Steering Assembly

By Don Casey

Revised by BoatUS editors in June 2012


One of the most important factors in the installation of the steering assembly is the kength of the steering lines. Too loose and someone will trip over them. Too tight and either they won't have enough play to work properly or they might not reach the engine. Proper measurement will ensure that the correct length of cable or hose is bought for your system. Refer to measurements A, B, and C in the diagram below:

How to Measure Your Boat for Original Installations

Fig. A Center line of steering wheel to gunwale

Fig. B Dash to transom

Fig. C Gunwale to transom center line

For installations mounted to transom or splashwell:

A + B + C - 6" = Cable length needed.

Example: A=18" B=96" C=24" Total 138" - 6" = 132" or 11' of cable.

(Round off to the next largest size if neccessary.)

For installations through engine tilt tube:

A + B + C + 6" = Cable length needed.

Example: A=18" B=96" C=24" Total 138 + 6" = 144" or 12' of cable.

Your Steering System- Important for Control On the Water

Mechanical steering systems use a helm unit driving a flexible cable. This gives precise control to any outboard, I/O, or rudder in single- or dual-station boats. For high-performance applications, two-cable systems are available. Hydraulic steering systems use just two main components—a helm pump and a cylinder. These systems can easily handle outboard, I/O, and inboard engines in boats up to 40'.

Don Casey has been one of the most consulted experts on boat care and upgrades for 30 years, and a panelist on our "Ask The Experts" website for a decade. He and his wife cruise aboard their 30-footer part of the year in the eastern Caribbean. His books include Don Casey’s Complete Illustrated Sailboat Maintenance Manual, and the recently updated This Old Boat, the bible for do-it-yourself boaters.


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