Stainless Steel Props: Why Steel Beats Aluminum

May 14th, 2014 | Posted by Kyla in Boat Propellers

This stainless steel prop from Solas resists dings and is more resilient to damage than its aluminum couterparts

This stainless steel prop from Solas resists dings and is more resilient to damage than its aluminum counterpart

I have to admit I’ve had a few unhappy incidents with boat propellers. (In my defense, silt can be very tricky, quietly laying in wait for unsuspecting boaters.) Fortunately, a little ding here and there isn’t catastrophic to the life of a prop. This is why I chose a prop with strength and durability on its resume.

If you are trying to decide between a stainless steel boat propeller and an aluminum one, let me help you. Both have their unique qualities, but – in my opinion – if you’re a frequent, serious boater, choose the stainless steel prop.

To give aluminum a fair shake, I will tell you that these props cost less than their stainless steel counterparts, they come with a protective coating, and they weigh about half as much as steel. They are less expensive to repair and perform satisfactorily in most situations.

There, I said it: aluminum boat propellers “perform satisfactorily in most situations.” But who wants satisfactory? Bust into the penny jar and pony up the extra money (two-to-three times more) for a stainless steel boat prop. You will find, over the years of use, your investment will most likely pay off. Here is how:

In addition to offering higher performance than aluminum propellers, stainless steel boat props are more resilient to those bump and dings I was talking about. Because the blades are stronger and they don’t flex under pressure, stainless steel props aren’t damaged as easily as aluminum ones. If you hit a rock, for example, and get a dent that affects the performance of your boat, you’re more likely to be able to repair the blade of a stainless steel prop to its original condition.

Overall, the strength and durability of stainless steel props make them exponentially more resistant to damage from sandy conditions and minor impacts.

It’s entirely up to you, of course. The checklist below compares the basic characteristics of stainless steel and aluminum boat propellers, and will help you choose the best material for your purposes. Unlike other prop features, the choice of material is a matter of personal preference, rather than of requirements based upon your boat’s style and specifications. For more information on propellers, link here to the SavvyBoater’s Boat Propeller How-To Guide.

Choose Stainless Steel Blades For:

  • Higher performance
  • Repairs closest to brand new condition
  • Blade strength prevents flexing under pressure; blades remain in optimal condition longer
  • Durability and lower susceptibility to damage from sandy conditions or minor impacts

Choose Aluminum Blades For:

  • Lower cost
  • Protective coating
  • Light weight (weighs about 1/2 as much as steel)
  • Satisfactory performance in most situations
  • Less expensive to repair

I push my boat hard, I suppose, primarily for wake boarding and spinning teenagers off the inflatable doughnut. For my money, a stainless steel prop is worth the upfront investment, because a little mishap at the launch won’t ruin the entire day’s exploits.

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