How to Adjust the Steering System in My Boat

by Will Charpentier
On a boat, your life can depend on your steering gear.

On a boat, your life can depend on your steering gear.

When your steering wheel begins to develop more sloppiness than it used to, it's time to either adjust the steering or replace the cable. Adjusting the steering is more a matter of tightening the junction between your helm and the cable and between the cable and the tilt tube on the motor, than it is one of making an adjustment the steering. Whether you have to adjust the cable connections or replace the steering cable, remember your ability to navigate and even your life may depend on your steering.

Check the cable nut on the tilt tube of your outboard to ensure it's tight by having a friend move the wheel while you watch the cable at the tilt tube. If the cable moves, tighten the cable nut with an open-end wrench.

Check the cable nut at the steering rack to be certain that the rack is moving the cable without any play at the nut. Again, tighten the nut if that's the problem.

Replace the steering cable if the cable nuts on both ends are tight. Remove both cable nuts and the old steering cable and sheath, leaving the old mounting brackets along the side of your boat in place. Install the new cable using the old mounting brackets and tighten both cable nuts.

Items you will need

  • Open-end wrench
  • New steering cable

Tips

  • Take the old cable with you when you purchase the new cable--the salesman can match the cable length exactly and you'll get the right cable.
  • If you're blessed with hydraulic steering, it should adjust itself as you raise, lower or trim your engine. If it starts to become sloppy, get off the water and get it into the shop before it becomes dangerous.

About the Author

Will Charpentier is a writer who specializes in boating and maritime subjects. A retired ship captain, Charpentier holds a doctorate in applied ocean science and engineering. He is also a certified marine technician and the author of a popular text on writing local history.

Photo Credits

  • bateau, detail sur poste de pilotage image by margouillat photo from Fotolia.com