2003 Amberjack 290 shifting problem

Nuno Fig

New Member
May 23, 2023
Boat Info
2003 Amberjack 290
mercruiser 5.7L MPI 350's
Hi all. After splashing the boat at the marina, unfortunately I had to pull the boat out of the water...tchatching!
My "new to me" 2003 Amberjack 290, with 5.7l MPI 350's and bravo 3's, is stuck in forward gear (port engine/outdrive). As I was starting the engines, I could not start the port engine. After moving the port shift control back and forth, I was able to start the engine, but drive is stuck in forward...port shifter sees too loose. After checking shifting cable at the cockpit port shifter, and moving the shifter back and forth, I can see that it is working properly, moving the shift bracket mounted at the exhaust elbow as it should. Thus, I assume the problem would be with the shift cable (lower cable) that connects to the outdrive.
I have ordered the cable and a transom bellow kit just in case.
I have watched some videos on you tube, and there is a mention of a detent ball and spring...
Aside from pulling the outdrive, replacing the cable and most likely the cable bellows...should I be looking at anything else?
Hopefully I can get the boat back on the water soon...
Did you have your outdrive serviced over the winter? Could be something as simple as the cable isn’t caught in the shift arm lever. If you had somebody service it, I would make that their issue.
Thanks for the reply. I just purchased the boat, so I am currently performing maintenance that I was told by the previous owner "it's been done"...you know how that goes. The shift arm lever is fine, and the cable ( upper cable) functions and it should...I can see the shift bracket at the motor move back and forth.
However, nothing happens at the drive.
Bravo's not made to shift with engine off, probably bent the linkage in the drive.
By the "shift arm lever" you mean the connection of the cable at the outdrive?
I am pulling the drive out tomorrow to find out...I have a new cable ready to go just in case. I am planning on doing all this myself, as marine mechanics at the marina are booked for weeks...
Bravo's not made to shift with engine off, probably bent the linkage in the drive.
Thanks for the reply. I have the separate shifters at port and throttle shifters at starboard.
The port engine would not start...due to the shifter not being in neutral? So I moved the shifter. When I did that, the shifter became "loosy goosy" , and I was able to start the engine. However, the drive is now in forward gear and I cannot shift out of gear.
Well you either bent the linkage, broke the cable or the clutch cone is stuck,
Hopefully not the clutch cone...that's a big tchatching!
The shift arm I was referring to is the one inside the outdrive where the cable connects. When you remove and reinstall the outdrive it is very easy to not catch the cable in the clasp on the end of the drive. If your shift lever at the helm moves freely then this is likely the case. The fix is to separate the outdrive and make a good connection. I would look for Mercruiser manual #28, or direct message me your email. This manual will have everything you need to know about your era bravo 3 stern drive.
Thank You Unsalted. I have the Seloc Mercruiser sterndrives service manual, but I would certainly love to get the mercruiser manual as well. I did find the problem over the weekend while working on the boat. The lower shifting cable tip was not secured at the set screws...just sitting there loose!
Don't know how it would just come off...I am thinking the tip of the cable snapped due to corrosion or perhaps when I tried to move the shifter, it pulled away from the locking screws. I have a hard time to believe that mercruiser would rely only on two tiny locking screws to secure the inner cable in place.
I will be replacing the cable all together just in case, and do a full outdrive service while I'm at it (bellows, gimbal bearing). The boat is new to me, and I should know better...don't assume that maintenance is up to date, as the previous owner indicated.
I seem to have conflicting information regarding moving the shifter when the engine is not on...
When I was trying to start the port engine, it would not start. So I moved the shifter to make sure it was in neutral and that was when this whole thing happened. I was able to start the motor, but the outdrive was stuck in forward. So, what is someone supposed to do if this happens again? I guess don't move the shifter too much?

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