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Specialist DIY Propellor Cleaning - a guide

Specialist DIY Propellor Cleaning - a guide

Propellers are easily overlooked, but the effect of having a dirty or rough surfaced propeller can be quite significant, particularly from a fuel consumption perspective.  When weighed against the actual costs of regularly cleaning and maintain a propeller, it makes sense to keep maintenance regular and avoid overspending on excess fuel.  Accumulations of even a millimetre of fouling or calcium deposit can make a significant amount of roughness, and more so has really quite a drastic effect, especially in light of current fuel prices.
Marine fouling is almost inevitable, and corrosion or mechanical damage also have a role to play in affecting the smoothness of your propellers.  The solution is to clean propellers every month or so, gently, so as to avoid over polishing which can in itself make the problem worse.
Cleaning and polishing involves the removal of fouling growth and calcium deposits, and smoothing of minor scratches and corrosion.  Done rapidly with harsh abrasives or tools, this polishing can in fact leave scratches behind which although not immediately visible, will provide perfect conditions for fouling and a key for calcification, which actually speeds up the reoccurrence of fouling and making the condition worse than when you started.  A Class I propeller needs to have smoothness under the 1.6 micron (CLA) Ra tolerance for optimum performance.
For major fouling or corrosion, it is always recommended to take your propeller to a professional to ensure problems are correctly dealt with.  If you will be undertaking the basic cleaning and maintenance of your propeller, there are a host of methods and tools available, and the internet is teeming with suggestions, including brushes, solvents, acids and sand paper.
Modern propellers are often manufactured from stainless steel, or an alloy, making them fairly resistant to corrosion, so it will be mainly calcium deposits and marine fouling such as slime, barnacles or moss which must be removed.  These can be gently chipped away, being careful not to create any scratches or dents.  Pressure washing should help to remove any remaining slime.
Inspect the blades for nicks or dents, which should be filed down to prevent them creating unwanted drag.  Use the correct grade paper (ask at your chandlery) for sanding until the entire propeller is smooth and uniformly shiny.
There are lotís of different types of anti fouling treatments available to try and reduce the affects of fouling, from special paints which create a slick surface and hopefully repel marine life.  Greases and compounds various types are also available, ask your local supplier for recommendations.
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