Jack Plate Blogs

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All You Need to Know About Kick Up Jack Plates

All You Need to Know About Kick Up Jack Plates

Everything You Need To Know About Kick-Up Jack Plates

Boating enthusiasts, hunters and anglers can all benefit from kick-up jack plates. Kick-up jack plates help mitigate damage to your boat and allow you to go places that you may not be able to with a standard outboard motor. Read on to find out more about kick-up jack plates.

What Is a Kick-Up Plate?

Kick-up plates help protect your outboard motor and your boat from damage when maneuvering in shallow waters or water with debris present. They are ideal when you may run into timber that is in the water, a stump that is not seen or even a sandbar. Your outboard engine attaches to a bar on your boat that is hinged. Both clamp-on and bolted-on engines can work with the kick-up plate. When moving, if your engine hits an object, it will simply displace the engine, moving it up on the hinge to a maximum of 45 degrees, rather than damaging the engine or boat or causing personal injury.

What Are the Benefits of Kick-Up Plates?

There are many benefits to utilizing a kick-up plate:

1. Personal Safety

When maneuvering in shallow water or water with debris, hitting a stationary object can jostle you or your passengers, even throwing an unsuspecting person overboard. A jack plate will reduce the forcefulness of the impact and move the engine out of the way. The forcefulness of the impact may not be completely mitigated, but the force felt by the passengers may be considerably less than if there was not a kick-up plate installed.

2. Reduced Engine and Boat Damage

The jack plate may move the engine out of the way enough that there is no damage to your engine and may prevent damage to your boat from a collision.

3. You Can Still Reverse

Despite what some people may say, you are still able to reverse the engine with a kick-up plate installed.

4. Safety Chains Prevent Outboard Motor Kick-Up

If an object is struck, there is a safety mechanism in place to prevent the motor from kicking up and potentially harming a boater. On Vance Manufacturing kick-up plates, these are stainless steel chains that prevent the overextension of the engine.

Does It Work With My Outboard Motor?

The kick-up jack plate attaches directly to the boat on one side and is hinged to the outside post that the outboard motor attaches to. Kick-up or breakaway plates work with both manual or hydraulic jack plates. This allows the boater to have complete control of the height of the motor in more shallow waters but also be prepared in case there is contact with the motor and an underwater object. Best of all, kick-up plates can work with both clamp-on or bolt-on motors up to 150 HP.

Can You Still Go in Reverse With a Kick-Up Plate?

Yes, you can. There are side swivels that are changed to match the rig size. The larger the engine, the tighter the swivels need to be to prevent flip-up when reversing. The engine will always be limited to the length of the stainless steel safety chain that comes with the plate.


While Vance kick-up plates are rated for 0-150 HP engines, these are not made to hit an obstruction in the water while moving quickly. These are intended for when you're slowly moving in shallow water in the forward direction at about 5 MPH.

Having a kick-up plate does not guarantee that an engine or boat will be damage-free after an impact. This is intended to be a convenient safety device and not meant to dilute your awareness of what is in the water.

Are There Any Other Advantages To Getting a Kick-Up Plate?

If installing a hydraulic kick-up plate, you can utilize the hydraulic system to adjust the trim on a manual engine. The easy-to-install push-button switch is quickly run to the hydraulics on the kick plate, making trim adjustments on the fly by the operator very easy. This also allows the operator to better maintain control of the boat, as he or she can keep attention on where the boat is going instead of handling the motor.

If you're a hunter or an angler, installing a kick-up plate helps you better focus on your hunting or fishing activities without the constant worry of what's below the surface. Keeping an eye on where your pole or your prey is is easier, as these kick-up plates give you one less thing to worry about.

Final Thoughts

Kick-up plates are mechanical tools that help you enjoy your boating experience. With a kick-up plate installed, you no longer need to focus as much on what lies below the water that you can't see, and they can help avoid an accidental run-in with a sandbar or underwater stump. This is a mechanism that does not weigh a lot, is easy to install and works with different types of motors. If you've ever found yourself working your way through shallow water, concerned about what you may not see and hit, a kick-up plate is just what you need for ease of mind and mitigating expensive accidents with unseen objects.

