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“Crunchy” Steering

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  • “Crunchy” Steering

    I’m sure the title had made you curious. Let me explain. I have a 06 SANTE with original prop and rudder.

    If you’re at plane, what happens if you take you hands off the wheel for a split second? (I’m not suggesting you lay them in your lap or get up to get a sandwich).
    If I do this, the boat will take a definite left turn that gets more and more drastic the longer I let it. Within 3-4 seconds the wheel will have turned about as far left as it can go. With ballasts full, this is even worse.

    Rudder tuning has a small effect but something seems wrong. Under load, if I actually willingly turn the wheel for a slight left, i can feel something in the wheel that I can only describe as “crunching”. It goes away if I straighten or turn right. You can actually hear and see what I’m talking about in this video I took. The noise you hear is coming from the steering wheel and i can “feel” this noise in the wheel too.

    Out of the water, or sitting still, the steering is smooth and easy in both directions.

    Looking for any suggestions.

  • #2
    I've been chasing something similar on my 2002 SKI 196. First, on on the SKI for sure, there is a bias to steer left so there is tension on the steering system to track in the ski course. What I found with mine that at a point were that tension unloaded, I got more of a click and the boat would shimmy.
    It appears the little bit of play in the steering system was causing some unloading of tension at a particular point. After MUCH fussing around, I finally tore the helm apart and kind of pressed all parts back in together, tightening up some of the slop in it.
    Outcome has been positive, however the steering is slightly stiffer now as resistance in the helm has increased. No longer does ghost ride left, but it also has removed the shimmy while maintaining the tension for good course driving.
    Hope this helps


    • #3
      Yikes, yeah that's not normal. First guess would be a rack, second would be a steering cable that is starting to fray or fail. I've rebuilt the steering for friends on several boats over the years. Unless its a frozen cable I pretty much take an "all or nothing" approach to steering repair and my results have been excellent every time. Depending on your system you'll either have a rotary or rack system. All the ski boats I've worked on so far have been Teleflex rack components. If you have tilt (and almost everyone does) there's a good chance the tilt mechanism is sloppy and worn as well. If so I'd recommend going full in and replacing everything.

      I like using Discount Inboard Marine for these components as they're very knowledgable and will be able to tell you what cable you need and which helm manufacture you have. Most likely you'll have Teleflex, if so this is what I typically replace for a rebuild.....

      Back mount rack -
      Tilt assembly -
      HPS rack assembly - *** This is for illustration purposes only, your actual cable will depend on the length needed.

      This is all bolt on stuff that you can replace yourself with some hand tools and patience. Take pictures as you pull it apart and watch videos on how to install a steering cable on YouTube. I'll typically use a set of bolt cutters to the rack off the cable and use the old steering cable to pull the new cable to the rudder clamp block.Make sure you have a drop cloth down around the helm and anywhere else you're working with the cable at as there is grease in and around all these components. The helm rack and pinion will be especially messy as the grease there will have ground metal from wear in it.

      Doing a job like this typically takes me about 4 hours from start to clean up but the results are really outstanding. You'll be amazed at the difference in the feel and control of the steering after it's been brought back to "like new" condition. Best $500 upgrade you'll do to your boat.
      Last edited by bturner; 5 days ago.


      • #4
        Thanks @btburner!

        I should have included that I had a “professional” mechanic install a new cable this summer. Prior to that I had a heck of time moving the wheel at all once on plane but the boat had been that way since I bought it so I had no point of reference as this is my first Nautique. Is there something that could have gone wrong in his install to cause this?

        So maybe I need to finish the job and do the rest myself. I’m pretty mechanically inclined and there’s little chance I don’t have the tools.

        If you can help me (again) and tell me what tools I need to take with me, I’ll bring them and all the parts.


        • #5
          The problem with a frozen cable is that it stresses the rack and steering components and that will cause accelerated wear which is part of the reason I like to do to the full replacement. If the guy that did the job was a professional I am curious why he let it go out the door sounding like that or at least didn't make you aware of additional issues.

          As to what could have gone wrong..... It's possible he didn't use the old cable to pull the new cable and routed the cable incorrectly or bought / installed the wrong cable. Personally I'd start by getting the part number off the rack. Instead of just ordering parts online I would call Discount Inboard Marine to get your parts and have them verify that you have the correct cable installed before going any further. If you have the correct cable great, if not I'd replace it too.

          Assuming the cable is the correct one and was indeed replaced correctly (I've seen failures with both) the hardest most time consuming part (or at least the part that can be difficult) of snaking the cable through the hull is done. The helm is, as the Brits say, "a bit fiddly", but again take pictures, take your time and it'll come apart and go back together. Order your parts and read the installation instructions. The instructions will have the sizes for all the sockets you need but I would have the following with me.....
          • Full set of metric and SAE shallow and deep well sockets. Most everything can be removed / installed with these. You'll need a larger socket for the steering wheel bolt under the cap.
          • Full set of open end / box end wrenches. Depending on the instillation some nuts / bolts may be necessary or easier to get with a wrench.
          • Hex key set. To get the cap off the steering wheel.
          • Channel locks and pliers.
          • Set of screw drivers.
          • Rags and drop cloth. Drop cloth or large old towel to throw down so you don't great grease on your interior.
          Basically, bring it all. Take a full tool set as you never know what surrounding components of the boat may need to be removed or shifted to get at something. In reality for this job you'll need a hand full of (3 or 4) sockets to remove rack from the pinion housing, the helm mounting bolts, the tilt mechanism and steering wheel bolt. You'll need the hex keys for the steering cap. The rest of the stuff are tools you should have with you just in case. A good Craftsman 300 piece tool set should have all this.

          When I start this project I like to center the rudder as a reference point and make sure it's centered when I put it back together so I can have the steering wheel centered as well. It's more important when you're replacing the cable as you want the rack centered when the rudder is centered. Having everything centered will make sure you have the same amount of travel in the rudder in both directions. This adjustment is typically done at the clamping block by moving the cable forward or back and would be something I would check before pulling everything apart to see if it's currently installed correctly and after for the same purpose. To do this turn the steering wheel "lock to lock" and count the revolutions as you do so. Divide the number in half and with the steering in lock in either direction rotate the wheel that number. That should be center the rudder and the steering wheel. Now go back to the rudder and see if the rudder is centered. If the cable was replaced correctly the rudder should be centered as well as the steering wheel. If it is you had a professional replacement, if not someone should have some splan'n to do. Or it'll be your turn to do it correctly.
          Last edited by bturner; 4 days ago.