The right Buffer pad for a 3 blade Varifold Propeller
Continuing our review of Varifold Buffer pads, we now take a look at the 3 blade Varifold propellers. The 3 blade Varifold folding sailboat propeller uses buffer pads to cushion the blades as they open during deployment. Buffer pads are often overlooked but they are an important part of the folding propeller. The buffer pads stop the blade palm from hitting the propeller boss which can result in damage to the propeller blades.
The buffer pad for the 3 blade propeller comes in 2 different versions and is related to how old the Varifold propeller is. Originally the propellers were shipped with black rubber buffer pads which were upgraded several years ago to white nylon pads. Identification of the buffer pad is straight forward is best performed when the boat is out of the water as fitting the pads is harder than swapping out the zinc. To access the pads it is necessary to remove the three pivot pins from the blades. Instructions for their can be found on our download page.
The old style of buffer pad was a self adhesive pads that had a slight dome shaped profile. The application was simple, remove the old pad with a knife and clean the area well. Rub the propeller surface with isopropyl alcohol or similar to remove grease and stick on the new pad. The pad can also treated with a bead of marine sealant around it’s edges to hold it in place. The old style buffer pad would last as long as the zinc anode perhaps a season more until the compression forces cause the rubber to fail.
The current style of buffer pad (Part number VF3BP-W) is a more substantial part which requires a little more fitting. The buffer pad requires the propeller hub to be pilot bored below the pad recess to accept a retaining peg. The advantage of the new style pad is that it is harder, able to absorb a greater load and lasts a lot longer than the rubber stops. To change the nylon buffer pads requires leverage underneath them to pop them out. If the pad is worn down completely and impacted in the pad recess, a pilot hole can be drilled into the old pad. Then a coarse screw can be screwed into the pad to give purchase and both items pulled out with a pair of pliers. The new pad is then gently tapped into place with a soft mallet and the blades replaced.
Whichever Varifold folding sailboat propeller you have it is worthwhile adding them to your yearly inspection when you assess the condition of your propeller / shaft zinc. Change both the zinc and the buffer pad as needed will to ensure many years of trouble free sailing.