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

1,282 thoughts on “Troubleshooting Power Trim and Tilt Motors and Pumps

  1. I am helping y son work on a1975mercruiser tilt and trim with the 3 wire motor black to ground , blue to raise and green to lower. Motor runs great but only goes up. I disconnected the from the controls and applied power direct to the blue and green wire and still both drive it up with no down. I pulled the motor off and inspected it and found no shorts and running on the test bench the motor runs clockwise when power on the blue and counter clock wise when powered by the green. I reassembled and the problem remains. The hyd lines were removed to allow the the motor to go down so I traced the hoses and they appear to be run the same as my Grady White. The motor runs strong and lifts great when the blue or green wire is energized either direct at the lead or with the control system installed. Could the motor be shorting under load or could there be something in the hydraulics that’s causing this?

    1. If the motor turns and won’t lower the drive there is a problem with the pump. They can be rebuilt by API. Give Go2marine a call, they can arrange it for you.

  2. i recently purchased a 85 glastron with a 150 evinrude v6 the trim works fine while idleing or stopped but while moving it will not trim could i have a loose wire in the throttle or is there a differnt issue

  3. I have a 110 Johnson outboard. the problem I am have is that the tilt buttons on the throttle work. they make the silinoid boxes on the motor click but the motor wont go up or down. I thought it was maybe a broken wire but I bypassed them from the control box to the pump and still nothing. it stoped working one day and then I started to remove the motor to get to the trim and tilt pump and then started working again then stopped again.

  4. 2008 90 ETEC, clicking noise at trim and tilt relay, but the motor djent move. Well the tilt limit switch cause this? And how do I put 12 books directly to either the blue or green wire? Where would I attach the negative side of the jumper wire?

    1. To test the motor put power to one side of the motor (blue) and ground to the other (green) or reverse depending on if the engine is in the up or down position.

  5. I have a 92 175 hp merc on a ranger bass boat. Trim has been workin fine and then nothing. I took a pair on pliers and tapped on it at ramp and it will work for a min and have to do it again. any ideas what that could be

  6. I have a mercury 850 Thunderbolt, and am trying to get the power tilt/trim to work. Not sure what all could be wrong, replaced solenoid and still hear clicking noise when everything is hooked to fresh charged battery; any suggestions?? Boat has been sitting for a long time and I am new at this so any help would be greatly appreciated.
    “Go slow and pretend I am a complete novice”.

  7. 25 hp outboard mercury 2 stroke electricity trim and tilt goes up but not down
    or should say it works sometimes was working got to lake and nothing
    don’t know what to do helpppppppppp please

  8. trim in down position on 1979 Johnson 150 hp. Will not raise, fuse blows each time I try to engage trim up. Please help if you can

  9. I’m on the water my boat will trim all the way up but won’t trim down motor too high to start The trim motor is running but it will train down

  10. I have a 1988 bayliner capri 5.0 liter IO. power “up” trim was clicking, but not running trim pump. Then “up” worked, but now “down” clicks, but not running pump. where to start.?

  11. I have a 1995 Yamaha 70 hp outboard, when I try to trim up, I can hear motor, but will only trim up real slow, and only about half way

  12. Have 250 Merc. trimmed all the way up. I have had no problems before this. Try to release with manual valve screw and screwed up slot for screwdriver. The boat is in boat lift working in 5 foot of water. What can I do ?

  13. I bought a 1981 OMC 3.8 lit. I can’t get the tilt to lower the motor. The trim work fine. I have had the tilt motor out and it seems to work fine. (new motor) I can’t seem to figure it out why it won’t lower or raise the motor

    old was 2 wire new one is 3 wire. do i use the extra black (ground) wire ti ground new motor becyz old one ground thru case . the new one is used but the price of a new one before i found your website was horrorifying!!!! so i bought one rebuilt garaunteed to work & fit my boat. im just not sure where to put the ground wire on the new motor??

    1. Yes that is an additional ground wire. It is a better source than grounding than thru case. Grounding to the block will work fine or go directly the negative side of the battery.


