufacturer, you would need to decrease pitch. Decreasing pitch would increase your RPM.

For example –
Operating Range: 5000-5600 RPM
Top End of Operating Range: 5600 RPM
Tachometer Reading: 4800 RPM
Difference: 800 RPM

For every 1” of pitch size, the effect will be approximately 200 RPM. Knowing this, take the difference in the above example at 800 and divide it by 200. The result is 4. The prop to use will be 4” in pitch less than the prop that was used.

Switching from an uncupped to a cupped propeller will also reduce your RPM. The cupped propeller of the same pitch and diameter will typically reduce your RPM by approximately 200.

Once your wide open throttle RPM falls within the recommended range of the engine manufacturer, you have a propeller that is suited correctly for your boat with respect to RPM. If you use your boat for fishing, cruising and skiing, one prop probably won’t do all three things equally well. It is best in circumstances like this to have two propellers. One to accommodate one set of circumstances and the other to perform best under the different load. It could, in fact, be that more than one propeller would be suitable for your boat and motor combination depending on your usage. It is imperative, however, that the wide open throttle RPM fall within the range specified by your engine manufacturer.

Check out the below video for some more help!

[Courtesy of BRP]