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Old 08-07-2015, 16:02   #1
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Wheel steering survey

Hi - my first post so please bear with me. I'm upgrading to a larger boat with wheel steering. last 12 years sailing has been with tiller. I'd just like to know whether there is something that I should be trying to feel as I turn the wheel on boats that I am inspecting- ie look out for a clunk or something else. I'll be getting a survey eventually but I want to be able to cut through the junk out there before I settle on a boat for survey. any thoughts/comments much appreciated. cheers Tom

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Old 08-07-2015, 16:05   #2
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Re: Wheel steering survey

turn wheel hard to left and right to make sure it will stop..If not it will jump the sprocket(unless it has a worm gear type steering then I dont know what to look for) and leave you with no control when needed most,ask me how I know..

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Old 08-07-2015, 16:25   #3
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Re: Wheel steering survey

In addition to the obvious, look at how the pedestal is mounted to the cockpit floor, is there any flex? Also get a torch and climb down the back, have a good hard look at everything while someone turns the wheel. there should be no slop in anything except for slightly loose wires. If you can't get access to the system easily that would be a big negative.

Emergency tiller test, does it feel tight, and is there a bearing at the top of the shaft to take the side loads from the tiller. Does the wheel need to be removed?

I don't personally like wheels that separate the front of the cockpit from the back. I like to be able to get around to the wheel without climbing out into a vulnerable position. to easy to fall overboard. Whats access to the sheet winches like from the helm?
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Old 08-07-2015, 16:33   #4
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Re: Wheel steering survey

There are a few varieties of wheel steering, the most well known being chain and cable, hydraulic, and worm gear. And each has its own set of varities. My only experience is with chain and cable. Fortunately on my boat it is easy to inspect, lubricate, adjust, repair, and replace. I would look for a boat that had those qualities, regardless of the type.
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Old 08-07-2015, 17:10   #5
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Re: Wheel steering survey

I have one of the unmentioned above types of steering, a Whitlock (Lewmar now) Cobra system. Its a "rack and pinion" style that drives a draglink that is directly connected to the rudder stock via a tiller arm.

There is no chain or cable in this system which I believe to be a plus. In general it seems simpler to maintain, less moving parts overall, less failure points it seems.

The only time I had an issue with it is when a nut holding one end of the draglink came off. Lost steering but was luckily 10 miles off shore and had plenty of time and room to fit the emergency tiller and figure out the issue. The system is so simple that all I had to do was get in the space under the cockpit where the system and it was easy to see what the problem was and easy to fit the nut back on. It hasn't came off again and every time I'm in the space it takes all of 10 seconds to look at the draglinks and make sure everything is still tight and ready to go.

For the record this system is the only type of wheel system I have experience with. Never had cable steering or hydraulic steering.
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Old 08-07-2015, 17:25   #6

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Re: Wheel steering survey

Back in the day, Cinkel steering gear was probably OK. But years later some of the cheap castings could leave you in trouble. Some of the parts can be replaced with Edson, some not. If I had a choice, I would not buy a boat with a Cinkel steering pedistal.
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Old 08-07-2015, 18:52   #7
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Re: Wheel steering survey

I've had two boats with wheel steering, my current is hydraulic and fantastic.

My previous was cable, but more importantly was a conversion from tiller.

I believe boats engineered for wheel steering perform better than boats designed for tiller steering and retrofitted for wheel.

Generally speaking I prefer wheel steering because of body dynamics. It's in front of you, your shoulders are square, your head looks forward.

There are advantages to tiller too, but personally I prefer wheel.

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Old 08-07-2015, 19:30   #8
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Re: Wheel steering survey

Look from inside the boat for signs of water infiltration and corrosion where the pedestal is mounted to the cockpit sole. Here's what the aluminum bolts that were used to install my pedestal looked like when I converted to tiller.
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