How Long Does Mechanical Boat Steering Usually Last
This is a great question that I get asked all the time. The answer is I don't know, really I don't. With over 25-plus years in the marine industry, I still see old obsolete steering systems in boats, that come in for other services than steering problems. Longevity of a mechanical boat steering system is based first on application then environment.
Let's discuss application first. Any boat that allows moisture (water) to be exposed at all times on the steering system will see steering problems that need to be serviced or replaced. These boats include Inboard Boats and Outboards. The exposure to moisture gets inside the cable and causes corrosion. Now we add the bends of the cable between the helm and rudder or helm and tilt tube and we start to build friction which puts strain on the rest of the mechanical boat steering system parts, besides just the cable. Overall you can expect to be servicing or replacing your mechanical boat steering system parts every 5-10 years if not sooner. Sterndrive boats are a little more forgiving, but can still experience the same amount of time with longevity.
The best practices are to monitor your steering system. Make sure the routing of the steering cable installed does not have excessive bends putting strain on the cable. Watch for changes with handling of the boat at all speeds. Inspect steering cable that is exposed for cracks in the cable jacketing. If any other signs of damage are found then your cable must be replaced prior to further use of the boat. Best policy is to make sure and remove cable connections at engine or rudder and lubricate annually. Monitoring your steering system for defects or poor steering is easy to do and can save you money in the long run. Happy Boating!