  16. Hi Mike,
    I have a 2003 5.0 L. 260HP M.P.I. Mercruiser. My problem is trim will not go all the way down if boat sits for a day. It will go all the way up at anytime, but to get it all the way down takes many tries going up and down, but eventually it will bottom out, with the motor sounding weaker in the down direction. Now it will work for the rest of my outing, until the next day. Problem starts over again. Can you help me.
    The Burr

  17. I have a 2003 Johnson 50 hp 4 stroke. Tilt down works but tilt up dose not work. Is there a way to check the up relay to determin if it is bad before spending $127 for a new one. Could it just be a bad wire or conection.

  18. i have a 2003 140 johnson outboard fourstroke. When I trim the motor up on acceleration to plane the boat of the motor sometimes buck or shuts down altogether

  19. I have a 1997 Mercury Force. The Power Trim and Tilt will tilt up but will not till down.
    any ideas or suggestions. Thanks.

  20. I have1999 Mercury cruiser Alpha One V6 inboard, my out drive go’s down fine but i cant get it to come up all the time with out helping it up. Can i bleed the line to help correct the problem ,and if i can whats the best way to do it ? Is it the same principle as bleeding brakes?

  21. I have a Suzuki 150 2012 model the tilt has started going up by itself. it started doing this a couple of weeks ago. I took it to the dealer they said they thought there was a broke wire in the wiring harness. They replaced it, cost me over 400.00 labor included. Brought it home the next day the motor went right back up. the tilt works fine otherwise. Anybody know what causes this?

  22. Johnson trim pump solenoid

    I have a 1988 Pression Chief 1850 with a 1988 Johnson 88 HP. It has been sitting up for a year +. I am trying to get going again. The trim is not working, just clicks when I try to raise or lower it. The motor turns over, but want to get it down to run the motor. A two wire connection from the sol was corroded, cut it and hard spliced it and it still clicks. There is a black box on the transom where it clicks and I assume this the solenoid for the trim?
    What do I need to try to make sure it is the sol?

  23. Have. 2009 Yamaha 150 4stroke. Tilt. Won’t do anything but click at the motor. When it does work it’s very slow

  24. Having issues with my trim, down works and up worms intermittently, changed out the relays still nothing for up. Worked fine the other day got it home on the trailer and nothing, motor won’t go back up.

    1. This could be several different issues. It could be a loose electrical connection, fuel cut out, etc. I would check to see if you have any bad electrical connections or shorts, then continue from there.

  25. I have a 40HP Merc the power trim goes up and down but won’t stay up. Creeps down quickly even out of the water. I Have replaced the piston and manual release valve. Any ideas?

  26. I have a problem you might be able to help me with. Motor is a 140 HP Johnson 1984. Trim and tilt unit works fine out of water. It goes up and down all the way with smooth action. It will hold any position from max up to max down and will not bleed off. The trouble is in the water, at idle and slow operation It also works fine, BUT once you apply power the unit will bleed off. Now I do have one problem the center hub is out on the prop. and boat will not plane out. Any Ideas.

  27. I have a 96 force 90, It will trim down, but will no longer go up. It sounds fine, but will not move. Any thoughts? Sounds normal, but wont go up, before it stopped working, I tried to trim up, and it sounded like it was bogged down a bit.

    Thanks in advance,


  28. I have a 2004 Regal 1800 LSR bow rider with a 4.3L Mercruiser and Alpha 1 out drive. Trim/tilt has been working fine until today. Now I can only get it to come about halfway up and then it shuts off like it has reached the full up position. Any ideas?

  29. I have a 1980 Mercury 140hp and just replaced the trim pump (sae j1171). The pump runs really great when I jump it and will lower the motor up and down perfectly. When I use the throttle controls, the pump lowers the motor all the way down perfectly. When I use the up throttle button, the pump works for like 2 seconds and only raises the motor a foot or so. It works, but not all the way. Jumping it raises the motor all the way up and the up throttle works, but not completely. How is that possible?

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