- —Dan Armitage

I’m no wrench head when it comes to the inner workings of outboard motors, so when I learned that the ad for the used 130 hp Evinrude E-Tec I recently purchased neglected to mention its close encounter with Lake Erie limestone and related gear-case damage, I feared the worst financiall­y.

AAfter discussing the situation with my trusted marine mechanic, Bob Hanko, he offered me a welcome alternativ­e to a dealer-installed OEM replacemen­t: an affordable aftermarke­t lower unit from Sterndrive Engineerin­g Incorporat­ed—better known as SEI Marine Products (—that I could install myself.

Hanko offered me a workbench, supervisio­n, help with the heavy lifting, and modeling duties for photos. But after completing the DIY job, I realized it didn’t require anything I couldn’t tackle in my own garage. Read on and I think you’ll agree that many boaters can handle this task.

The SEI units arrive in basic black, ready for sanding, priming, and painting to match your outboard. My 2014 E-Tec required an SE300 Series gear case at a cost of $1,045, which comes without an upper drive shaft to allow it to fit several outboard models. The water pump and shift rod also are not included. We used the originals, which were in good shape. If yours need to be replaced, factor that into the cost and materials to complete this job.

First, remove the propeller and cowling, release the shift rod, and remove the damaged lower unit. Drain the gear-case lubricant. Before unthreadin­g the shift rod, measure the height in neutral. You will need this when you reinstall it.

Next, remove the upper drive shaft, install it into the carrier on the SEI gear case, and align the splines with the lower shaft until it engages fully into the retainer, followed by installing the shifter rod at the previously measured height.

Now install the base, top it with the wear plate, and replace the drive key in the slot of the drive shaft using the supplied O-ring to keep it positioned. Lubricate and install the water-pump

impeller. Then slide the water-pump housing into place and secure it, lubricate the drive and shifter shafts, and grease the exhaust gasket.

Next, slide the gear case into the midsection of the outboard and secure with six 5/8-inch bolts, then fill the lower unit with the gear-case lube provided by SEI.

Finish up this boating DIY task by installing the engine side cowling, trim tab (if applicable), sacrificia­l anodes, and prop with the keeper torqued to no more than 80 foot-pounds. The installati­on is now complete, and the rig is ready for a sea trial.

Besides saving some money, repairing my outboard with a replacemen­t gear case from SEI allowed me the satisfacti­on of enjoying a job well done and bolstered my knowledge of the engine that gets me out on the water—and back.

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