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Propeller Calculator

The propeller calculator computes any one of the five parameters shown below based its relationship to the other four as described below. The calculator is not a Greek Oracle; it simply computes an answer based on your inputs. Prior to clicking the Calculate button, you must have one field blank. You can select the units for the BOAT SPEED parameter. (If units are changed you must force a recalculate.) The calculator returns advisory messages based on your input.

Propeller Calculator v1.1. Written in PERL by James F. Hebert.
Speed Ratio Pitch Slip Speed
 RPM  :1   in.  %  
Number of decimal places to show:

NOTE: Some features require a browser with Style Sheet capability.

Ideas for Use

The most commonly calculated value is BOAT SPEED, based on the other four parameters. Set the SLIP value to zero to see what the maximum speed could be. A typical actual value for SLIP would be in the range of 6-10 percent if the propellor is in good condition and running near the maximum speed at which it was designed to operate.

If accurate observations of boat speed versus engine speed have been made, the propeller SLIP can be deduced. This will allow analysis of the propeller performance. Typically values of SLIP will be at least 6% at wide-open-throttle speeds. At lower speeds slip can be much higher, often 50% or more. Generally SLIP decreases as SPEED increases, typically tapering to less than 10%. If a negative value for SLIP is calculated, the propeller PITCH was understated. Add one-inch to the PITCH for any propeller with cupped blades.

If the PITCH of the prop is not known, it may be deduced by observing the other parameters and using various values for SLIP in the anticipated range. Probably the best assumptions about SLIP can be made at wide-open-throttle speeds, where it will probably be as low as 10% or lower.

Your engine manual will contain information on the GEAR ratio. Usually it is around 2:1, but it varies with horsepower. For 200-HP engines a ratio of 1.86:1 is common. For smaller horsepower engines, higher ratios are used, more like 2.33:1.

For more information on the relationship between these parameters, read my articles on propellers in the Reference section.


The calculator is based on the following relationship:

          RPM     PITCH       
SPEED =  ----- X  ----- X [ 1- (SLIP/100) ]
         RATIO     C        


By manipulating the elements using algebra, any of them can be computed if the others are known. Hence:

                      SPEED X RATIO X C
 SLIP = 100 X [ 1 - (-------------------) ]
                       RPM X PITCH

                SPEED X RATIO X C
PITCH =  (  --------------------------  )
             RPM X [ 1 - (SLIP/100) ]

             RPM X PITCH X [ 1 - (SLIP/100) ]
RATIO =  (  ----------------------------------  )
                     SPEED x C

               SPEED X RATIO X C
RPM  =  (  ---------------------------- )
            PITCH X [ 1 - (SLIP/100) ]

The constant C is derived from the analysis of the dimensions involved in the calculations. The propeller advance is generally given in INCHES/REVOLUTION and the speed of the propeller rotation is generally given in REVOLUTIONS/MINUTE. The speed of the boat would then be calculated in units of INCHES/MINUTE, an unusual dimension which needs to be converted into something more commonly used for boat speed.

The most common conversion is to MILES/HOUR (MPH), which is derived below:

  1 HOUR   12 INCH    5280 FOOT    1056 HOUR INCH     
 ------- X -------  X ---------  = -------------- 
 60 MIN    1 FOOT     1 MILE       1 MIN MILE

Similarly, if the results are desired in NAUTICAL MILES/HOUR (KN):

  1 HOUR   12 INCH   6076 FOOT      1215.2 HOUR INCH     
 ------- X ------- X -----------  = ----------------- 

And if results are desired in KILOMETERS/HOUR (KPH):

  1 HOUR   12 INCH   3.28 FOOT   1000 M   656 HOUR INCH     
 ------- X ------- X --------- X ------ = -------------- 
 60 MIN     1 FOOT   1 METER     1 KM     1 MIN KM

Comments or questions about the prop calculator can be posted in a message thread in the forum reserved for that purpose.


The propeller calculator was inspired by a JavaScript version that was created by Gary Polson.