Maintenance and Pre-Season Checklist for Cable Steering Systems
While some parts of the country are lucky enough to have year-round boating, there are plenty of places where boats are put away for extended storage. When the weather warms up and it’s time to hit the water again, you want to do everything in your power to ensure a smooth start to the boating season and trouble-free time on the water all year long.
Many boaters have a familiar routine for “winterizing” their engines, transmissions, fuel systems and other critical components to avoid damage during long-term storage. They are also well versed in preparing their vessels for action when it’s time to get back to fun and sun on the water.
The steering experts at Dometic Marine remind boaters not to overlook their vessels’ mechanical cable steering systems when it comes to maintenance and pre-season preparation.
By following some basic steps, boaters can not only avoid costly mechanical issues and add years of life to their cable steering system, but they can get back on the water quicker and easier when the time comes.
1. Start with a thorough visual inspection. Look under the dash/helm station and inspect the rack/rotary mechanism for any visible signs of external corrosion or cuts/wear marks on the steering cable’s plastic jacket. If any damage or severe corrosion is noted, the part in question should be replaced prior to storing your boat.
2. Verify that the helm, cable, 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.
These are not meant to be disassembled or repaired, so boaters should replace any components that are not in good working order. It’s important to note that disassembly of these items will void the warranty and could lead to steering system failure.
3. Clean and lubricate the engine tilt tube or cable support tube and the steering cable telescopic output ram as follows:
- Remove the steering cable telescoping ram from the tilt tube.
- Clean the interior of the tilt tube thoroughly.
- If there is corrosion inside the tilt tube, remove it with a wire brush and wipe with a clean cloth to remove any loose material.
- Lubricate the tilt tube with quality water-resistant marine grease.
- Scour the steering cable telescopic ram with a brass wire brush, then wipe until clean.
- Lubricate the sliding parts of the telescopic ram with quality water-resistant marine grease. Reassemble, making sure all the correct fasteners are in place and tight, and that there is no binding or excessive free play in the moving parts.
Make sure that the steering cables lock nut is bottomed out on the support or tilt tube; it will feel tight before it bottoms out.
- Never substitute standard fasteners for locking fasteners, as these can be worked loose over time by vibration and lead to steering failure.
Performing these simple inspection/maintenance steps before every season starts will keep cable steering systems in top operating condition and can help prevent any issues when it’s time to get back to boating. In fact, Dometic Marine recommends performing these checks twice each season, even in places with year-round boating.