Trolling Motors: How To Clean Your Saltwater Trolling Motor

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Maintaining your saltwater trolling motor is simple and easier than you think. Experienced sailors and boaters know that with every successful fishing adventure comes a responsibility to maintain, clean, and care for your boat and saltwater trolling motor with each use. Make it a habit to practice basic maintenance procedures for a smooth and worry-free outing to ensure years of reliable use to come.


Saltwater can be harmful and damaging to any watercraft, so cleaning the boat itself as well as the trolling motor is vital after exposing it to saltwater. Make sure the saltwater trolling motor is thoroughly washed and rinsed with freshwater until all salt deposits are washed off.


When cleaning the saltwater trolling motor, exercise caution not to get water inside the control head. The control head of the trolling motor is not waterproof, so do not directly spray this area with water. It’s designed to allow air exchange with the heat generated from the motor compartment, so water can find its way inside. Instead, you can lightly run water on the head or use a rag to wipe it clean. Water that gets inside the head can short circuit the speed control switch and even travel down the shaft and damage components in the motor compartment.



After washing the trolling motor, let it dry completely. Inspect the saltwater trolling motor thoroughly to ensure that no salt remains. Failure to remove any salt deposits will eventually lead to corrosion. This step is extremely important for the longevity of any saltwater trolling motor.


Remove the propeller on the saltwater trolling motor. This will allow you to thoroughly clean any tangled weeds and accumulated saltwater. Be careful when disassembling and cleaning the propeller, there are small assembly parts that are easy to lose but essential for trolling motor operation.


Keeping the propeller free of weeds and tangled debris helps the saltwater trolling motor running smoothly. Make sure to examine and inspect the armature shaft for tangled weeds, fishing lines, grass or other debris to prevent them from wrapping too tightly around the unit. If unattended, these can decrease the performance of your motor, stop your trolling motor in its tracks, or even cause damage.

If you see weeds and fishing lines tangled in the propeller assembly, carefully remove these obstructions by hand. If they are too difficult to remove by hand, use a sharp tool to cut and remove the tangled objects. If they are interfering with the seals that surround the armature shaft, extreme caution should be used when removing debris as to not damage the seals.


Propellers are designed to be durable, but they are not exempted from being damaged when encountering rocks or underwater objects. It is recommended to inspect the propeller for cracks, chips or other damages that will greatly affect the performance of the trolling motor. If there are any abrasions or knicks, just smooth the these out with a fine sandpaper to maintain optimal trolling motor performance. Damage to your motor and propeller can be prevented by analyzing the water below you and the objects in it. Properly adjusting the height of your trolling motor or removing it from the water when in shallow water, can help avoid possible damage.


Always check the propeller nut of the saltwater trolling motor before each use to ensure that it is properly tightened and secured to avoid it from being lost during use. A secured propeller nut is critical to assure the safe and functional operation of the trolling motor. Be careful not to over-tighten the propeller nut as this can also cause issues with performance with your trolling motor. For more information on how to correctly install the propeller nut, please see our Propeller Installation Guide.

Most saltwater trolling motors will also have a sacrificial anode. This helps deter the corrosions from happening on important parts such as seals and the motor housing to instead a small washer that can be easily replaced. It is important to check your sacrificial anode to ensure it isn’t completely corroded and is still in good condition. If you let your sacrificial anode corrode completely, other parts on your saltwater trolling motor will begin to corrode.

3. Find and Remove Aquatic Hitchhikers

Check for aquatic hitchhikers every time you move and trailer your boat from one water source to another. Make sure to inspect the surrounding area and remove them before launching the boat in a new area of water.

Invasive and other harmful aquatic species can spread through water and attach themselves to your boat and your trolling motor as you travel from one body of water to another. Make sure to clean and inspect your boat rigorously, including the trolling motor and all gear used in the water before leaving the launch area. Inspect the drain holes, propellers, as well as the trailer and even the vehicle. It doesn’t hurt to be extra cautious.

To ensure that a boat is not transporting invasive species, make it a habit to inspect all parts, including the trolling motor, and make sure to remove these harmful animals before leaving the boat launch area. In addition, clean it with a disinfectant to eliminate any chance of reproduction before entering another body of water. New inhabitants can spread rapidly and can quickly destroy the ecology of a lake by disrupting natural food chains. This can even result in a build-up of toxic algae that can kill fish and birds, effectively ruining the ecosystem for future generations.  

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