There is no doubt in my mind that a quality hydraulic boat steering system is one of the most important components on your boat. In my opinion, a boat steering system, namely marine hydraulic steering ranks neck and neck with your electrical system, as both can leave you stranded and in major trouble. If you've ever been unfortunate enough to lose your hydraulic boat steering, whether close to shore or far from, then you know exactly what I'm talking about. Losing your hydraulic boat steering is certainly a frightful event, and as many may not know, this event is not like losing your power steering on your automobile where it just stiffens up but still works. When your hydraulic boat steering system fails, in most cases you lose all steering functions! This article pertains to outboard steering systems, precisely hydraulic boat steering.
I've been there a few times, and thankfully I had a good trim tab system that put enough resistance in the water to turn my boat as needed. In fact, one of those times I was heading home in some decent 2-3 foot rollers and lost all hydraulic boat steering at about 30 knots after launching from a 3 footer. When I landed, the boat took a quick veer off course and sent me to the deck unaware of what just happened. After an hour or so of trying to get my boat steering back, I gave up and used my trim tabs to steer us home. This certainly was not an enjoyable ride, as the rollers were coming in at a nasty angle and we weren't able to work the proper angles.
This is not a situation that you want to find yourself in, and hopefully there is no "3rd time is a charm" for me, as the loss of your outboard steering system, or hydraulic boat steering in any configuration, can be fatal so don't take it lightly.
Furthermore, the reason some people get into trouble with hydraulic boat steering is because they do not maintain them correctly. This is certainly not the case for me, as I thoroughly clean the hydraulic ram with mild soap and water and follow up with a seal treatment spray, as well as inspecting the ram for pitting or unwanted debris such as salt buildup, rust, etc. I also flush my steering system several times per year.
My first run in with a failed hydraulic boat steering system was due to a bad helm that somehow rusted inside, and the second was from a gasket on the back plate of the helm that went bad, apparently causing the fluid to bypass the piston. The second system also had a bad seal on the the ram and some corrosion behind the seals, which was out of sight and out of mind. I'm not really sure how this happened, but I was told that the rust was from using the wrong fluid, and I did not clean it well enough. Well, I use only the SeaStar fluid and clean as much of the system(inside and out) as possible on a regular basis. None of these systems were purchased new, as I bought the boats used, so I have no clue what they ran for fluid prior to me, or how they maintained them.
Regardless, they both failed well before they should have so I'm ready to try a new system that I personally maintain from the get go, which brings me to the reason for this article. I would also like to note that I've owned other boats in the past and have not had a failed hydraulic steering system, but on some did run into some common issues such as leaking seals, notchy helm, and stiff turning. Over the years I have just come to the conclusion that this may very well be the nature of the beast. The upcoming review will be long term, with updates every year.
I recently began looking at my options in marine hydraulic boat steering and found a company called UltraFlex, also known as Uflex. They are a local company for me; located just over the Skyway bridge in Sarasota Florida. After doing some research, checking out some cut-away diagrams, and speaking with the guys at Uflex, I became very interested in their SilverSteer hydraulic boat steering system. This marine hydraulic steering system looks down right beefy, very modern, and seems to be built with a great deal of engineering behind it., namely in the overall design, mounting position, and in the high-end parts that are used. Overall, the SilverSteer hydraulic boat steering system seems like a winner at first glance.
In the coming months I will be installing Uflex's SilverSteer hydraulic steering system on a 223 Aquasport Osprey. We are doing a full restoration and makeover on this boat, including a new deck reusing the original factory non skid, full digital switching marine power center, leaning post with shock absorbing system, electromechanical trim tabs (going with UFlex here too), , LED lights, motor, boat trailer, and many other goodies!
I will be writing in-depth reviews on all of these products, and the Uflex hydraulic SilverSteer system will be found right here. In addition, I will include first hand video clips of the install and sea trial. Below is the hydraulic steering system specs. Stay tuned.
SilverSteer™ outboard steering systems packaged in a box