IF IT’S TIME TO REPLACE YOUR OUTBOARD-POWERED BOAT’S mechanical steering system, consider an upgrade to hydraulic. The systems are simple, consisting of three components: an integral hydraulic-fluid reservoir with a pump at the helm, a cylinder with steering ram at the outboard, and the hydraulic lines that push the fluid between the two. The simplicity of the
system reduces maintenance; the hydraulics all but eliminate steering effort.
And if you’re using two hands on the wheel to steer the boat, upgrading to
hydraulic steering will make it fun to drive again.
UPGRADE TO HYDRAULIC STEERING
Switching to hydraulic steering can reduce both maintenance
and steering effort BY DAN ARMITAGE
PRACTICAL BOATER | DO IT YOURSELF
SeaStar Solutions’ BayStar kit is a popular
option for boaters considering a change from
mechanical to hydraulic steering. This DIY
project can be accomplished by a handy
boater and a friend in an afternoon; or, if
you decide to hire a pro to do it, just knowing how it’s done will make you a smarter
boat owner. This system is designed for use
with outboards up to 135 horsepower. We
installed a BayStar system on a 20-foot center-console boat powered by a 115-hp outboard,
replacing the boat’s original mechanical steering system that had been used in saltwater,
then sat unused for several years. The effort
required to turn the wheel and steer the boat
was increasing with use, which a change to a
hydraulic system would alleviate.
With fewer moving mechanical parts,
the hydraulic system requires only periodic
checks and the topping off of fluid levels,
both of which are performed via an easy-access port at the helm, and annual (or every
200 hours of use) cleaning and regreasing of
select cylinder and helm components. An
additional benefit of moving to a hydraulic
system: It gives you the option for more easily adding an autopilot. Follow these steps to
make the switch to hydraulic steering.
Review the instructions before installation to
make sure you have the parts, tools, and the
confidence required to tackle this project.
The kit includes cylinder, helm, tubing, hardware, and fluid. Basic hand tools and power
tools are required.
1. Remove the wheel, which may or
may not be easy, depending on how
firmly it’s locked on the existing
hub. In our case, a gear puller was
required to help free the wheel.