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Boating Know How
boat steering systems pro's and con's

Learn About the Pros and Cons of Each Marine Steering System

In boating, there are typically three styles of boat steering systems: rack and pinion, rotary, and hydraulic. Each steering system is built with different advantages that cater to a variety of boat and ... read more engine applications. Each steering system has unique characteristics and features that set them apart and makes them useful under varying circumstances. They are set apart most notably by the shape of the component behind the helm. It is suggested that when replacing boat steering parts, you should replace it with the system that was originally installed. Rack and pinion systems should be replaced with a rack and pinion only, rotary with rotary, and hydraulic with hydraulic. There are many scenarios to consider with every boat steering system that will help boaters decide which will work the best for their requirements.

Rack and Pinion Boat Steering

Rack and pinion systems take on a long rectangular shape “rack” behind the helm. Many boaters will agree that rack and pinion boat steering is easier to control. Fewer components and pieces are required in a rack and pinion steering system, making it more straightforward and efficient. The construction is very basic, with a pinion gear attached directly into the helm shaft engaging a rack gear in the housing. However, while there are many advantages to rack and pinion boat steering systems, there are some setbacks as well. For instance, rack and pinion systems are more susceptible to damage upon impact, and because of the long housing rack, it will not fit behind many dashboards.

Rotary Boat Steering

Rotary style boat steering has a circular casing behind the helm and works best for smaller engine applications that are below 150 horsepower. Rotary steering systems are more adaptable in construction, allowing component installation to accommodate for tight space constraints behind the dashboard. The angling in rotary boat steering is a lot more precise and responsive than rack and pinion boat steering. On the other hand, rotary steering systems are usually more expensive than rack and pinion systems, as well as heavy.

Hydraulic Boat Steering

Hydraulic steering, the final of the three main steering systems, has a round shape behind the helm and is very accessible and easy to steer. Hydraulic boat steering systems are primarily recommended for larger engines that are over 150 horsepower due to their superior strength and durability. Hydraulic boat steering hoses are color coded in red for the port (left) side of the boat and green for the starboard (right) side of the boat, making identification easier for installation. However, it is important to remember that hydraulic systems are not completely indestructible; systems with liquids prone to leakage if not maintained properly. Also, incorrect installation and overfilling the helm with liquid could potentially cause damage to the boat or engine.

Each of these boat steering types are unique in their respects, fulfilling different purposes under different circumstances and requirements. As previously mentioned, it is crucial in cases of replacing the entire system or its components is to replace it with the same type of system or consult with a boating mechanic or a local technician as changes from the original boat steering system may affect handling of the boat.
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