How to Replace a Boat Steering Wheel

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If you plan to replace your boat steering wheel, a friend and a few simple tools will go a long way toward accomplishing the task. You may also have an ally in the National Marine Manufacturers Association. That's because steering wheel shaft sizes are almost a universal standard, thanks to agreements between boat and part manufacturers that aim to make life easier for the boater and the manufacturers. This means it's almost impossible to buy a wheel that won't fit on your boat (unless it's an antique), so there's no excuse to go boating with a ratty wheel in your hands.

Step 1

Remove the screws on the back of the steering wheel that hold the center covering of the steering wheel in place, using a Phillips screwdriver. This exposes the locking nut that's threaded onto the center of the tapered steering shaft.

Step 2

Insert a wooden plank between the spokes of the steering wheel, and have your assistant hold it. Use a pipe wrench or large adjustable wrench to turn the large nut on the center of the hub counterclockwise to remove it. Then remove the plank and set it aside, since you will need it when you install the new wheel.

Step 3

Spray the steering shaft with a penetrating lubricant, and allow the lubricant to set for several hours. When you return to the steering wheel, tap the back of the wheel with a rubber mallet several times to remove it from the shaft. When you remove the wheel, set the wheel aside.

Step 4

Grease the shaft with marine grease, and slide the new wheel into place so that the groove for the spline on both the shaft and the wheel line up. Insert the spline.

Step 5

Thread the locking nut on the steering shaft, and slide the plank between the spokes of the wheel. Have your assistant hold the plank steady while you tighten the nut. Replace the center cover of the wheel, and secure the cover in place with the screws on the back of the wheel.


  • This project involves working with tools and grease; take appropriate precautions.


  • If the wheel won't come off after you remove the locking nut, and if your efforts with the hammer and the penetrating lubricant spray come to naught, use an automotive steering wheel puller to remove the wheel from the shaft.


  • How to Restore Your Wooden Runabout"; Don Danenberg; 2003

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.

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