As you spend more time out on the water, you may notice that steering your boat has started to feel different, more stiff. As steering cables age, they can become less responsive. Steering components are a very important part of your boat and damaged or old cables can lead to trouble while out on the lake. So what is a boat owner to do? I will cover both steering cable maintenance and steering cable replacement in this article.
Steering Cable Maintenance
Proper inspection of your steering cable at least two to three times per season is very important. Inspection should include looking at the cable jacket for signs of damage such as cracks and cuts. Also, look closely at both ends of the cable and inspect the surrounding hardware for corrosion, wear or rust. Next, check to see if the cable is difficult to move.
If you find the cable has any of the above damage or is difficult to move, replace your parts immediately to avoid dangerous situations while out on your boat. Since damaged cables cannot be repaired, I will now cover how to replace your steering cable.
Replacing your Steering Cable
Replacing your steering cable is a job that can be done on your own if you are a do-it-yourselfer. If you read this article and decide the job is best left to the professionals, contact us and we will be happy to install a boat steering cable for you. I will cover mechanical steering cable replacement in this article.
1. Remove Your Boat Steering Cable
Removing your steering cable is relatively easy. Simply disconnect the cable from the steering helm and from the engine using a wrench to loosen bolts that are holding it. Next, find a rope that will be used to assist you in pulling the cable back through the boat. Tie a rope to the helm end of the cable then pull the cable through from the engine end. Take your time pulling the cable to prevent damage to the wiring harness or control box. Leave the rope where the cable was located as you will use this to pull the cable back through to the helm when you install the new cable.
Once you have the cable out, you will need to locate your part number for replacement. Part numbers are usually written on the casing. Generally the last two numbers of your part number indicate the length of your cable. If you cannot find your part number you will need to measure your cable.
2. Measure the Cable
If you do not find a part number on your old cable, we will help you measure it to get the correct replacement. Depending on which type of cable you have, you will measure one of two ways. For rotary steering cables, lay the cable out straight and measure only the cable casing. Once you have that number add 18″ and round up to the next foot. Measuring the second type of steering cable, a rack & pinion steering cable is very similar. Simply measure the cable casing as it is laid out flat. To that measurement, add 30″ and round up to the next foot. Steering cables are sold by the foot so there is a need to round up to get the appropriate length.
Once you have your measurement or your part #, order your steering cable then wait by the door for UPS to bring your cable to you. If you don’t want to wait for delivery, head on down to our Kansas City boat parts shop. Bring your old cable with you so we can double check your measurements. As they say “measure twice…”.
If you are not in the Kansas City area, you can still shop with us online or over the phone. We proudly carry Seastar / Teleflex brand steering cables, the most popular steering cable available.
3. Install your Cable
Now for the last part. Installing your cable is straight forward so long as you kept your rope in place. Locate the rope you used to pull the old cable out. Starting a the engine end, tie the helm end of your new cable to the rope and gently pull the from the helm side of the boat until you have the cable all the way through. Now that the cable is in place, bolt it to the helm and to the engine making sure that you have tight connections. When installing the cable, be sure not to make tight angles or kink the cable as doing so can cause damage.
You will also need to attach the telescoping ram to the engine. The tube should be completely clean. Next, use marine grease to grease the outside of the tube and inner telescoping ram.
Finally, test your steering wheel looking for tightness or excessive play before you take your boat back out on the water. As always, consult your owners manual before doing repairs. If you have any questions or are unsure of these instructions, please find a factory certified marine shop to help you. Spending a few extra bucks up front and allowing the experts to help may keep your family safe out on the water.