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Hydraulic Steering

While some very small boats work just fine using a hand on the throttle to steer, most boats are just a little too big to steer that way. Bigger boats and bigger outboards mean more steering effort and that means a steering wheel up front rather than using the motor as a tiller. While it's not the only option, many boat owners find that hydraulics are by far the best way to steer a boat.

Hydraulic vs. Cable Steering

For most small and medium-sized boats, the two steering options are either hydraulic or cable. While cable systems are often simpler, they also need more effort. Even with mechanical advantage, your muscles are providing the strength to turn the wheel and thus the motor. Hydraulic systems rely on a pump for power, so they require much less effort even on larger boats.

Installing Your Own

Hydraulic boat steering parts and accessories are easy to install so long as you follow a few simple rules. Always use the same brand of both hoses and fittings throughout the install; this reduces the chance of leaks because everything has the same tolerance. Put absorbent mat around your joints. This way you can catch leaks earlier, and they won't mess up your boat.

Hydraulics in Use

Like anchors and many other boat accessories your hydraulic hoses move while in use. It's a natural response to changes in oil pressure. Always make sure your hoses are secure so they can't rub on anything when they flex. They will flex, it's your job to be sure the flexing doesn't rub a hole in the hose.

Hydraulic Dos and Don'ts

Boat owners coming from cable steering may want to lean on the wheel, but that's a bad idea with hydraulic steering. In many cases, the wheel axle is part of the pump, so leaning your weight on it can actually cause fluid leaks. Also, clean and check out every drop of oil you may find, the earlier you stop potential leaks the better.

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