Troubleshooting Power Trim and Tilt Motors and Pumps

Tilt and Trim Motor

Tilt and Trim Motor

Replacing Power Trim and Tilt Systems
When replacing your Power Tilt and Trim Motor, first identify what type of Power Tilt and Trim Motor and Pump you have in your boat. There are two basic types of power Trim and Tilt Systems being used in the recreational Boating industry regardless of weather you have an Outboard, Inboard or a Sterndrive.

Some of the older Power Tilt and Trim Systems used an Electric Tilt Motor in combination with a mechanical lifting device. For example, Volvo Penta used a 12-Volt Power Tilt Motor turning a lifting screw on their older Stern Drives. On older OMC Stern Drives, an electric Motor turned a Worm Gear and incorporated a wet clutch pack to Tilt the drive unit as well as lock it into place. The Electric Hydraulic power Trim and Tilt System is more common. This type of system is used on Johnson and Evinrude Outboards, Mercruiser Stern Drives, Mercury Outboards and Volvo Penta Stern Drives. This system consists of two major components; the 12 volt electric Motor with a reservoir, and the Hydraulic Pump or Valve Body.

Trouble Shooting Your Power Trim and Tilt System

When experiencing problems with your power Trim and Tilt System, there are a few easy ways to diagnose just what the problem is. Power Trim Motors generally come in two styles. All use a 12 volt D/C reversing Motor. Some Motors have a two wire connection and some Motors have a three wire connection. All power Trim and Tilt Motors come with one blue wire and one green wire. The three wire power Trim and Tilt Motors have an additional Black wire as well. The Black wire works as a Ground on power Trim and Tilt Motors that don’t ground thru the case. When the blue wire is energized it raises the Motor or drive unit up. When the green wire is energized it lowers the drive unit down.

When having a problem first you need to determine whether your problem is with the power Trim and Tilt Motor or the Hydraulic Pump Valve Body assembly. If you attempt to raise the Motor or sterndrive to the up or down position and nothing happens, first check to make sure your Battery is charged and switched on if your boat is equipped with a Battery switch. If you hear a slight clicking noise you have power coming from the switch to the solenoid. The next step is to go directly to the Motor and test it there. First, disconnect the power Trim and Tilt Motor.

Using a jumper wire, apply 12 volts directly to the blue wire if your engine or drive unit is in the down position. It should raise up at this time. If it is in the up position, apply power to the green wire reversing the Motor and lowering the unit. If the Motor runs, you may have a problem with a solenoid or lack of voltage coming from the power Trim and Tilt switch to the solenoid.

If your power Trim Tilt Motor won’t run after this procedure it is time to replace it. Some replacement Power Trim and Tilt Motors will come with a new wiring harness and relay kit to convert your old three wire power Trim and Tilt Motor to a new more powerful two wire Motor.  (Tilt and Trim cross-reference)

Power Trim and Tilt Pump Problems

Tilt and Trim Pump

Tilt and Trim Pump

If your power Trim and Trim Motor is working fine but the engine or drive unit won’t stay Trimmed or bleeds down when in the up position, you most likely have a problem with the Hydraulic pump or Valve Body assembly. In that case it can be removed and rebuilt by a qualified repair facility. Replace the power Trim and Tilt hydraulic pump unit and fill the reservoir with the correct Power Tilt and Trim Fluid per your owner’s manual. Generally, Transmission fluid is not recommended. It can be hard on some seals due to the high amount of detergents. Most power Trim and Tilt units will purge the air from the system just by running the engine or sterndrive up and down two or three times with the vent plug loose.

Now get going on repairing your tilt-n-trim so you can get out and enjoy your boat! If you need any parts, visit us at, or call toll free 1-800-998-9508.

Article by: Michael Weller
Engine Parts Manager

1,330 thoughts on “Troubleshooting Power Trim and Tilt Motors and Pumps

  1. I have a 1995 Johnson spl88 the trim tilt runs up down fine, but bleeds down. Fluid full, no leaks. Any suggestions? Thanks

  2. I have a 150 mercury optimax, the trim works fine on the side if the motor but does not respond at the control handle/throttle.
    thx gordon

  3. My 2005 Suzuki 115 hp sometimes goes up by it self and the motor on the tilt won’t stop unless I hold the down button on.

