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1989 Yamaha 40hp wont shift

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  • 1989 Yamaha 40hp wont shift

    Hi all. I have a shifting problem with my Yamaha outboard motor. It is model 40EMD manual control. I have owned it since new and its never been a problem until now. The engine has not had a lot of use as after about the third season of use, it was stored away inside until about 3 years ago. At this time I brought it out, and got it fired up fairly easily and have had it in use again for the past 3 summers. Last summer we noticed towards the end of the season that it was getting very hard to shift into forward or reverse. By the end of the season, it took considerable force to make it go into either. The gear shift as you sit facing it, is on the left front side of the motor. I have just brought it out of storage to get it ready and I cannot get it to shift at all. I have used quite a bit of force including turning the prop while attempting to shift the gear lever, but no luck. I have sprayed penetrating lube on every pivot and connection and swivel associated with the shift mechanism but to no avail. I can see the shift rod in the two spaces directly below the power head and just above the lower unit. I can get my fingers on that rod and it will move sideways but it will not move up and down. The main adjusting nut and the jam nut appear to be tight. i am tempted to drop the lower unit so I can get directly at the shift rod but am somewhat hesitant to go that far. I don't want to create more problem. My fear of putting too much force on the gear shift knob is that I may break something in the linkage in the powerhead that could end up causing a lot of trouble and expense. I would appreciate any suggestions as to what is going on here. Thanks in advance.

  • #2
    when was the last time you changed the lower unit lube and what did it look like?
    when was the last time the water pump was changed?
    maintenance is a motors best chance at living a long life.

    drop the lower unit and then see if the problem is in the linkage or the lower unit
    Last edited by 99yam40; 1 week ago.


    • #3
      Thanks for your quick reply. I changed the gear lube when I brought it out of storage this year and there was no water visible anywhere but the lube did appear to have a lighter grey color than you would expect it to be. The water pump has never been changed but the engine has only ever been run in a clean clear fresh water lake and the first thing I always check for is a good water stream coming from the tell tale which it has always had and still had last year.

      "drop the power unit"- did you mean the lower unit?


      • #4
        yes lower unit.
        I am not sure if I typed that or auto correct got me, sorry.

        dropping the lower unit and changing the water pump every couple of years also makes sure the bolts are moved and lubricated .

        there is a good chance that you may not be able to get the bolts to move after 30years

        As I said you need to find out what is binding up.
        removing the lower unit separates some of the problems to help point you in the direction to follow more trouble shooting

        Last edited by 99yam40; 1 week ago.


        • #5
          Thanks for your help, I won't have time to get to it until the weekend. I will let you know how I make out. I did try two of the bolts on the lower unit just to see if they would turn and both did fairly easily so I've got a good feeling about the disassembly.


          • #6
            Also, it's not the best thing to shift, especially force, the shifter with the engine not running.

            If the gear mechanism isn't lined up in the LU, you can damage the linkage/LU by forcing it...

            *I know it doesn't shift when running (the obvious issue), just don't force it with the engine not running and definitely cause other issues..

            Lastly, that WP impeller, even thou ran thru pristine water, the rubber takes a set (vanes don't pop out fully), the rubber hardens (and, especially the smaller engines), the vanes OFTEN come apart. They then block the cooling system / water jacket causing over heating/issues.-This is somewhat common...

            1997 Angler 204, Center Console powered by a 2006 Yamaha F150TXR


            • #7
              Originally posted by Hobbes1945 View Post
              Thanks for your help, I won't have time to get to it until the weekend. I will let you know how I make out. I did try two of the bolts on the lower unit just to see if they would turn and both did fairly easily so I've got a good feeling about the disassembly.
              that is good news, I hope the rest come out with no problem and the shift rod nut also comes apart easy and the drive shaft is not rusted into the crankshaft


