Steering System Types and Maintenance Recommendations

Steering System Types and Maintenance Recommendations
Texas Custom Lures Double D getting the job done!

There are six designs of steering systems in common use on boats produced today. Three are mechanical systems that use cables; rotary, no-feedback (NFB), and rack and pinion. There are also three styles of hydraulic steering; standard hydraulic, electro-hydraulic, and air/over hydraulic.

Rotary systems are commonly used with lower-horsepower engines and have a characteristic of naturally turning to the right when the steering wheel is not being held by the operator while underway. This is due to prop torque. No-feedback (NFB) steering is used for higher horsepower engines, single cable up to 150 HP and dual cable with up to 225 HP. NFB steering maintains straight-forward boat direction if the operator releases their grip on the steering wheel due to a counter gear included in the mechanism. Rack and pinion steering is much like the rotary system but is designed for narrow console applications.

 Hydraulic steering is used on most single engine, twin, triple, and quad engine applications beginning with 115 and greater horsepower, where less steering effort is desired. Electro-hydraulic is hydraulic steering with an assist component; when the steering wheel is turned the pressure sensors trigger the electric pump which make the steering almost effortless. The last style of hydraulic steering systems maintains about 30 psi air pressure over the hydraulic fluid in a sealed cannister to act as a multiplier, effectively reducing steering effort required.

Preventive maintenance for all these systems is important and simple. The recommendation is to wash the exposed steering actuator rod with soapy water and then apply a thin spray of Corrosion X Red to the cylinder and rod prior to putting the boat in storage. This prevents corrosion and pitting of the stainless shaft by eliminating oxygen from acting as an accelerating agent in the corrosion process. The second recommendation is to inspect often for leaks at the cylinder and bleed the system once a year. Always carry extra steering fluid on the boat with an appropriate applicator for that “just in case” moment when a fishing hook might pierce a hydraulic hose.

Have a great winter fishing and boating season.

Chris Mapp
Coastal Bend Marine | Port O’Connor, TX | 361-983-4841