Power Steering:

 Like in a car, if your vehicle is small you don’t need power steering. But if your vehicle is large you simply must have it. Have you ever been driving a car and the engine died? You can still steer but it’s real hard. Well same for a large boat. (Not fun. Been there, done that.)

Power steering is only one of the many primary-systems on a large boat that will decide weather or not it’s a “go” or “no go” down the river… What I would call  “Mission critical” equipment.

It goes like this…

Hull. No float? No go…

Engines. No run? No go…

Drives. No drive? No go…

Power steering… (Can you guess?)

Well I guess this is why they call it a “complete refit.” There’s no way in hell that I can do the hull, drives, engines and props, and still push off from the dock and trust my power steering ram control and ram. Plus the fact that it looked like shit. It was so covered with rust, crude and grime that I was surprised to find two hidden “grease fittings” for the pinion points.

I guess it’s more of a “power assist” steering to be more accurate. But what ever you want to call it, it had to be de-installed and taken home to the bench for a teardown, cleaning and inspection. I would have to say that the other end of the system, the “power steering pump” is ok. Because of the fact that it was connected to the engine, I did all that earlier with the engine rebuild. I cleaned it, tested it, checked the bearings and painted it. Yes the pump was the easy part. I’m talking about the opposite end of the pump. The lines, valve, ram and pinions. (Steering unit)

When taking apart any particular piece of equipment close attention must be paid on how it came apart, because that’s how it needs to go back together again. Unless someone’s been there ahead of you and put it back together wrong. I’ve seen plenty of that on this project to be sure. But with regard to this power steering unit I would have to say no one has so much as touched this sucker in the past 30 years of service. I say this because of several different reasons. First of all it worked. Just barely, and it made a moaning noise, but it did work. The hydraulic fluid was the color of dirt. The grease fittings were rusted shut and void of any grease at all they’re in, and there were no tool marks or scratches on any of the bolts or adjustments. I was pretty sure that I was the first to work on it and that it could come apart and go back together again same-same and work. I hope.

Like any bench project I start with a nice clean well-lit workspace. Kitchen counter and dinner table not advisable, unless you are divorced and live alone. Start with taking plenty of pictures. All sides, all angles. Also take pictures as you disassemble the unit. Lay out the Pisces’s in their order of removal and take more pictures. You’ll need those pictures to get it back together again as well as boor friends and family members later on.

Once dissembley is complete you’ll need to take each and every single little component and clean the shit out of it. (No really, shit would be the right word.) Everything is coated with it. Clean it all. Inside and out. Then put it all back together again. I used all fresh new o-rings and assembled it with a nice coat of light machine oil. Repacked all the grease housings and reinstalled that bad boy. There was only one adjustment on the steering unit it’s self. The valve adjustment. I guessed at where it should be at. It took all most 2 full quarts of Dexron III to charge the system. This is due to the long hoses and secondary heat exchanger attached to the return line. We had to fill the pump reservoir, run it and wiggle the helm back and forth. Shut it down and check the dipstick. I must have done that process 5 or 6 times before I filled it up to much and spilled it all over my nice and clean engine compartment. You can easily tell when it’s not full enough yet. The pump will moan and groan like a kid before dinner. Be sure to look for leakage at all the clamp points. Once the steering system was completely charged, every time I started the engine the ships wheel would spin on it’s own to port and stop hard over. Like the ghost of past owner steering us out of harms way… But it was just the valve adjustment on the steering ram and was easily corrected in short order. At first I wasn’t real pleased at the lack of ease of spinning the wheel back and forth. But over the coarse of the next week or so it got better, and then better??? Air in the line? I don’t know. But all I do know is now I have a freshly serviced and trust worthy power steering system that turns with the ease of my little finger.

Like anything I rebuild, I’ll keep a wary eye on this unit till it proves it’s self in the long run. But it sure beets the hell out of spending the big bucks for a new unit or paying someone else to do what I did in a couple of days. I say, “don’t be afraid. Dive right in and give it a shot your self. If I can do it, you can do it too.”

Mike Wolfe  Spring  2002.