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Old 02-17-2017, 05:37 PM   #1
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Lehr Propane outboards - Opinions?

Preferably based on experience.

I love the idea of propane for the dinghy outboard. We're already carrying the fuel for the grill. We are outboard motor shopping and planned to try out a friend's 2.5 HP unit on our dinghy here in Saint Augustine.

He was an early adopter and bought the motor 4 years ago. He has used it once. It then developed a leak in the fuel line which Lehr promptly replaced at no charge. He then simply hasn't had occasion to need it.

We got it out of storage and hooked up a small propane bottle to it. While we were trying to figure out how to purge the fuel line of air, I noticed a bulge in the line a couple inched from the bottle (cover was off). It looked like it might be chafe protection. I touched it and said, "Is this norma.." WHAM! There was then some frantic work with wrenches to get everything unhooked in the cloud of propane surrounding us. A couple hours later, my right ear is still ringing from the burst.

Is this normal and typical of these engines? There is a 2.5 horsepower Yamaha at the marina just across the way that we could pick up this weekend but, like I said, I'd really like a propane dinghy motor if I can conclude that this experience isn't typical or if improvements have been made in them over the last four years.
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Old 02-17-2017, 07:56 PM   #2
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Hi Roger, I own two Lehr engines, a 2.5 and a 15. I was also a dealer until I retired a couple of weeks ago.

The early ones did have problems with the fuel line. I replaced several of them. The current production don't seem to have that problem.

I like them because they can sit unused for long periods of time and then start on the second pull. You do have to bleed air out of the system but that is real easy.
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Old 02-17-2017, 08:03 PM   #3
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How do you secure the propane tank in the dinghy?
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Old 02-17-2017, 08:14 PM   #4
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How do you secure the propane tank in the dinghy?
Simple, you just throw the tank overboard so any leak will de-facto be overboard, this is ABYC compliant.

Ok I aam out of this thread
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Old 02-17-2017, 08:29 PM   #5
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Is this normal and typical of these engines? There is a 2.5 horsepower Yamaha at the marina just across the way that we could pick up this weekend but, like I said, I'd really like a propane dinghy motor if I can conclude that this experience isn't typical or if improvements have been made in them over the last four years.
If this were normal, I think The Consumer Products Safety Commission would be all over it. Without knowing why it failed, it's impossible to determine what was the cause of the failure. After 4 years of sitting in storage, one would think everything should be fine, but this is propane and one needs to be more carefully. Don't think you should extend store any explosive fuel outboard for years and not expect to do some forrm of a safety service before using it.

I have one of their 9.9 HP outboards. I don't think it's the quality of a Merc, Johnson, Honda, etc. Wouldn't buy one for a commercial application or hundreds of hours per year, but like it for a modest use dinghy application. It's my understanding they are made in China and mine seems to be not quite as corrosion resistant as other manufacturers. So far I'm overall happy with mine. It's 18 months old, have used 1 tank (17 pound bulk tank) of propane, and haven't had any major problems. Propane is a great fuel, doesn't go bad in the tank, and doesn't carbon up the oil. That having been said, I'm more cautious because of the pressurized nature of the fuel.

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Old 02-18-2017, 06:17 AM   #6
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Don't think you should extend store any explosive fuel outboard for years and not expect to do some forrm of a safety service before using it.
It was not stored with any fuel tank connected or any pressure on the fuel system. The line exploded about 5 minutes after connecting as part of the return to service procedure being performed on the dock. The line blew upstream of any shut off valves so should have been designed to take the full pressure of the bottle. The bottle was one of the small ones that attach directly to the top of the engine.
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Old 02-18-2017, 08:02 AM   #7
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It was not stored with any fuel tank connected or any pressure on the fuel system. The line exploded about 5 minutes after connecting as part of the return to service procedure being performed on the dock. The line blew upstream of any shut off valves so should have been designed to take the full pressure of the bottle. The bottle was one of the small ones that attach directly to the top of the engine.
Yes, I understood that it wasn't pressurized and never leave mine pressurized (close the bulk tank valve and run the fuel out). My point was more to say that because it's a pressurized fuel system, it needs to be inspected more frequently and especially after extended storage.

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Old 02-18-2017, 09:00 AM   #8
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I've actually never seen one fail that way. The usuall failure mode was to have the hose come off a fitting because the fitting hadn't been crimped properly. Wether you could have spotted the problem before the hose was pressurized or not, it shouldn't have burst.
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Old 02-18-2017, 10:07 AM   #9
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Wether you could have spotted the problem before the hose was pressurized or not, it shouldn't have burst.
It was the outer protective rubber layer that burst. We could see propane coming through the metal mesh that protects and supports the inner hose which is supposed to be gas tight. No way to see an internal leak like this without pressure testing. That's essentially what we were doing with the cover off the engine. It was a slow leak that blew up the outer sheath hose and then kept leaking. The pressure hose itself did not blow.