Vance Manufacturing offers manual and hydraulic kick-up plates that are proudly made in the U.S.A. They weigh between 21 and 24 pounds for a manual kick-up plate and between 49.5 and 55 pounds for a hydraulic kick-up plate. We have the right kick plate for your freshwater, brackish water or saltwater boat. Call or click to place your order today!

All your questions about kick-up jack plates have been answered! Check it out here.

How To Care For Your Jack Plate

How To Care For Your Jack Plate

Jack-Plate Maintenance

Our jack plates can give you the performance you want from your boat, improving hole shot, maintaining water pressure and reducing hull lift. However, like anything mechanical, these plates can develop issues over time if they aren't cared for. Here's how to maintain jack plates using a combination of regular maintenance, cleaning and lubrication so you can avoid or fix most common problems.

What Do I Need To Do to Maintain My Jack Plate?

As with any piece of equipment, keeping up with jack-plate maintenance can save you from having trouble down the road.

Always rinse the plate off after taking your boat out, especially if you were boating in saltwater. While aluminum doesn't rust, corrosion can turn the outside of your plate into aluminum oxide. This leaves a rough, chalky, expanded surface that makes it hard for the plate to move up and down. Rinsing also removes any surface dirt, keeping it from building up and interfering with the plate's operation.

Check the tightness of the mounting bolts periodically. Over time, vibrations can loosen these fasteners. You should also check any wiring connections. What may seem like a damaged or dirty plate may just be a faulty connection between the plate's hydraulics, the battery and the up/down switch.

When you store your boat, keep the plate in its lowest position. This takes stress off of the mounting hardware. It also saves wear and tear on the cylinder and lines used on hydraulic plates.

Do I Need To Clean My Jack Plate?

Most problems with shaking and sticking jack plates can be traced to dirt. Even a thin layer of dust can be enough to increase friction between the plates and rollers, keeping them from moving past each other. Shaking occurs when this buildup creates friction. In some spots, buildup increases the force required to move the plate. Once past this spot, the force needed to move the plate returns to normal. This sticking isn't always consistent. Your jack plate may move in one direction freely but stick and shake when moving in the other direction. Other times, it may stick going up and down but in different spots.

To clean your jack plate, raise it to its highest position. Apply a layer of biodegradable dish soap to all surfaces, then lower the plate. Over time, this soap will bond to the surface dirt. You can raise the plate and rinse off the soap and dirt, or just let the water do the work for you when you take your boat out again.

Do I Need To Lubricate My Jack Plate?

If cleaning isn't enough to eliminate shaking when you move your outboard, it's time to lubricate your jack plate. The lubricant you choose should not be oil- or grease-based. Silicone spray is ideal, as it's able to penetrate the part and create a waterproof film. Water displacers like WD-40 can remove dirt, but they don't leave behind a long-lasting layer of lubricant. If you use these products, follow them with silicone spray on the slides and rollers.

Greasing jack plates isn't recommended. Grease can hold onto sand, salt and grit, wearing down metal surfaces prematurely.

Keep your Jack Plate well-maintained with our pro-approved tips and tricks

How To Choose the Right Jack Plate for Your Boat

How To Choose the Right Jack Plate for Your Boat

How To Choose the Right Jack Plate for Your Boat

Jack plates give you control over your outboard's position, which helps you get better performance from your boat in any operating condition. However, with several options for lift mechanisms, coatings and setback, choosing the right plate can be confusing. Here's what you need to know about choosing a jack plate that will work with your boat.

Why Would I Want a Jack Plate on My Boat?

If your outboard is fixed in place, it's rarely in a position that best matches your operating conditions. A jack plate lets you move your motor up and down to get the propeller and shaft in the right position, no matter what you're doing. Consider the following scenarios:

  • Traveling in shallow waters? Raising your motor keeps the prop clear of the ground, reducing turbulence.
  • Having trouble starting off? Lowering your motor can help you get a good hole shot, while raising it can help your boat get on plane easier than adjusting trim alone.
  • Want a higher top speed and better fuel economy? Most boat builders are conservative with prop height, and drag increases exponentially with speed. Lifting your motor leaves less of the prop in the water, which reduces the power needed to maintain speed. Keeping your motor's cavitation plate plate above the waterline can improve performance dramatically.
  • Does your motor want to ventilate and slip under load? A drop down plate lets you lower the prop, helping it push the boat through the water.
  • Pulling your boat out of the water? You can use your jack plate to raise your motor up high, keeping it clear of the ramp until you can fit a transom support.

