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Repacking the Stuffing Box


Labeled photo of stuffing box People ask about repacking the stuffing box. It's easy enough, once you've done it (and if you can reach it), but it's a bit scary to thing about if you've never done it before. And, since it's in an awkward position, you probably want to know ahead of time what you're facing.

You'll also need a set of wrenches that fits the stuffing box and can turn in the space available. Many Alberg 30s measure 1-7/8" across the packing nut and 2" across the lock nut, and use 3/16" flax, but measure yours to be sure. On the newer boats, there is another stuffing box on the rudder shaft. These tend to measure 2-1/8" on both the packing nut and the lock nut, and take 5/16" packing. (If your Alberg 30 varies from these measurements, please let me know.)

Unscrew the stuffing box nut. Dig out the old flax that's inside it. Wrap the new flax around the shaft three times, and cut it (without cutting the shaft) at a slight angle acroll all the turns. This will give you three rings of flas that just fit around the shaft. Arrange these between the stuffing box and the stuffing box nut, with the cut part of the rings rotated to different places. Push the nut back to the stuffing box such that the flax rings go inside. Screw the nut back on, hand tight. Adjust in the water so that the stuffing box just quits dripping. Re-adjust with the engine running and in gear so that it drips slowly. Tighten the lock nut agains the stuffing box nut to prevent it from vibrating loose. Re-check periodically.

Here are some links (in no particular order) to articles on the subject:

diagram of drip free packing As an alternative to flax packing, you can use Drip Less® Moldable Packing. This product is a high-tech clay-like material. You use two rings of ordinary flax (or teflon) packing and one ring of this stuff in the middle, and coat everything with the provided packing lubricant. With this product, you can adjust your packing until it just barely does not drip when then engine is running. There will still be enough lubrication to protect the shaft (though the packing will feel a little warmer).

This product is available from

Western Pacific Trading, Inc.
3305 Spring Mountain Rd.
Suite 60
Las Vegas, NV 82102
phone 1-800-944-3501

This product is also available from West Marine
Ocean Navigator magazine cover Ocean Navigator

A serious magazine for serious sailors. This magazine deals extensively with all sorts of navigation, from ded reckoning to radar and GPS. Also significant coverage of other issues of offshore (or other challenging) sailing.


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Last modified: Sunday 24-Jul-2011