Considering the age of the engine and lack of similar reports, I would buy one of these engines now. However, the prime candidate now is a gas 4 stroke half the price and weight.(see later post).
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Old 02-18-2017, 11:40 AM   #10
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Hi Roger, I own two Lehr engines, a 2.5 and a 15. I was also a dealer until I retired a couple of weeks ago.

The early ones did have problems with the fuel line. I replaced several of them. The current production don't seem to have that problem.

I like them because they can sit unused for long periods of time and then start on the second pull. You do have to bleed air out of the system but that is real easy.
I've actually been meaning to ask you about the 15hp for a while now.

Since I have a nice RIB but don't have a motor that will get it on a plane (I have a 4-stroke Honda) I am thinking that I will either ditch the RIB altogether or get a motor that will push it properly. I am very intrigued by the Lehr 15.

You mentioned you have the 15hp but didn't mention how well you like it? What has been your application? Do you have a manual or electric start? How has the reliability been? Would you get another Lehr 15 at this point or would you go to a gas motor if you needed to replace it?
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Old 02-18-2017, 11:40 AM   #11
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A propane engine is a delight , as one can be put away for months and will start again.

Most gas engines need great care to empty the fuel system before much non use.

For use daily , gasoline will be far cheaper,

For rare vacation style use propane will be easier to live with.

Either way for folks with ladies on board an electric trolling motor is probably the best choice.

They work with no effort or pull cords or starting tricks, the ladies love that.

They can go have their own adventures , instead of being trapped aboard.
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Old 02-18-2017, 11:43 AM   #12
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A propane engine is a delight , as one can be put away for months and will start again.

Most gas engines need great care to empty the fuel system before much non use.

For use daily , gasoline will be far cheaper,

For rare vacation style use propane will be easier to live with.
That may be one of the reasons I don't like gas outboards, mine don't get used regularly. That is one of the reasons I am interested in propane.
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Old 02-18-2017, 03:29 PM   #13
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You can get a neat little adapter that makes it possible to reload those one-pound bottles. That would make it better if you could refuel from the mother ship.
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Old 02-18-2017, 04:10 PM   #14
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Dave, my 15 is mounted on a 14 foot Skiff that I built. It easily planes the boat with two aboard and I bet it would with three.

It doesn't get much use so I like that it starts without cleaning the card.
It has the electric start but it's not hard to pull start. I really like the electric start and recommend it with the little battery mounted under the hood.

If you get one, get the 30 pound forklift tank to feed it. They like liquid propane rather than gaseous propane and the smaller tanks are designed to supply propane gas not liquid.
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Old 02-18-2017, 04:50 PM   #15
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Thank you. I don't suppose you know what the weight is of the motor with the electric start? My guess is that it isn't a lot more than the 105 lbs I think my Honda is. Weight is an issue as the thing is tough for me to carry or move.
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Old 02-18-2017, 05:04 PM   #16
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As I recall it's about 125 pounds. Once it's mounted you don't want to take it off often. My limit these days, for an engine that doesn't live on a transom, is a 5hp at about fifty pounds or less.
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Old 02-18-2017, 05:06 PM   #17
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Yeah, moving that motor is something that I don't like to do. Likely I just need to figure out a good system to do it.
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Old 02-18-2017, 05:49 PM   #18
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How do you secure the propane tank in the dinghy?
Couple of bungee cords, pretty simple.

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Old 02-18-2017, 06:38 PM   #19
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I have a great personal customer service story from Lehr I'd like to relate. Since I have a propane locker on my Mainship Pilot I bought a 5 hp Lehr propane engine last spring for my dinghy so I didn't have to add a third fuel onboard. This past summer my wife and I used the dinghy extensively. It worked flawlessly, although at the end of the season, in September, I noticed a slight oil leak on the engine. I called the 800 number printed on the throttle arm to find out how I could have it serviced under warranty. The tech. at Lehr asked me some questions and for the serial number. He immediately told me that from the serial number, the engine I bought new in 2016 was an older 2012 model. I told the tech I had purchased the engine at West Marine the previous spring and he said that this was not the first time he's heard this happen. He then told me, without any prodding or expectation from me, that he would put in a request to replace the engine if I provided an email with a copy of the West Marine receipt. About two days after I sent the email, I received an email from Lehr saying that I would be receiving a new 2016 model in about a week. When it arrived I used the packaging to box up the old engine and used the included return label to ship it to Lehr. I ran the new engine a couple of times before I lifted the Mainship for the season and it also ran great. I was very extremely impressed with the whole experience with Lehr.
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Old 02-18-2017, 07:59 PM   #20
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That's a great story!

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