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How to Adjust Johnson Outboard Shift Linkage? – Step-by-Step Formulation


We all have been on boats once in our lives. It had been a pleasure for most of us and more. Given that, having a strong engine to jump-start your boat is essential. And Johnson outboard has proven its worth from time to time.

But, for it to reach its full potential, you need to properly shift the linkage adjustment.

So, How to Johnson outboard shift linkage adjustment?

Well, first disconnect the shift linkage from your outboard. Then, start by pressing down the engine cover latch. Next, lift the engine cover from the motor. After that, loosen the shift lever nut with an adjustable wrench. Lastly, pull the shift rod from the lever.

Still, confused about it all? Don’t worry! Keep reading the article to know more about it in detail. Come on!

15 hp Johnson

Why Adjusting Outboard Shift Linkage is Important?

Outboard shift linkage determines the speed and strength of a boat engine. Adjusting it properly will make your boat journey safer and better.

It’s not easy to tell if your shifter linkage is broken or not. But if you see any lag in the speed of your boat, that’s where you should look first.

But, even though it sounds tough, it’s actually easy to install. Adjusting boat shift linkage is quite interesting.

Let’s learn more about it, shall we?


But first, let’s start by troubleshooting. And see if the problems are way too unfixable or not. So let’s start:

  • First, lift out the trunnion nut.
  • Then, shift the handle to neutral.
  • Turn the gearbox in neutral.
  • After that, shift levers in the center of free travel.
  • Lastly, adjust the trunnion nut so it slips into the pocket.

Therefore, if your outboard shift linkage falls in these categories, strictly fix it. Now to the adjusting of the outboard shift linkage.

Adjusting Johnson Outboard Shift Linkage- 5 Easy Steps

Johnson Outboard

Johnson outboard shift linkage is the oldest and the boldest among its peers. Even though it’s a handful to control, it’s a better option than many other engines.

To adjust this shift linkage, we first need to find the best tools.

Tools Required

The best tools for adjusting Johnson outboard shift linkage are given below:


This one has to be of all kinds. From big to small to adjustable. A wrench is one of the most important tools.

We hope it impresses you the way it shook us.

New Shift Linkage

If you find the old one damaged beyond repair, then get a new one. Better safe than sorry.

Bolts and Nuts

Nuts and bolts help us to attach things back. In case you lose the previous ones, keep a heap of bolts and nuts as a backup.

Now that we have discussed the tools, let’s look at the steps required to be followed.

Step 1: Turn Off the Engine

First, you need to turn off the engine completely. Then, you’ll have to ensure the same for other parts of the boat. That way the outboard shift will be completely disconnected and safe to use.

This way, you can avoid most of the boating problems. Especially a bad trigger outboard for that matter.

Step 2: Undo the Engine Cover Latch

Engine Cover Latch

Now, undo the engine cover latch. For that, use the adjustable wrench. Start by pressing down the latch with one hand. Then, undo all the bolts.

Keep doing it until the lid of the engine is off. Use safety gloves if you are scared of hurting yourself. Lift the engine latchet slowly and carefully.

Step 3: Locate the Johnson Link

After that, locate the Johnson link. It’s usually near the outboard. Make sure to identify the problem properly before any severe action.

In case you see visible damage, replace it. If you see a loose nut or bolt, just tighten it up. A defective wire cannot be replaced in a Johnson outboard easily. But all of these will be irreplaceable.

Step 4: Use Safety Gears

In case, you need to change the faulty outboard, remember to use safety gear. Use the same wrench to remove the outboard.

If you need to fix anything, do it, or else just replace the outboard. It might not be as easy as removing gas from a boat fuel tank, but effective.

Step 5: Loosen up the Shift Linkage

Lastly, after everything loosen up the shift linkage with an adjustable lever. This way, it will be easier for you to pull the shift rod from the lever.

The shift linkage is the only finished connection between the upper and lower parts of your Johnson outboard motor.

Motors with less than 5.5 horsepower do not have a shift linkage to disconnect. So, removing the powerhead from your outboard will help you complete the work if you detach the shift linkage.

5 Ways of Preserving Johnson Outboard Shift Linkage

Ways of Preserving Johnson Outboard 1

Shifter linkage is very effective and important for your boat. It helps to jumpstart the boat and navigate its speed and directions.

But it’s rather expensive to get a new one or even to fix it. So, to minimize the damage, here are some of the ways you can save your shift linkage:

  • Keep the shift linkage clean.
  • Do not overuse or underuse it.
  • Change fuel often.
  • Don’t imply too much force to start up.
  • Don’t overheat the outboard.
  • Make sure water doesn’t enter the outboard area.

All these don’t imply your shift linkage to be problem-free. But they do make it long-lasting. Therefore, try to take care of it before anything.

By now, I’m sure you know the importance of adjusting the outboard shift linkage on a Johnson outboard.

Hope you are not too confused given it’s tough to navigate through the rules. But with the proper mindset, you can achieve your goals. And of course, the proper tools play the most important part.


Is johnson outboard reliable faqs

What do you mean by the quick start on the Johnson outboard?

In easy words, the temperature that requires to start an engine fast is quickstart. But, it has a limit of 105 degrees Fahrenheit heat to be used. All while the engine uses below 1100 RPM.

How to adjust an idle on Johnson 115?

First of all, the ignition has to be started. Then, monitor the tachometer reading. Now, wrench the screw clockwise to expand the speed and vice-versa. Lastly, change the speed until it descends into the recommended capacity for your model.

Is Johnson outboard reliable?

Yes, the Johnson outboard is reliable. They are very adequately nicer engines. They are carved 2 strokes that are rather thirsty for gas and oil. However, if well preserved, they are very steadfast.

How do you adjust the outboard reverse cable?

To adjust the reverse cable, first make sure that the outboard is in neutral. Then, locate the two adjustment nuts on the cable. These nuts are usually located at the base of the cable near where it attaches to the outboard.

Loosen the locknut that is closest to the outboard. This will allow you to turn the adjustment nut underneath. Turn this nut clockwise until there is about 1/4″ of play in the cable at the point where it attaches to the outboard.

Tighten down both nuts and test the outboard in reverse to make sure that it shifts properly. If it does not shift smoothly, you may need to readjust the cable.

How do you know if your shift linkage is loose?

There are a few telltale signs that your shift linkage is loose and needs to be adjusted. Firstly, you may notice that your boat is having difficulty shifting into gear, or that it’s taking longer than usual to engage. Additionally, you might hear a clicking or popping noise when you try to shift gears.

If you suspect that your shift linkage is loose, the best way to check is by engaging the gearshift lever and then moving it back and forth to see if there’s any play. If there’s excessive movement, then your linkage is definitely too loose and needs to be tightened.


By now, we are sure you know how to do the Johnson Outboard shift linkage adjustment. It’s easy and actually reliable as we can see.

But if you are still struggling, don’t worry. Just contact a professional for help and sit this out. This outboard adjustment is no joke as small mistakes could lead to major accidents.

Hope everything works out for you.

Happy boating!

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