When most people think about boat maintenance they list the obvious things needed on the outboard or stern-drive like changing the oil, changing the filters, and taking a look at the gear oil in the lower unit. But, are you aware that there are things that could and should be done to maintain your hydraulic steering system too?
That’s right, regular insliections and annual maintenance will help to ensure top performance and long life. By taking a few extra steps for your hydraulic steering system when performing spring commissioning, you can address small problems resulting from normal wear and tear. Thus keeping them from becoming major headaches and incurring costly repairs.
At Kompletely Kustom Marine, Inc. we are all about preventative maintenance. Therefore, we encourage you to have your steering system inspected at least once a year.
- Remove the support rod from the steering/tilt tube and clean out the tube. Make sure its cleaned out really well and any old grease is completely removed. You do not want the old grease to harden or contaminate the new grease.
- Grease the support rod liberally and insert back into the tilt tube. Also grease the tilt tube itself, as well as the support bracket holes. Put a little grease on the threads before you insert the washers and tighten up the nuts. (DO NOT remove the tiller bolt to re-grease the cylinder.)
- Check the tightness of ALL fasteners and fittings throughout the steering system. Including the back of the steering helm pump under or behind the dash.
- Remove the steering wheel and re-grease the wheel shaft.
- Lastly, inspect the hydraulic oil for cleanliness. If it’s dirty, flush the system with clean oil. (It’s best to have an automatic pump that will refill and re-bleed your system.)
Besides the annual inspection, there are also quick inspections you can do before each trip:
If you notice any leaks, kinks, tears or problems you should get it fixed before heading out for the day. Fixing a problem when its small will save you bigger headaches later.
- Check the fluid level in the highest helm pump. If it’s a little low just top it off with hydraulic fluid.
- Perform a turn test (after you’ve checked the levels) by turning the wheel sharply from side to side. You should have immediate response from the engine or drive unit. If there’s lag in the engine movement then there’s a problem in the system that needs to be corrected. Run this test on all your steering wheels including the autopilot.
- Check the hoses. You’re inspecting for wear, kinks and/or leaks.
- Inspect the ram shaft. Inspect the steering tube, support rod and the exposed ram shaft. Make sure everything moves smoothly as the engine pivots from side to side. Look closely at the seals and wipers and check for any bends, nicks or damage to the steering ram shaft.
It’s quite obvious that steering is a vitally important control system on your boat. Regular maintenance and a few quick checks before each trip will help to ensure proper operation and long-lasting performance. If you’re not sure about something or if your system needs a full inspection, be sure to contact us at Kompletely Kustom Marine, Inc. to schedule your service.