protected from the elements for this reason.
It’s the flexible rubber hoses that are most
exposed, but also easy to inspect.
Take a look once a year and you should
be good to go. On bigger boats this yearly
inspection takes a bit more time, but the
process is the same.
We also checked in with Aldo Mastropieri,
project manager of marine steering at SeaStar
Solutions, an industry leader of hydraulic steering systems in recreational boats.
He reiterated all of the earlier maintenance
points covered and the value of a yearly
inspection or every 200 hours of operation.
He said SeaStar doesn’t have a specific policy
for replacing oil at regular intervals, but rath-
er “as necessary” based on analysis of an oil
sample from the reservoir. It does not go bad
on its own, but if it is black or smells bad,
replace the oil.
“Steering is all about how it feels,” he
says. How much effort does it take to steer
a boat? It should not be hard or imprecise.
SeaStar’s current focus is on the future of
marine steering, the integration of electronics into modern steering solutions. Electro-hydraulic steering is a perfected technology
and the direction the industry is taking. An
electronic helm steers the boat through
fly-by-wire signals to turn a pump on and
off, and the hydraulics are now considered the “back end” of the steering system.
Drastically shorter hydraulic lines are well-
protected near the rudders or engines, con-
trolled by signals transmitted by wire from
whichever helm is operational. Adding a sec-
ond steering station is simply another set of
wires to be run, nowhere near the complexity
of traditional hydraulic steering.
Given the huge opportunity for aftermar-ket replacement systems, Mastropieri sees
recreational boating moving away from fully
hydraulic steering systems in favor of the
greater control and flexibility of electro-hydraulic steering.
Mastropieri commented that the company’s service center no longer recommends
replacing parts in any steering system older
than 10 years. As rubber ages, seals wear
out and system components get hard and
brittle. SeaStar advises its clients to consider
replacing and/or upgrading their steering
system to one of the newer solutions that use
electronics. Undertaking such a project is not
difficult and is a viable solution for anyone
with steering issues on an older boat. It’s also
within the realm of a DIY project, particularly
attractive to those who own boats built in
the ‘70s and ‘80s, which are prime candidates for upgrading from older hydraulic or
Bill and Laurene Parlatore founded PassageMaker
magazine, and enjoy boating in many forms.
ANNUAL (200-HOUR) INSPECTION FOR HYDRAULIC STEERING
■ Check hydraulic seals on ram by turning wheel lock to lock and looking for fluid on the shaft.
■ Check hydraulic oil — should be clear, odorless, with no contaminants.
■ Check for fluid around helm.
■ Turn helm. Check that number of turns lock-to-lock hasn’t increased. Feel for sluggishness.
■ Wipe hoses and connections between helm and ram with a clean rag to locate leaks.
■ Inspect all hoses for signs of wear or cracking.
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