What Size Jack Plate for My Boat Offers the Best Performance?

We rate our jack plates based on the horsepower they support for motors built after 1978. For smaller clamp-on engines less than 40 HP we have our mini jack plates. For smaller engines less than 40 HP that are not clamp on style and have the standard bolt pattern you can use the 40 HP and up jack plates. The motor manufacturers do not necessarily always use the standard bolt pattern in their motor brackets for engines 40 HP and less so we recommend double checking this before ordering.

How Do You Choose a Setback on a Jack Plate?

Setback is how far the jack plate extends past the transom. The more setback you have, the more leverage the motor will have on the boat. This leverage helps raise the bow out of the water. Setback also positions the prop or jet away from turbulent water coming off of the hull, which can help with performance. As a general rule, you want your motor cavitation plate to be slightly (1 inch) above the bottom of your boat transom. You do not want your motor cavitation plate dragging in the water, this may cause spraying, drag, and RPMs lost if the motor is too low. Prop position varies widely between outboards. Prop length is measured from the top of the clamp bracket to the cavitation plate.

There is no set rule of thumb for how much setback you need for your boat. It all depends on how much bow lift you need and how far you need to move the motor to push through clean water as well as any clearance you may need to clear hydraulic steering rams, swim decks, etc.. When you tilt your motor up if you don't have enough setback and have clearance issues your hydraulic steering may hit the top of the boat transom. We offer jack plates in several different lengths, eliminating the need for a setback bracket.

Hydraulic Vs Manual Jack Plate: Which One Is Better?

Both hydraulic and sliding manual jack plates use the same basic design. The frame mounts to your boat's transom, while your outboard motor bolts to the plate. Moving the plate up and down changes the position of the motor.

A hydraulic jack plate uses a hydraulic ram driven by an electric pump to lift and lower the plate. A hydraulic jack can be adjusted on the fly, going deep in the water to help you get a good hole shot, then raising up for optimum performance once you're underway. This is the best choice if your focus is speed, shallow water, or ease of use.

A manual jack plate uses a large screw, like a C-clamp, that moves the outer plate up and down. Manual plates are cheaper than hydraulic plates, and they work well if your main concern is finding the best position your engine works in and locking it down. Manual Jack Plates can be adjusted on the water but require more effort and may be time consuming to adjust.

What's the Difference Between a Propeller Outboard Jack Plate and a Jet Outboard Jack Plate?

A jet motor needs to run closer to the back of your boat transom than a propeller motor, especially if it has a large outlet. We make special patented products just for outboard jet motors here. If you're converting between jet and prop drive, you need a jack plate made for your new motor.

What Does a Performance Plate Do?

This plate attaches to the bottom of our jack plates. It prevents water from spraying up through the jack plate, improving overall efficiency for increased speed and performance. The performance plate must be installed on the jack plate at the factory because the jack plate must be modified to fit the performance plate.

Which Coating Should I Choose for My Jack Plate?

We offer four coating options on our products, each with its own unique advantages.

1. Raw Aluminum

Raw aluminum corrodes, but not as quickly as steel. This is a good option if you're on a tight budget and you only operate in freshwater. However, these parts will degrade quickly in brackish water and saltwater.

2. Black Powder Coating

This is a type of baked-on paint that creates a glossy finish. This layer doesn't protect against corrosion, and it can chip off over time. Like raw aluminum, this is a good option if you only operate in freshwater. However, black jack plates are preferred for fishing and waterfowl hunting because they won't reflect light that can catch the attention of game.

3 & 4. Clear and Black Anodized Aluminum

Anodizing oxidizes the surface of aluminum, creating a hardened, corrosion-resistant layer that won't flake off. We make jack plates out of two kinds of anodized aluminum. Clear anodizing has a slightly gold tint compared to raw aluminum. This offers improved corrosion resistance over raw aluminum, making it a good choice for brackish water and saltwater. Our black anodized plates have a harder-wearing surface that is more resistant to saltwater corrosion than clear anodizing.

