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Monday, 23 June 2014 00:00

Maintaining your Native Watercraft "Propel" drive

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For owners of the Native Watercraft's “Propel” pedal drive propulsion system, routine maintenance is an important part of keeping the unit in top working condition. Fortunately, both the system and its upkeep are very straightforward. 

Perhaps the most important maintenance tool for the Propel drive is cheap and readily available: fresh water. After every trip – especially in salt or brackish water – a simple and thorough low-pressure rinse with fresh water is a must. Never use a high-pressure hose; you don’t want to force water, dirt, grit, etc. past the seals to the internal components. I carry a little garden sprayer in the car, and use it to give my rods, reels, and Propel drive a quick shower right after I get off the water. They all get a more thorough hose rinse when I get home.

While rinsing the drive, inspect the casting, cranks, pedals, and propeller for damage. Always check the section of the casing where the thwart tube passes through; there were reports of some early castings cracking when the screws were over-tightened. Look for grit buildup in screw recesses. Trapped salt can quickly lead to corrosion.

The interval for more in-depth upkeep depends on how frequently you pedal. The original recommendation from Native was every six months, but updated guidance suggests that users grease the upper and lower sections of the Propel drive after every seventy five days or 600 hours of pedaling, whichever comes first. Native specifies using only Finish Line Teflon Grease for the internal gears. Any other grease may cause compatibility issues and do more harm than good. Grease and a tool are available through your dealer, or can be found at many bicycle shops.

When performing any maintenance on the internal mechanism, it is important that both the Propel drive and your work environment are clean and dry. Greasing the upper section is simple. Remove the Allen screw for access, and grease the gears.

Greasing the lower section requires removing the propeller and cartridge from the cast housing. This requires a specialized spanner wrench that fits the cassette ring. This is the one Native recommends, which can also be used for the crank caps:



Rather than give detailed directions here, I’ll point you to an excellent video, produced by Native, which takes you through the process step by step:



The drive mechanism is protected by a brass shear pin between the propeller and the propeller drive shaft. If you manage to break (or lose) the pin, it’s simple to replace.

I always carry the propeller screw Allen wrench and a replacement shear pin with me on the water. Shear pins are available from your dealer. Don’t use a different shear pin or a piece of coat hanger – you risk damaging your prop, and potentially the Propel drive gears.


Native Watercraft is training Certified Propel Technicians throughout its dealer and Pro Staff networks. If at any point you don't feel comfortable performing the prescribed maintenance, contact your local dealer or Pro Staff member for assistance.

The Propel drive is a straightforward propulsion system that revolutionized the pedal-drive kayak industry with reverse capability. Some simple maintenance will help keep your drive running smoothly for years to come.

Equipment and materials links:

Thanks to John Kiffmeyer from Native Watercraft (and star of the maintenance videos) for his input on this piece!


Read 28464 times Last modified on Monday, 23 June 2014 10:21
Greg Becker

About the Author: Greg Becker relocated to the Tampa Bay, FL area from upstate NY, where for 20 years he spent his spare time as a licensed hunting and fishing guide. He now enjoys fishing in places you don’t need to drill through the water in winter. Greg writes for several outdoor companies and publications in the U.S. and abroad, and is a member of the Native Watercraft Pro Staff and Bull Bay Rods Professional Team. Greg enjoys getting his eleven-year-old son Robert out fishing in salt water from his kayak, and together they volunteer with the Tampa Bay Chapter of Heroes on the Water and Operation Helping Hand at the James A Haley VA Hospital.

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# DDOlson 2014-06-23 18:57
Great article...Altho ugh I don't have a Slayer Propel; I did like the suggestion of the garden sprayer for cleaning reels. I plan on looking into this solution.

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