The following article gives guidance on keeping your boat’s mechanical steering system in good working order, helping you to enjoy reliable boating for many years.
Corrosion, salt and dirt are the main contributors to stiff mechanical steering and in exceptional cases can lead to a “frozen” steering cable. To prevent this from happening you should carry out periodic inspections and maintenance at least twice a season.
With a mechanical system the main components are the helm, steering wheel, bezel kit or tilt mechanism, steering cable and connection hardware. Before each trip, make sure they are correctly assembled and in proper working order. Check for signs of stiffness, binding, excessive free play or wear. Always replace steering cables that are stiff in operation or have damage to the plastic outer jacket. Note that these components cannot be repaired so if any part is not in good working order it must be replaced.
During the inspection and maintenance process you will need to remove the steering cable from the engine. Start by detaching the link arm (or drag link) from the end of the cable and undoing the nut which locks the cable into the tilt tube. You should then be able to slide the telescopic end of the cable out of the tilt tube. If you are having trouble removing the cable it may be due to corrosion inside the tilt tube. A liberal application of a penetrating oil and gentle tapping on the cable end should help it out. Take care to prevent damage to the cable end.
Once the cable is removed, thoroughly clean the inside of the tilt tube and apply a good coating of marine grease. Turning your attention to the cable itself, clean the complete telescoping ram end of the cable. Once again apply a good coat of marine grease to the sliding parts of the cable end. Then re-insert the cable into the tilt tube and tighten the lock nut fully to minimize any play in the system. Re-attach the link arm to the cable end using a new lock nut and you are ready to go. Confirm all fasteners are tight and there is no binding or excessive free play in the moving parts.
To help you carry out this maintenance, SeaStar have produced a short video which you can see here: https://youtu.be/Jseso-Uhxj0