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Author Topic:   Converting to Cable Steering on Older Whaler
Bone Daddy posted 08-09-2003 08:17 PM ET (US)   Profile for Bone Daddy   Send Email to Bone Daddy  
I have a 1963 16-foot Whaler and I think I want to replace the steering cable system. I'm not familiar with steering gear. My existing system has a bracket bolted to the top of the transom and flexes as I tilt the motor. I've been told it could go at anytime.

If I want to upgrade, what is the steering system called that goes through the tilt tube in front of the engine and has a tie rod [drag link] that come off the steering bracket of the motor?

If anyone knows, tell me the Teleflex system and size I need to buy.

jimh posted 08-10-2003 09:29 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
The general name for the steering gear you are talking about is cable steering. I assume you currently have steering via wire rope cables and blocks (pulleys).

Cable steering systems are sold in kits that contain the helm, the cables, the engine tilt tube connection, and an actuating rod.

The engine end of these systems is quite simple. As you describe, the engine tilt tube is used to pass the cable through the tilt tube. The tilt tube typically has a 7/8-inch threaded connection, but this may vary with the brand of your outboard.

The normal installation puts the cable on the starboard side of the boat. The cable connect to the starboard side of the tilt tube, extends through the tilt tube, and exits from a gland or seal fitting on the port side of the engine.

To connect the engine to the steering actuator you need a drag link. The drag link is supplied by the engine maker, it will not be in the steering kit. First thing you will need to do is to locate a drag link for your model of outboard. Try an outboard repair shop which might have an appropriate one. The drag link may have a few small bends in it to fit properly on your particular motor. These are fairly universal and one brand may fit another brand's engine.

The Mercury drag link is a thing of beauty with very nice fittings and encapsulated pivoting bearings to accept the bolt from the steering tang. It also allows some flex when the engine is tilted. The Yamaha drag link is just a bent piece of rod with appropriate holes at each end.

Your motor also needs a steering tang, which is what the drag link connects to. This is also supplied by the maker of the motor, and does not come in the steering kit. The steering tang you have now may be suitable for use with the cable steering gear, but perhaps not. The steering tang typically bolts to the engine, extends several inches in front of the engine, and has a hole to accept the drag link connection. The drag link connects to the steering tang using a SS bolt, perhaps some washers, and a Ny-Lok nut. The bolt is usually a special bolt that has a shoulder (non-threaded area) that is long enough to pass though the drag link connection. This is important because you don't want the drag link and the steering tang getting chewed up by the threads on the SS bolt connecting them. You probably cannot buy the proper bolt at a hardware store. You will need a specialty nut and bolt supplier or an OEM part.

The helm end of cable steering systems is more confusing. They seem to make several models of helm controls. The space available for mounting the helm will affect your choice of models. Some are long and use a rack and pinion approach; others are more compact and wrap the steering cable 180-degrees around the helm.

There is another style that offers a no-feedback option in which the engine torque is not felt at the steering wheel.

The helm is sold with a particular length of cable pre-rigged to it. The cable can be removed in most cases so you can install it more easily.

You will also likely be in the market for a new steering wheel. The most common design uses a taper shaft with a key. Some older steering wheels used a multiple spline shaft.

On some older Boston Whaler models, particularly the 13-foot hull, it is difficult to use a tilt tube actuator for the cable steering because of the curve of the transom. There will be interference between the transom and some part of the steering system. This is accommodated by using a special fitting which mounts the cable to the transom, allowing it some pivot motion. The steering cable then extends and connects directly to the engine steering tang. I don't know if this is needed on a 16-foot Whaler. Perhaps others can comment.

Summary of your new steering is as follows:

--Steering Kit with correct length cable, choice of helm styles
--drag link
--steering tang
--steering wheel

To maintain the classic look of the Boston Whaler 6-spoke Destroyer style wheel, see my article on this in the OEM forum:

The older Boston Whaler boats used a two spoke white plastic wheel. I don't know if that wheel is usable with the newer style tapered steering gear found on most helms. My 1976 Boston Whaler has a plastic steering wheel which cannot be used with the current tapered shaft helm, so you may be in the same situation with your 1963 boat.

I don' t know the precise model of cable steering helm that is most appropriate for your situation as you did not mention which model of 16-foot hull you currently have.

If you have a center console boat and it has a rigging tunnel in the center of the hull, you will need a different length than a boat that has a side mounted console and runs the cables along the starboard cockpit inwale.

I would choose a model of helm based on the space available in your particular installation and on your choice of standard or no-feedback helm systems.

I don't know the proper length to recommend because you did not mention which model of 16-foot hull you currently have. Using a flexible measuring tape you should be able to find the correct length of cable. I believe they are sold in one-foot increments.

Kingsteven18 posted 08-10-2003 11:26 AM ET (US)     Profile for Kingsteven18  Send Email to Kingsteven18     
If you want to replace yours with the same original setup, I'll be removing one in MINT condition from a boat that I'm selling shortly. Let me know. Steve
KDW posted 08-11-2003 11:40 AM ET (US)     Profile for KDW  Send Email to KDW     
Hello jimh.

Do you know if the 6 spoke wheel could be a 1:1 replacement for my 3 spoke plastic wheel that is mounted to a Teleflex BIG T model helm ('71 Nauset)?

It sure would be nice to keep the steering helm/cable and replace the plastic steering wheel with something stainless.


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