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Boat Controls and Steering

Your boat's steering system and controls are what regulate the vessel's maneuverability and reliability. It's important that you maintain your system in top condition. If the steering on your boat is loose or stiff or the cables are worn, it may be time to change those key components.

What are the key components of hydraulic system maintenance?

Good performance of your hydraulic steering system depends on a good flow of hydraulic fluid through the cycle. From the helm to the cylinder, through the engine and back to the helm, all parts in between need to work well. Starting at the helm, your boat's steering wheel sends the first signal to the pump to get the flow of fluid moving. Keep it in great shape by removing the steering wheel and greasing the wheel shaft. Then move on to the engine and clean out old grease from the tilt tube before re-greasing. Grease the support rod, tilt tube, and support bracket holes. Check all fasteners and fittings on the entire system. They should be snug and without corrosion. Finally, check the hydraulic fluid. It should be clean and at full capacity. If the fluid is dirty, flush the system, re-fill, and bleed it.

How do you measure steering cables for their replacement length?

If the part number of the steering cable isn't easy to read, you can measure it. Just remove the old cable and measure the plastic cable jacket. Follow these steps according to the type of steering cable:

  • For rotary steering type: Add 18 inches to your measurement and round up to the next foot.
  • For rack steering type: Add 30 inches and round up to the next foot.
What does a stiff outboard throttle shift mean?

Both normal wear and tear and a marine environment could stiffen the throttle cables. If your throttle isn't moving smoothly, you can replace the cables completely or oil them. Also, check the engine to make sure the linkage is properly lubricated.

What does a loose neutral lock mean?

If your boat gets lots of use, it's common for the throttle and cables to loosen up. If there's too much "play" in the neutral position or if the lock isn't holding, you can replace it with a new throttle and shift mechanism. The job isn't difficult if you follow manufacturer's instructions.

What are features of single-lever outboard engine steering systems?

Single-lever steering systems can be installed on either inboard or outboard marine engines. Installation is possible in either a horizontal or vertical position on either port or starboard. Most are protected against corrosion with marine aluminum paint. Safety features include a safety switch and a positive lock position for neutral.

No matter what type of boat you own, maintaining the steering system in tip-top shape is essential to safety and enjoyment. Make routine inspections of all the hoses and connection points between the steering wheel and the engine. Be aware of steering response when you turn the steering wheel and keep fluids topped off and fresh.

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