To learn more about our jack plate coating options, check out this article.

Deciding which jack plate is best for your boat can feel like a big undertaking. We've broken down everything you need to consider so that you can make your choice with confidence!
How to Use Hydraulic Jack Plates

How to Use Hydraulic Jack Plates

How to Use Hydraulic Jack Plates

Hydraulic jack plates may not be a necessary piece of equipment for your boat; however, if any accessory makes your boating experience nicer, it's a hydraulic jack plate. This is especially true for hunters and anglers, as they may find themselves in waters that are not ideal or more shallow than normal. By using a hydraulic jack plate, any boat can be turned into a finely tuned and optimized machine.

The Basics of Hydraulic Jack Plates

What Is a Jack Plate Anyways?

A jack plate is an accessory that mounts between the boat's transom and the outboard motor. It allows for vertical displacement of the engine, parallel to the hull, and provides optimal positioning of the engine in the water. There are three types of jack plates, each with its own advantages:

  • Fixed jack plate - least expensive, least flexible
  • Manual jack plate - mid-level cost, relatively easy to adjust outside of the water
  • Hydraulic jack plate - highest cost, most flexibility with adjusting while on the water and moving

This article will focus on how to use a hydraulic jack plate, which provides the most flexibility while underway. In addition to flexibility, these are also the easiest to adjust as it is done simply by adjusting a lever, as you would your throttle.

How Does a Hydraulic Jack Plate Work?

A hydraulic jack plate works by attaching the engine to a jack plate that adjusts its vertical position via hydraulic pistons on either side of the engine. The jack plate is then attached to the boat. The hydraulic pressure in the lines makes it simple to adjust the vertical height of the engine with the push of a button. The only limitation with a hydraulic jack plate is the mounting position is limited by the length of the hydraulic line. However, the length of the hydraulic line is long enough to fit boats and could be custom made if needed.

How To Adjust a Hydraulic Jack Plate

A hydraulic line runs from the pistons up to a lever that is typically mounted next to the throttle or on the steering column for ease of use and access. The vertical position of the engine is adjusted simply by using the lever or button to engage the pump and pistons to move the engine. Unlike the other types of jack plates mentioned above, once the jack plate is mounted correctly, tools are not needed to adjust the vertical position.

How Do You Use a Hydraulic Jack Plate?

Hydraulic jack plates provide the boater with an opportunity to optimize engine performance while underway. While this will be specific to your boat and how the engine is trimmed and how it is mounted on the transom, knowing when to adjust the vertical position will quickly become second nature. There are several ways to optimize the use of your hydraulic jack plate, including using it in shallow water, using it when first getting up on plane and adjusting it for efficient use in rough water.

Using the Hydraulic Jack Plate in Shallow Water

Shallow water is almost always a tricky situation, as you do not want propellor blades to touch the bottom or get too tangled in any of the vegetation that is on the bottom. The hydraulic jack plate will allow the real-time adjustment of the vertical position of the engine to bring the propeller blades furthest from the bottom or vegetation while keeping them fully in the water. While it's easier for cavitation when the propeller is higher in the water column, it's best to run a lower RPM to maneuver the shallow waters.

Using the Hydraulic Jack Plate When Going Up on Plane

This is one of the areas that provides the best flexibility for optimizing your engine's efficiency in the water. The consensus when getting your boat up on plane is to trim your engine all the way down and have your hydraulic jack plate moved to the highest vertical position. As the throttle is maximized, the bow will lurch up, placing the engine lower in the water column and providing the thrust needed. As the bow lurches up, start lowering and trimming out the engine. This process will coincide with the bow of the boat lunging up and coming out on plane. If cavitation is felt while planing or coming out on plane, lower the vertical position of the engine a bit more to increase the pressure of the water column to reduce the probability of cavitation.

Hydraulic Jack Plate Boating Tips

Some things are key to keep in mind when using a hydraulic jack plate. First, hydraulic jack plates are meant to be completely lowered to release any pressure in the pistons if they are to be trailered for an extended period of time. Hydraulic jack plates provide the boater with the ability to change the vertical position at any time, and therefore can always be used to help optimize the efficiency of the engine. If cavitation is ever experienced, the hydraulic jack plate can compensate for that, thereby reducing cavitation and improving efficiency. Finally, practice with your hydraulic jack plate and see how performance increases as the engine positions are optimized.

