SeaStar Hydraulic Boat Steering Explained

Last weekend, I helped my buddy Brian install a SeaStar hydraulic boat steering kit on his 27 foot cruiser. The job was much easier than I had anticipated, and the system made a huge improvement in his boat’s handling. I would definitely recommend a SeaStar hydraulic boat steering upgrade to anybody with a boat over 18 feet.

Hydraulic Boat Steering System Works Like Power Steering

Unlike your personal car, boats don’t have power steering. So, with larger boats, when making turns at any significant amount of speed you tend to get a lot of resistance in the boat steering wheel. Additionally, the steering cables on your boat can become stiff, or even completely freeze up, and they can also simply break. That means that you would have to do a boat steering cable replacement. With a hydraulic boat steering system, you don’t have to worry about those cables breaking, and there is little to no torque when turning the boat.

hydraulic boat steering

Essentially, the system works by using a helm pump. When the boat steering wheel is turned, the helm pump will force hydraulic fluid into the cylinder which in turn forces the cylinder rod to either extend or retract which then turns the engine. The use of the hydraulic boat steering system makes turning and maneuvering the boat a much easier task.

I found this video that does a pretty solid job of detailing exactly how a hydraulic boat steering system works.

Hydraulic Boat Steering Installation

While installing a hydraulic boat steering system may sound complicated at first, it is actually quite simple. Basically, the pump gets installed at the helm, and the hydraulic hoses run to the transom connecting to the cylinder ram. Of course, you need to first remove the old mechanical boat steering system. You should of course have the proper tools for this, which might include a Sawzall and some heavy duty bolt cutters. Removal of the old system might take about an hour total.

When it comes time to install the system, it’s best to follow the instructions that came with your specific model. There are several manufacturers out there, but perhaps the best and most well know is SeaStar Solutions. That’s what we installed on Brian’s boat, and I highly recommend the SeaStar hydraulic boat steering kit. It was super easy to install, and the performance is excellent so far.

We started out by installing the helm pump. Next up we ran the hydraulic hoses up from the transom to the helm. Be sure to keep your hoses and any opening in free of debris to prevent contamination. After that we hooked up the hoses to the hydraulic ram and bled the lines. Bleeding the hydraulic boat steering system is easy and there are a few videos on Youtube showing you how to do this.

Then it was time to mount the hydraulic cylinder. This is where the manufacturer instructions came in very handy. Once that was done, we attached the cylinder to the engine. Once everything was in place, we went around and secured all of the bolts and connections. That was it.

We took the boat out for about a 30 minute test drive and it performed great! Brian was ecstatic with the boat’s handling.

If you have any questions about installing your own SeaStar hydraulic boat steering system, feel free to leave a comment below.

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