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?
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.