Final Thoughts

A hydraulic jack plate provides the boater with the greatest flexibility to adjust the vertical position of the engine while running. The engine can be placed at the optimal height for everything from rough water (lower vertical position) to shallow water (high vertical position). Optimizing your engine's thrust and output lets you unleash the full potential of your boating experience. Vance Manufacturing has a hydraulic jack plate with variable setback for 0-150 HP engines to help meet your boating needs.

Learn the basics of hydraulic jack plates to enjoy the full benefits of this modern boating technology!

How to Use Manual Jack Plates

How to Use Manual Jack Plates

How to Use Manual Jack Plates

Adding new equipment to your boat may seem intimidating at first. However, understanding the advantages and the ease with which the equipment may be used could quickly change your mind. Boating enthusiasts, anglers and hunters may benefit greatly from using a manual jack plate. Read on to find out why.

What Is a Jack Plate?

There are three main types of jack plates: fixed, manual and hydraulic. While they each have their advantages, this article will focus on manual jack plates. A jack plate is a mounting mechanism situated between the transom of the boat's hull and the outboard engine. The jack plate provides adjustable vertical positioning of the outboard engine to change the height of the engine in the water.

What Are the Advantages of Using a Jack Plate?

Utilizing a jack plate allows for more overall control of your engine height and, ultimately, performance in the water. It allows you to maximize the performance of your engine in rough waters and provide ease of use in shallow waters. Furthermore, the vertical position defines the water column that is available for use and can therefore be optimized for the performance you desire.

Adjusting a Manual Jack Plate

Manual jack plates are adjusted without hydraulic assistance before putting the boat in the water. While this requires some planning on the boater's part, adjusting before entering the water provides the flexibility that will be needed if entering shallow water (adjusting such that the boat's engine sits higher) or rough water (adjusting such that the engine sits lower, providing more control).

Adjusting the height of the jack plate is a simple process that requires only a few steps to help optimize the performance. You may need several tools, including one or more wrenches that are of appropriate size, a tape measure, a level and a pencil. To adjust appropriately, follow these steps:

  • Using a pencil, mark the current height of the jack plate for reference.
  • To accurately determine the height of the engine and therefore where the jack plate supports your motor before adjusting, make sure your boat is level and measure the distance from the pad to the floor, and then from the center of the propeller to the floor. The difference is the pad-to-prop height.
  • Loosen any supporting bolts on either side of the jack plate, as this will allow the jack plate to move vertically.
  • Supporting the engine will help take the weight off the bolts and reduce the chances of it binding in place and not moving during adjustment.
  • Begin by turning the bolt in the center, which raises or lowers the jack plate and thus the height of the engine.
  • Tighten all bolts back down and test for the performance you'd like.

The optimal height of the jack plate provides the best performance for your boat. While each engine is different, some engines operate better lower in the water than others. Additionally, if the boat will run primarily in shallow waters, adjusting the jack plate higher may be advantageous despite a drop in performance.

How Would You Choose the Right Setback?

Setback is the distance that the jack plate provides between the engine and the transom. Since one face of the jack plate attaches to the boat and the other face of the jack plate attaches to the motor, a gap is created between the two, and the setback, therefore, defines the distance in which the engine is sitting behind the boat. With increased setback, props tend to run in cleaner, less turbulent water, providing more grip.

The setback should be chosen based on the size of the engine and how the engine moves when trimming. As the height of the engine is adjusted, different parts of the engine may be at risk of coming into contact with the boat, such as when the jack plate is lowest and the engine is trimmed back. The setback should be large enough to ensure there is no contact between the engine and the boat. Additionally, if your boat is bow-heavy, the extra setback may help balance the boat, making it easier to trim out when on plane.

Final Thoughts

Vance Manufacturing has manual jack plates for engines that range from 0-400 horsepower. Manual jack plates with setbacks ranging from 3 inches to 12 inches are also available. Finally, both clamp-on and bolt-on jack plates are available, providing the most flexibility for the user. If you need the extra flexibility of vertical adjustment with your engine, want to optimize performance or need to provide height and clearance when running in shallow water, then a manual jack plate may be an ideal option for you.

