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Old 14-02-2017, 20:51   #1
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Location: AUSTRALIA
Boat: DUNCANSON 40' PILOTHHOUSE
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Volvo Saildrive not engaging into forward or reverse

Yesterday morning, I went to refuel and take on freshwater at a marina 500m away. Luckily, I asked some friends for assistance to come and help pick up the mooring as there was a bit of wind.
Normally I would test forward and reverse before throwing the mooring line, however it was let go before I had a chance.
Calamity! we are off the mooring and I couldn't engage reverse, nor forward. So before things got too manic we hoisted the headsail and did a few laps but the wind was driving us towards the shore. Fortunately a friend came to the rescue and towed us back to the mooring.
I had no revs on the engine when I selected reverse and later through neutral to forward. The lever on the pedestal is stuck and it appears that the selector on the gearbox is unjammed in reverse.
This problem developed after an incident sailing from Adelaide to Sydney. The helmsman took his eyes of things and we jibbed, which caused the mainsheet to wrap around the gear lever, and slam the motor into reverse whist motor sailing.
I've only had trouble once before, whilst in sydney. the lever was stuck so a mechanic disconnected the cable and freed the selector on the gearbox by using a hammer and cold chisel. It freed it up and has bee without incident since, that is until yesterday. I haven't looked at it yet, thinking I'd post this first and see if anyone has some good advice.
When this happened yesterday and I realised there was no chance of find a gear I switched the engine off. The gear box was hot and when I took the dipstick out to make sure there was enough oil again, there was some pressure releasing the dip stick. Oil was fine and I only use 15/40W as recommended.
Not sure what has caused this as I've had the boat motoring around the harbour without drama on many occasions.
Any advice?
Thank you
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Old 14-02-2017, 21:27   #2
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Re: Volvo Saildrive not engaging into forward or reverse

The Volvo saildrive transmission on our Bavaria locked up last summer due to a similar situation- switching into reverse before idling down completely (can't blame the boat for that one). It was totally frozen. I was expecting the worse (being out of commission for weeks while waiting for a new transmission). We were able to remove the tranny without hauling out the boat. We (the tech mainly) disconnected the engine from the tranny. This allowed us to slide the engine forward a few inches so the spindle could clear the tranny (easier than I thought it would be). After disassembling the transmission it turned out nothing was even broken- it was just jammed. We were back together and on our way later that afternoon. I hope your fix is as easy as ours was. Good luck!
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Old 15-02-2017, 01:43   #3
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Re: Volvo Saildrive not engaging into forward or reverse

Have you tried disconnecting the cable and shifting by hand at the transmission?
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Old 15-02-2017, 02:35   #4
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Re: Volvo Saildrive not engaging into forward or reverse

What model saildrive? Freeing a stuck shift with a hammer is NEVER a good idea. Something has jammed in the mechanism and forcing it may crush it, or break something else. However, some Volvo units have a couple of collets on the top of the selector shaft. If they come out, the shaft can fall down into the box and no gears will be selectable.
As above, remove the cables. Try to shift by hand, it should click in and out of both fwd and reverse. If it does not, take off the oil fill cap and look into the box. You should be able to see (depending on model) if the shaft is still engaged to the top gear...
If you are not confident with this, find a decent mechanic!
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Old 15-02-2017, 11:01   #5
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Re: Volvo Saildrive not engaging into forward or reverse

A SWAG would be the gears didn't mesh because of the RPM, I believe they are helical gears. You might have some luck by trying to rotate the prop by hand in reverse. It is probably jammed spline to spline? Good luck, beating the hell out of the linkage?
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Old 15-02-2017, 11:58   #6
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Re: Volvo Saildrive not engaging into forward or reverse

I had a similar problem. Transmission locked up when I did a panic shift from forward to reverse. Froze and killed the engine. I freed it by taking a big wrench and rotating the crankshaft backward a half turn. Counted myself very lucky. You might try this on yours. You may be as lucky. Otherwise you will have to get into the tranny. Best of luck!
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Old 15-02-2017, 13:14   #7
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Re: Volvo Saildrive not engaging into forward or reverse

Having a Volvo saildrive, and doing the occasional hasty gear change this post is of interest.

It also reminds me of a very lucky break (speaking euphemistically) I had in our car the other day. I was driving in an unfamiliar area towing an empty trailer. We were using my son's cell phone as our GPS. Having no holder, it was simply jammed between the dashboard and windscreen. As I accelerated from a set of lights the phone fell back towards the floor, instinctively I shoved out my left hand to break the fall. Inadvertently I connnected with the shift- but not only the shift, also the button on the side of the shifter which locks it into whatever position the transmission is in. Consequently the vehicle shunted into reverse at about 15 km/hr. There was a big bang such that I thought I'd hit something, as the tyres squealed in reverse,and I braked at the same moment. Coming to an abrupt halt and not realizing quite what had happened I took stock all around to see what I'd hit or who hit me. Lucky no cars behind at this point. Only then did I realize what had happened.

The result? No more harm than bruising my ego- apparently. I looked sheepishly around once more and carried on... We drove straight to a store and picked up a cellphone windscreen mount.

Your story also reminds me of our first boat- a Herreschoff 28 which we kept on a swing mooring. I arrived by dinghy running late as I had people we were taking out for the day waiting on the jetty to be picked up. I hastily prepared the boat to cast off. Oil checked, bilge checked, seacock open, warm up engine, engage forward and reverse, check for traffic, cast off. Only at that point did I remember the tiller helm was lashed- and of course being the one who lashed it as I left the boat the previous outing- I only had myself to blame when I couldn't undo the lashing quick enough to avoid the ebb tide getting a good grip and slamming the boat into the next boat moored downstream. Fortunately no damage so the situation improved as I got control again. The hurrier I go, the slower I get.
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