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SubTopic :: Reverse problem on OMC
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posted 07-10-2003 11:11 AM

1987 4.3L OMC, and it occassionally won't go into reverse. It used to go into reverse pretty consistently, but has become more and more difficult. At this point, it hardly ever works.

Anyway, I looked at the lever that's connected to the cable that goes back and forth when I shift, and the lower cable (the one that goes towards the outdrive when I shift into reverse) is bent and just bends upward when I shift into reverse. The other one stays straight all the time. I thought this was the problem, but even when I force it to stay straight while a friend shifts back it doesn't catch and turn the prop. It usually just revs up the RPM. Forward gear works fine.

Sorry for the confusing post, but I'm really hoping someone can help me. Any help would be great. Thanks.

posted 07-11-2003 7:43 AM

Okay, a couple of things I checked out last night. First, the lower cable that coming out of the shift lever is the transom cable, and it's red for mine. This is good I think. Anyway, the part that's immediately hooked up to the shifter in the engine compartment is bent. This part is black and plastic. I think replacing this part will solve most of my problems, but I don't know if it's a seperate part or if it's just part of the cable. Does anybody know? When I forced it to stay straight I was able to get it in reverse fairly easily.

Archive_Eli Benson
posted 07-11-2003 10:23 AM

Red cables are good. that means that your boat had the new cables installed after the OMC recall. I am pretty sure that the back part on the cable can be removed (small allen screw right below the i in the end of it), but I don't know if you can get that part seperately. more than likely you may have to replace the entire cable. even if you get a new end for it, the bent metal slider will cause some resistance, I think. This resistance will make it slow to engage reverse, slow to come out of foward, and may not engage reverse fully, eating your gear set. More than that, it may be the symptom of a problem with the shift assembley in the lower unit (being stiff, bent, not lubricaterd, etc). A new cable is only 35$ or so (I thought I saw that kind of price somewhere..), where as a new gear set is $1000+ plus labor (so I've heard). Now installation of a new cable is does not sound easy, it involves removal of the stern drive.. keep n mind, these are only opinions, i have not ever had to actually do these things. i have only read about it on here and in the books. good luck. Eli

posted 07-11-2003 11:48 AM

I have an 89 460 King Cobra with the same problem. I am changing the shift cable tomorrow. I believe the plastic part is available through Sierra. While I'm at it, I'm going through the entire adjustment procedure as outlined in the Factory manual. The fact that the plastic part bent indicates that too much force is required to shift. I would suggest 2 things... Buy the factory manual and go to this site: http://www.funkopolis.com:8080/~stuart/cobra/


posted 07-11-2003 11:52 AM

Definitely need to change the lower shift cable (even red ones go bad with time) and see if you can find any reason why it went bad other than old age. Just changed mine ('91 with red cable) and found that it had kinked between the outdrive and the transom. Seems that it needs to be able to slide in and out of the transom when the drive goes up and down. It should move freely in a big tube that is attached inside to the transom (that is how they keep the water out). The tube (looks like a really thick radiator hose) comes up behind your engine well above the water line and the cable comes out of it and hooks up to the shift lever on the engine. On mine the previous owner had misrouted the tube with a sharp bend that would not allow the cable to move in and out so it kinked. Check out http://www.amarket.com/ for the cable ($55.95 with drive gasket kit) I paid 137.95 plus tax locally.

posted 07-11-2003 11:54 AM

The plastic part comes with the cable kit.

posted 07-12-2003 12:20 PM

a few good words if king cobra: clean bell crank area esp. of salt build up, anually. p.s.......if you store the boat with out drive in downward position you will extend the usefull life, it gets kinked at transom area. You should be able to shift with two fingers.

posted 07-14-2003 1:19 PM

Thanks for the reponses everybody.

Okay, I've had the manual and I've looked over on Stuart's site quite a bit lately. I was actually hoping I wouldn't have to go through the whole replacement/adjustment process, but I think I'm going to go ahead and do it.

A couple of questions... How long and how difficult a project is this (keep in mind, I've never pulled my stern drive before)? Can it be done with just 2 people? And is there anything major I need to avoid doing? I don't mind spending a lot of time working on my boat, but I have a fear of screwing something up, so I don't want to get in over my head.

Anyway, I'll probably start working on it tommorrow so I'll let you know how it goes. Tony, hope everything went well for you.

posted 07-22-2003 7:21 AM

This weekend was the first time I've had this boat out on the bay and did not have a "shift issue" !!! It's so nice to have everything working.. shifter, ESA, etc, etc... Now it's time to go out and spank some Baja's....Thanks to everyone here on the forum .. It's a great place to share friustrations and successes. How about you Adam.. finished yours yet?

Archive_Bob K
posted 08-11-2003 10:06 AM


Having prob on my 83 350 OMC stern drive (I/O). Seems drive comes up out of water in reverse only. Checked tilts and they're operating fine. Is there a locking mechanism or something that engages automatically when shifting into reverse? If so, maybe it's become disengaged.Can't deem to find answer anywhere in owners manuals.

Bob K.

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