Learn the ins and outs of manual jack plates so that you are ready for the water

Hydraulic Jack Plates on Fishing Boats

Hydraulic Jack Plates on Fishing Boats

Hydraulic Jack Plates on Fishing Boats

Fishing boats don't come with jack plates, yet every pro fishing boat has one, as do most hobbyist boats. Why are hydraulic jack plates for shallow water fishing so popular? What are the benefits of hydraulic jack plates on fishing boats? Are these advantages just for pros, or can amateurs also benefit from installing a jack plate? Here's what you should know if you're considering a jack plate for your boat.

What Does a Jack Plate Do for My Boat's Performance?

A jack plate attaches between your boat's transom and the outboard motor. It has two functions:

  • It adds setback, placing the motor farther behind the transom
  • It lets you move the outboard up and down

Setback has two performance benefits. The transom stirs up water passing under it, creating turbulence. Moving the prop back puts it in cleaner flowing water, helping the blades get traction. Increasing the distance between the motor and the transom also adds leverage. This lets the motor push the boat up with less force, helping the boat get on plane faster.

The motor mounting plate moves up and down, changing the position of the outboard. Unlike trim, this height adjustment doesn't change the prop angle. This gives you more control, keeping the flow of water around the prop the same as you change the height of the motor. It also lets you get the prop in a position that avoids turbulence from the water surface, the bottom of the water and the transom.

By fine-tuning the height, you can get the right balance of traction and drag. Drop the motor when you're in deep water, and the prop can get better traction by avoiding surface turbulence. This traction improves hole shot, helping the boat get on plane. It also improves handling at high speeds. Once you're underway, lifting the motor reduces drag from the shaft. This increases your top speed.

With the motor up high, the prop won't drag on the bottom in shallow water. This lets you run your boat in places that you can't get to with a fixed prop. Lifting the motor also decreases turbulence from the lake bed, improving speed.

You can also compensate for weight changes throughout the day, balancing prop position against your boat's depth in the water. This helps you adjust for weight differences between the bow and stern, preventing porpoising.

Does a Jack Plate Make a Difference in Fishing?

When it comes to boating, the biggest difference between recreational excursions and fishing is where you operate. If you're out on a cruise, you probably stick to deep water areas. That way, you can reach high speeds, avoid obstacles and engage in sports like water skiing. When you're fishing, you need to go where the fish are, including deep water, shallow water, marshes, bridges and more. With a jack plate, you can position your outboard motor to reach these places safely while minimizing turbulence that can alert fish.

What is the Purpose of a Jack Plate on a Bass Boat?

While bass are found in different places depending on the season and time of day, most catches happen in shallow water. A jack plate makes it easy to transition between areas, and go between fishing spots. You can lift your prop in shallow water, keeping it clear of the stumps and other obstacles. When it's time to move into a new spot, you can start with the prop up high to get on plane faster in shallow water. Once you're back in deep water, you can lower the prop for more traction. A jack plate can be a major time saver during tournaments and can keep your prop clear of obstacles in prime fishing spots. That's why they're pretty much standard on these boats.

Do I need a Hydraulic Jack Plate for my Fishing Boat? Can I Save Money by Installing a Manual Plate?

If you're considering a jack plate for your boat, the lower price of a manual plate can be enticing. However, manual plates are missing functionality that comes in handy when fishing.

With a manual jack plate, you need to stop the boat every time you need to move the prop. That's not much of a problem if you're staying in one type of water all day. However, most fishing puts anglers in situations where they need to go between shallow and deep water frequently. In this case, it makes sense to spend extra on a hydraulic jack plate. That way, you can start with a high prop in shallow water, lower it as your boat moves into deep water, and then move it up again when you're back in the shallows.

Using a manual jack plate also makes it difficult to compensate for surface turbulence and weight changes. Each time you need to make an adjustment, you have to stop the boat to turn the plate screw. Then you need to get your boat up to speed to see if you got the height right. By mounting a hydraulic jack plate remote next to your other controls, it's easy to fine-tune your outboard placement while you're in motion. This lets you compensate for porpoising, drag and turbulence on the fly.

Learn more about how a hydraulic jack plate can improve your fishing boat's performance for better days catching fish.