Boating - - BOAT DOCTOR Q&A -

Q: Dear Boat Doc­tor, I bought a 1989 Thomp­son 270 pow­ered with a MerCruiser 350 Al­pha One a cou­ple of years ago and aes­thet­i­cally re­stored it. Thank­fully, it was in ex­cel­lent me­chan­i­cal shape. My one con­cern is the steer­ing. I’m con­stantly crank­ing the steer­ing to go the di­rec­tion I’m aim­ing. The wheel turns with no ef­fort. I haven’t tried tin­ker­ing, at least till I know what I’m search­ing for. I would like to tighten up the steer­ing wheel mo­tion and still main­tain head­ing. Any ideas?

Ran­dall Bryan

Cur­tice, Ohio

A: If you are re­fer­ring to low-speed steer­ing at no-wake speeds, there may not be a prob­lem at all. It’s typ­i­cal for sin­gle stern­drives to re­quire a lot of at­ten­tion to the helm un­til some rpm is ap­plied to tighten up the sys­tem and keep the drive from wan­der­ing.

If you are re­fer­ring to ex­pe­ri­enc­ing too much play in the steer­ing at higher speeds, do not op­er­ate the boat un­til you fig­ure out what the prob­lem is and get it fixed. A steer­ing mal­func­tion can be quite dan­ger­ous at plan­ing speeds (or any speed, re­ally). Start at the wheel and ex­am­ine ev­ery ma­jor steer­ing com­po­nent. Here are some ex­am­ples of what might be the cause of ex­ces­sive play:

If it’s a rack sys­tem helm, make sure the rack assem­bly is bolted down tight.

Tighten the steer­ing cable nut by plac­ing a wrench on the cable nut and an­other wrench on the tube the cable runs into (there are flat spots on the tube; place the wrench there).

Tighten the gim­bal bolts to spec (35 foot­pounds).

If you are at all un­com­fort­able or un­sure, please seek the help of fac­tory-cer­ti­fied tech­ni­cian. Steer­ing is crit­i­cal for safety.

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