Volvo Penta Saildrive, can anybody help, please?



Here the question:
My boat, launched 1999, has a Volvo Penta 2030 with Saildrive.
1) Recently, I noticed a strange "groaning" from saildrive, when under sail with the prop freely rotating (fixed 2 blades standard propeller).
If, under sail, to stop the propeller, the reverse gear is engaged, the noise is disappearing.
I do not notice any noise or problem or change in performances when motoring, neither in forward nor in reverse.
2) I noticed, once, the leckage of some oil - by colour it seemed saildrive oil in a quantity approx 100 or 150 ml I could not understand from which part of the saildrive it was exactelly coming. I topped up the oil in the saildrive and the leckage did not happened again, at first only a very small quantity and never again.
The oil in the saildrive is now within the given levels and, based on the quantity used for topping, it never went below the minimum.
There is no water in the oil.
Addiitionally I can say that it happened that a rope was catched by the propeller and caused the engine to stop (but this happened last year and seems not to have a direct relationship with the actual problem) and that it happened also to me to forget to put the neutral gear when restarting the engine after sailing -may this have caused a shock in the gear...
I am concerned about the damage and the costs for repair, considering the outrageous cost of Volvo Penta parts and service...
I will be gratefull if somebody can help me in understanding what happened and can eventually suggest a solution
Thanks in advance and happy sailing from the Adriatic
16 May 2001
Volvo unlike other manufacturers recommend letting the propellor free-wheel whilst sailing so if there is any contact between the propellor boss and the lower unit this will cause a noise. I don't think that the oil incident is connected. Your propellor if three bladed will be made of aluminium as is the lower unit. It is more likely that the rope incident caused bending damage either to the propellor or to the flange of the lower unit. You will need to lift the boat out of the water to check this. The noise will not sound the same out of the water but if a groan it is either the prop. boss catching on the flange or a bent shaft. Starting in gear, if the engine actually did start should not have caused any damage if done once only unless the selector fork was already weakened due to wear caused by badly adjusted control linkage. It can damage inboard gearboxes due to the multi-disc design of some types but your lower unit is of a simple "spur gear" costruction being just the bottom of an outboard motor!

I am sure that the situation will become clear once you have the boat out of the water.

Hope the Adriatic is warmer now than it was in April!

Steve Cronin


I've got a 120S leg on my 2002, and it can "groan" a bit if freewheeling. I think it's a function of the prop rotating, and the saildrive unit floating around in it's rubber seal, causing noise in the engine mounts or something attaced that generates noise as the flexing occurs.

By the way, I'm told the saildrive unit should be placed in forward to stop prop spinning, but not reverse, as this can cause some sort of gearbox jam that won't allow you to select neutral or forward.


thanks and a comment

First, thanks for your kind answers and suggestions.
About the freely rotating prop, I read the instruction book of Volvo Penta suggesting to keep the gear in neutral when under sail: this, however, always caused a disturbing slight vibration I did not like to hear, even when the boat was brand new.
Another question was the wear of the mechanism long term, considering the disproportion between motoring and sailing time. So, I asked twice about some Volvo Penta specialists during Boat Shows.
They suggested to put the gear in reverse - not in forward - to stop the propeller. This becomed my habit, although I often questioned myself about this discrepancy with the Volvo Penta notice.
When this groaning started, I was thinking to it.
Thanks again for answers and suggestions, I will check (by the way, the Adriatic is now so much wormer than in April....)


Active member
30 May 2001
East Coast, Woolverstone
I have a 120S saildrive and with a fixed prop putting the box in reverse does cause a jam. Only way to get it out of gear is to give the starter a quick burst to spin it slightly. Do not force the gearchange. I fitted a folding prop and have not had a gearbox jam since. I always use reverse to stop the prop and feather it.