              • #8
                Good news! I had time this aft to get at the engine and everything disassembled just fine. However when I got the lower unit off, I still could not shift the engine into any gear. I checked the lower shift rod function in the LU and it seemed to function fine. So back to the power head to see if I could figure out what was binding. I tried to work the upper shift rod with a pair of pliers from where it would connect to the lower shift rod but there was no way it was going to budge. So I went back over every bit of the linkage under the cowling and it was all well lubricated and seemed to want to move. To cut to the chase, yesterday when I was spraying penetrating lube on every spot I thought would count, one spot i did miss was the underneath part of the plate that the gear shift lever pivots on. I had partially loosened this lever so the lubricant would penetrate into every spot. Today I totally took apart the gear shift arm out of its bracket and what I found was a spring loaded cylinder under neath the gear shift assembly with a ball bearing compressed into the cylinder. Underneath the flat area of the gear shift assembly are three indents for N, F and R for the ball bearing to lock into. There was some corrosion at the top of the cylinder and all around the ball bearing. I took this apart and cleaned up the ball bearing and the cylinder and reinstalled it. The ball bearing is actually under quite a bit of spring pressure. And immediately the engine shifted fine. So that's all it was, I hope this helps somebody else who might run into the same situation. That gear shift lever was locked so hard into the neutral indent because of the frozen bearing that it just would not shift. And I had put quite a bit of force on it all the while thinking I was putting a lot of strain on the associated linkage when it was actually only that frozen ball bearing in that indent that wouldn't let me go anywhere.

                One further bit of good news is I took heed of what both of you said regarding the water pump and impeller so since I have the LU off I called around and was able to locate the proper impeller and gaskets or another option is that there is a complete rebuild kit for the water pump as well. I am really amazed that there are still parts available for an engine of that age. I am glad I am able to save it, I really like this engine. It has never been a minutes problem in all the years Ive had it until now.

                Thanks very much to both of you for your interest and advice, it is much appreciated.


                • #9
                  good to hear you found the problem.
                  hope you lubed that ball and spring mechanizem with some good water proof grease so it will work for a long time.

                  I like to use the Yamaha water pump kits, but I have not tried any after market ones myself.

                  I did replace just my impellor one time and that must have been sitting on a shelf a long time because it came apart in less than a year on me.
                  bought the kits after that mainly because it comes with new cup, wear plate, and all gaskets and o rings, even bolts.

                  I do pump mud and sand sometimes running thru shallow water
                  matter a fact I need to order a new kit too, it has been a year or so since I replaced it, and I did notice the tell tail is not as strong as it use to be at idle

                  if you run into more problems there is usually someone here that can at least try to help


                  • #10
                    Hi 99Yam40 and TownsendsFJR1300
                    Everything is back together, new impeller and had no problems. BUT, my question concerns gear shift adjustment. On this engine, the upper shift rod has an elongated threaded nut. The bottom shift rod just has a standard nut (jam nut). Should there be a certain number of turns one way or the other on both of these nuts to align everything properly for shifting? When I disassembled the two rods I know the small jam nut was very near the end of the thread on the bottom shift rod, but I did not count the number of turns as I did not think it was critical. When I reassembled the shift rods I just put them back to approx where I remembered them being. As it is now, the engine shifts just fine but it is still on the trailer and not hooked up to any water supply. The shifter clunks into position for F, N and R but I just want to be sure that the gears are engaging properly. Is there a way to check this out?


                    • #11
                      If it's spinning freely in neutral(no slight grinding) and goes into F & R fully (lean on the prop, ENGINE OFF, in gear), the prop shouldn't slip, if anything may turn the crankshaft some.. It's fully engaged.

                      If it does all that, your good. Already sounds like your doing good with it...

                      I know its back together but next time (or if your bored, or can even get to it easily), get some water proof grease (Yamaha has some REALLY GOOD STUFF) as 99yam pointed out above and grease her up...

                      It'll last a whole lot longer W/O issue...

                      (BTW, great job finding the issue, first time reading of THAT issue /set up on the forum...)

                      1997 Angler 204, Center Console powered by a 2006 Yamaha F150TXR