  4. My Yamaha 250 hp on my Skeeter is in my boathouse. Somehow over night the engine raised itself up to the fully up position and must have kept running until the cranking battery went dead. I recharged the battery, but every time I try to reconnect the tilt trim wire then the engine tries to raise and my dash power light flashes like crazy. Is there anything I can try, while it is sitting in the straps in the boathouse?

  5. I have a 1990 Evinrude 120hp. I hit something in the water the other day, possibility of being a log, I want going fast though, thank God, weekend got to dock my trim started going up by its self, couldn’t get it to stop until we were finally able to turn the main switch to off, everytime we try to turn it back on the motor keeps lifting the motor up, I see I green wire that is pinched up, it’s connected to a mount of some kind, behind the power trim motor.. Could that be my problem?? Help please.. Thanks

  6. I have a 1997 130 HP Yamaha and last fall, last trip of year the lift wouldn’t go down or up. I could jump one solenoid and get it to go up but jumping other didn’t do anything but melt the jumper

  7. Need to NO ? HEllo guys when I parked the boat away a few weeks ago all was good, All was good and worked. Went out to do a pre run check and trim wasn’t working couldn’t lower the motor or raise it. Did a power check all the way to the to pump motor power is good. I put my hand on the pump motor and it was warm to the touch?? Had no clicking no sounds of any kind when buttons were pushed . I would think a new pump motor is in line ??
    1998 Johnson 115 spl Rebuilt power. On a 19′ cc WEll Craft
    Great running MOTOR

  8. I have a 2000 175 Johnson OB. The other day I came back to the dock and my trim motor was stuck on. I had to disconnect the battery to stop it. Trim won’t work at all from the shifter at the helm or the up down buttons at the motor. What seams to be the issue?
    Thank you

  9. Hello I have a mercury 60 and the power trim has just stoped on a full bat it will work for about 10 sec then just clicks any help tganks

  10. 1992 150hp Evinrude – The trim stopped working but it sounds like the trim motor is still running, just not catching. I have enough power to start the engine, so I think I’m good there. Possibly bent hydraulics? It was making a grinding noise before it stopped working, and I changed the hydraulic fluid.

    Sorry if this is a double post, I think my first one got deleted.


      1. Thanks for the quick reply Mike! Would that mean I have to replace the whole unit? I can’t seem to find just the trim pump part.

  11. I have an 1988 Sea Ray with a 5.7. When I hit the power trim button you can hear the motor run but the out drive trim does not move either way. I cracked the line and hit the button and the fluid come out faster but it does not spray. The cylinders have also been replaced. I believe the pump is bad but I don’t know what else to do.

  12. Looking at buying a boat with a 175 hp merc. On it the owner has replaced the power trim motor on it and it raises up and down ok but it won’t stay up what do u think the problem is and at what cost

  13. I just acquired a 1974 Crestliner with 140 Mercruiser. It trims/tilts up and down fine, but has some problems.

    1.) Trim limit is shot, have to use the up + trailer buttons to get it to come up. Not really a big deal yet.
    2.) When you tilt it all the way up to trailer, there’s no stop at the top, you just hear the pump bog down and let go of the button. Fluid sprays out from underneath the pump somewhere if you hold the button more than half a second too long. Normal?
    3.) It won’t stay trimmed down. It tends to drift up by itself a little over time. So out of curiosity, out of the water I trimmed it all the way down, and with a little bit of resistance am able to tilt the whole drive up by hand. It’ll fall back down to where it was when I let go. This isn’t normal, I’m thinking pump/valve body?

  14. I have a boat it has a 1974 40 hp Johnson motor outboard. It runs but the bottom cylinder gets flooded with gas. I was wondering if you would know what is wrong.

  15. I was wondering if u can help me with my mercruiser out drive. When my boat is parked and I have the outdrive up I come out in the morning and it has come down by itself. What should I check. Thank you Karen

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