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Old 12-18-2019, 08:19 AM   #1
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Replacing Engine Throttle and Transmission Controls

In looking at potential boats, I noticed that the earlier models of this single engine boat come with engine transmission controls that are two levers mounted on a pod. One is usually red, the other black. The newer models come with a single lever that does both engine and transmission. Is it possible to update the older style with the new single lever? Has anyone done this?

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Old 12-18-2019, 08:45 AM   #2
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I wouldn't really consider it 'older' and 'newer'. They are just two different styles. Admittedly, I would consider a ships telegraph to be 'older'.

In all honesty, there will be so many things that pop-up on a new-to-you boat. Unless it's not working, this should be placed in the 'want' column. You'll be chasing enough stuff in the 'need' column to keep you busy for the first couple of years.
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Old 12-18-2019, 08:50 AM   #3
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Not older or newer just two different way of doing the same thing, and depends on personal preference. Nothing prevents you to change one for another, behind the lever it is a matter of 2 cables (if not electronic).

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Old 12-18-2019, 08:52 AM   #4
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It's not difficult to do. If the boat has more than one helm station (pilothouse and flybridge), how the two stations are connected can be very different and can significantly increase conversion costs.

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Old 12-18-2019, 08:52 AM   #5
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I agree with Shrew and personally, I prefer dual lever controls on most boats. It can be done, but I would recommend using what you have unless it REQUIRES replacement since it's likely to grow on you.
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Old 12-18-2019, 09:08 AM   #6
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I'll put myself in the preferring dual lever controls camp. It's easier to make deliberate actions than with a single lever, as there's no concern for overshooting on a shift and bumping it above idle unintentionally. And the longer throttle sweep gives finer control as well.
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Old 12-18-2019, 09:39 AM   #7
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The single handle stations are typically electronics controls. The handle has an electronic cable to that goes to a controller. Which in turn handles both throttle and transmission. There's usually electronic cables from the controller to separate electric actuators that interface with the existing engine and transmission systems (typically by mechanical cable).

It's do-able as a retrofit provided there's enough room to properly mount the various pieces. But it's going to be pricey, in both parts AND labor. $20k is probably your starting point, budget-wise. And it's something best done by an service company that's done them before as there's a bunch of fiddly details that have to be dealt with. All of which potentially mean added costs and potential delays. Adapter for x to y, bracket(s) to fit various areas, etc.

The two important starting points are the transmission and engine and then it's working back from there. While doing this it would probably be smart to consider how any thrusters or the windlass would also be integrated. Wireless remotes options exist and a job like this would be the right time to integrate them, if so desired.

The larger question is will it be "worth it"?

From ease of use, sure, they're a welcome improvement over clunky cable controls. Lots of potential options like changing transmission slip (trolling, express, cruise) and easily adding multiple stations (lower, flybridge, cockpit) or even integration with GPS for station-keeping.

Properly maintained cables are certainly going to have less components to fail, which I'm sure the Luddites will chime in about. Less electronics, less reliance on available battery power, etc. Those are all correct points. But then you're still stuck with a very rudimentary controls.

There's also the issue of pouring a bunch of money into an option that's not going to have any affect on resale value, long-term. And if they job isn't done *perfectly* you could well be looking at a decrease in resale value because of it. DIY hacks are not something a surveyor will look kindly upon.

Sometimes folks hemorrhage a bunch of money trying to make an imperfect boat "less so". When they should probably just look for a boat that already has "everything they want".
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Old 12-18-2019, 10:42 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wkearney99 View Post
The single handle stations are typically electronics controls.
I'm sorry, but I have to respectfully disagree with that. Singles have been around a long time and I had one on my 1950s era boat (although the binnacle was replace sometime after construction).

You will simply need to replace with a like kind technology. If you are currently dual lever electronic, then replace with single lever electronic. If dual lever cable, then go with single lever cable. Although as I mentioned above, I'd recommend waiting to see how you like it as long as it works correctly.
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Old 12-18-2019, 02:54 PM   #9
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Quote:
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I'm sorry, but I have to respectfully disagree with that. Singles have been around a long time and I had one on my 1950s era boat (although the binnacle was replace sometime after construction).

You will simply need to replace with a like kind technology. If you are currently dual lever electronic, then replace with single lever electronic. If dual lever cable, then go with single lever cable. Although as I mentioned above, I'd recommend waiting to see how you like it as long as it works correctly.
Maybe find some other nit to pick. I did say "typically".

Perhaps a better question is what would you be expecting to gain or hoping to avoid by making the change?

Me, I like having twin engines with just two handles. Makes it a lot easier to just focus on using the combined action of shifting and throttle with one stick per engine. Having four would make the job more complicated than I prefer. On the rare occasion I need to have throttle control without putting the transmission in gear it's a simple matter of a button press to disengage the shifting.
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Old 12-18-2019, 03:00 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by rslifkin View Post
I'll put myself in the preferring dual lever controls camp. It's easier to make deliberate actions than with a single lever, as there's no concern for overshooting on a shift and bumping it above idle unintentionally. And the longer throttle sweep gives finer control as well.
Most electronic controls will let you change the throttle sweep rate on the fly for different modes.
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Old 12-18-2019, 03:52 PM   #11
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Inboard outboards and outboards usually have one lever for throttle and shift. Inboard boats usually, but not always, have separate levers. I wouldn’t worry about them, it will take you a day to get used to the different setups. When we had an outboard boat we would go from one setup to the other in the same day without any problems. Just give it a try and I think you will get used to it pretty easily and save your time and money for things that are broken and need fixing.
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Old 12-18-2019, 05:17 PM   #12
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All good info here - I think we'll put this in the "live with it for a while" unless the Admiral wants it changed. She is the line monkey (as she calls herself) when we dock, but someday she may need to be at the controls on this boat or a larger vessel, and she said she felt more comfortable with a single lever - which is what is on our boat now - hence the question. I agree that we can get used to either one - our 1976 Sea Ray had two levers on a stern drive power plant. I also agree that it could be expensive, but at this stage in life, hanging on to the Admiral may be cheaper (she can take 1/2 of what I own, maybe more than 1/2!) so the decision will become a simple math exercise if it comes to pass!! Thanks all.
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Old 12-18-2019, 05:24 PM   #13
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Mark P: Put me down on the two control side. I fully concur with earlier comments that it is way to easy to over shoot when shifting between reverse and forward. Now this will only happen in tight quarters when you are maneuvering through a fairway or into a slip. I have used both and much, much prefer the separate throttle that you don't even touch during slow speed maneuvers .
On a related matter, I suggest that you not make any "improvements" on a boat until you have cruised her a season or two. Obviously do maintenance but limit changes.
Good luck
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