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How To Test A Trolling Motor?

How To Test A Trolling Motor

Do you need to test a trolling motor? This is a good idea if:

  • You’re buying a used trolling motor
  • You want to sell your old trolling motor
  • You need to see if your battery will still turn the trolling motor on

There are some definite dos and don’ts when it comes to testing trolling motors. Here’s what you need to know before you try to check yours.

What to Test When Testing a Trolling Motor

There are a few things you can test for when you test a trolling motor. You can follow along with the video below to test and troubleshoot an electric trolling motor. These instructions work for any brush-type trolling motors.

Electric Trolling Motor Diagnose and Repair

Test the Battery

When testing a trolling motor, start by whether the motor turns on and the battery is good. Use a voltage tester, which you can buy at any automotive or boat store.

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Hook it up like you would hook up jumper cables. Attach the positive lead on the voltage tester to the positive side of your battery and the negative lead to the negative side of the battery.

The available voltage that you’re looking for will vary based on the type of battery you have. For instance, if you are using a 12 volt battery, your voltage should read 12.4 volts or higher. If you’re using a 24 volt battery, you want your reading to be at least 28.8 volts.

Test the Circuits

If your battery is in good shape, it’s time to test the motor itself. Get a couple of old tail lamp bulbs. Wire them into a series circuit and connect them to the trolling motor.

When you turn on the trolling motor, the bulbs should light up. Try turning the handle of the trolling motor so it cycles through all possible motor speeds. Make sure the lights stay on no matter where the handle is.

Take the Motor Apart

Newport Vessels X-Series 55lb Thrust Transom Mounted Saltwater Electric Trolling Motor w/LED Battery Indicator (36" Shaft)

You can also take the motor apart to see if there are any problems inside it. Make sure you mark or remember which parts go where so you can put it back together when you’ve finished.

Clean the motor with a wire brush as you go. This is good for the motor and will help keep it running well for a long time.

Check each part carefully to make sure that it is seated correctly and has not experienced undue wear and tear. If you find parts that are broken or damaged, order new ones from the motor manufacturer or your local boating store.

When you are sure that all parts of the trolling motor are working well again, reassemble the motor and make sure it turns on and off as it should.

Test for Battery Life

When everything is working well, you can test to see how long the motor runs and/or how long the battery lasts. Attach the motor to a battery and put it in water.

This can happen in a river or lake or you can test it with water in a cooler or a trash can in your garage.

The video below will show you how to test a trolling motor in a cooler.

Minn Kota Endura C2 40 trolling motor review and test

This test may take a long time, especially if you want your trolling motor to run for 6-8 hours or more.

If the motor doesn’t run as long as you want it to, then there’s a problem with the battery. Replace it and run the test again to make sure you’ll have the power you need.

Make sure you set the motor to the speed you’ll be using it at when you run this test. Also, note that the trolling motor may not last as long in inclement weather or when moving a large boat.

Can You Test a Trolling Motor Out of Water?

Newport Vessels NV-Series 55lb Thrust Saltwater Transom Mounted Trolling Electric Trolling Motor w/ LED Battery Indicator & 30" Shaft

While it might be convenient to test your trolling motor out of the water, it’s not safe for very long. The motors require water to cool them. Without that, they can overheat extremely quickly.

Most anglers won’t run an electric trolling motor outside of the water for any more than a minute and that is extreme. Gas motors can only run for a few seconds out of the water.

This is long enough to tell whether the motor will turn on but it does not give you a chance to test how long it will run or whether it is running well.

If you need to and the motor is small enough, fill a 5-gallon bucket or a garbage can with water to test your trolling motor. You still won’t want to run it for very long, but this can give you a bit more time to test the motor out.

How Do You Check the Power on a Trolling Motor?

There are several ways to check the power on your trolling motor.

You can briefly connect the trolling motor to a battery, then turn it on. Don’t run it this way for very long, though. If you want to run it for longer than a few seconds, fill a bucket or trash can with water and test it there.

You can also test the battery separately. Buy a voltage tester or take your battery to an auto or marine repair shop. Test the battery and make sure that the voltage it’s producing is the same as the voltage it is supposed to produce.

If the battery is fine but the motor still isn’t working, try checking the breakers on the trolling motor itself. The video below will show you how to do that.

How to Check Your Trolling Motor Breakers


Don’t buy a used trolling motor or sell a motor that you own without testing it first. You may also want to test your trolling motor at the start of each fishing season or if you’re having problems with it.

Make sure your trolling motor is working well before you take it out on the water. Once you know it’s in great shape, enjoy your time on the water even more.