How to Maintain a Boat’s Steering Cables

Dometic SeaStar cables, rotary steering, rack-and-pinion steering

By SeaStar Solutions courtesy of

I’ve heard that steering cables should be “maintained.”

How exactly is this done?

By keeping a boat’s steering system in proper working order, an owner can ensure that he/she has reliable and proper control of a boat at all times. Lack of maintenance is the major contributor to stiff steering and in some extreme cases, cable seizure. We suggest the following periodic maintenance at least twice a year:

Be certain the helm(s), cable(s), steering wheel and connection hardware are correctly assembled and in proper working order. Check for signs of stiffness, binding, excessive free play and/or wear. The cables and their components cannot be repaired; if any are not in good working order, replace them. Always replace hoses that have damage to the plastic outer jacket. Disassembling these items will void the warranty and can lead to steering failure.

SeaStar rotary helm kit, SeaStar kit

Full kits are available. This rotary helm system would even be suitable for a jetboat.

Clean and lubricate the engine tilt tube or cable support tube and the steering cable telescopic output ram as follows:

  • Remove the steering cable(s) telescoping ram from the tilt tube.
  • Clean the inside of the tilt tube thoroughly.
  • Remove corrosion in the tilt tube with a wire brush. Wipe until all loose material is removed.
  • Lubricate the tilt tube with a water-resistant marine grease.
  • Scour the steering cable telescopic ram with a brass wire brush and wipe until clean.
  • Lubricate the sliding parts of the telescopic ram with water resistant marine grease.
  • Reassemble, making sure all (correct) fasteners are tight and there is no binding or excessive free play in moving parts.

Please note where locking fasteners are used. Don’t use non-locking fasteners; vibration can loosen them and cause steering failure. Steering cables can’t be repaired. If the steering cable is deteriorated, doesn’t move or operates in any manner other than correctly, replace it. The cable for your helm is no longer available, replace the helm, bezel and cable with an appropriate SeaStar Solutions steering kit.

Article courtesy of Dometic/Sea Star.