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Exploring the Different Types of

Hydraulic Boat Steering Systems

Australia has almost 1 million registered boats, and boat ownership continues to rise. Boating is a natural choice when you love the outdoors and water-based activities.

And when it comes to boating, boat steering systems are one part of the components you may not think much about. However, your steering system dramatically impacts your enjoyment while on the water. Hydraulic boat steering can make your boating experience easier, smoother, and safer.

Learn more about the types of boat hydraulic steering and why you should make the switch.

Hydraulic Boat Steering Systems Overview

A hydraulic boat steering system uses hydraulic pumps and valves connected to the steering wheel. Moving the steering wheel causes hydraulic fluid to activate the system. Activation of the pumps drives a ram that, in turn, moves a tiller arm attached to the rudder or outboard motor.

Hydraulic steering has many benefits compared to other marine steering systems. It gives you a smoother ride, even in choppy water.

It also makes steering the boat easier. The steering wheel causes the pumps to activate instantaneously.

Hydraulic boat steering systems have a low risk of corrosion. This is because they use fewer metal parts than other boat steering systems. Hydraulic systems are durable and need less maintenance.

Hydraulic steering is best suited for larger, faster boats. Mechanical steering systems aren't an option because of torque feedback. The boat should be at least 10 metres long with mid to high horsepower.

Full Hydraulic Boat Steering

Full hydraulic steering systems use manual steering. A manual boat hydraulic steering kit can be a two-line or three-line system.

Two-Line Manual Hydraulic Boat Steering

Two-line systems are the simplest hydraulic option. They're best for smaller or slower boats with a single steering station.

In a two-line system, the helm pump moves the hydraulic cylinder directly. Turning the steering wheel clockwise forces hydraulic fluid from the helm pump into the starboard-side hydraulic line.

The fluid goes into the cylinder and causes the cylinder rod to retract or extend. The rod is attached to a piston, and the boat turns as the piston moves.

Three-Line Manual Hydraulic Boat Steering

Manual hydraulic steering for boats with multiple steering stations needs three lines. Three-line hydraulic steering systems are pressurised. They have a separate reservoir and a pressure-relief valve.

Power Assist Hydraulic Steering Systems

Power assist hydraulic steering is a good option for boat motors with 150 hp or more. These systems give you better manoeuvrability. You can turn the wheel more easily.

The steering will feel more like what you experience in your car.

Power assist systems use a second hydraulic pump to supplement the mechanical action of your arm. The second pump draws on an external power source. It boosts the fluid going from the helm pump to the steering cylinder.

Electro-Hydraulic Steering Systems

Electro-hydraulic steering systems use an electric motor and sensor to assist in moving the hydraulic cylinder. They give you naturally smooth steering. The steering is more precise and responsive.

Electro-hydraulic power steering systems include receivers, transmitters, and a programmable logic controller. The logic controller manages the position and displacement of the hydraulic cylinders.

Integrated Hydraulic Steering Systems

Integrated hydraulic steering lets boat manufacturers save space in the design. For example, the system can integrate the motor, controller, software, and cooling system. It has a more streamlined appearance.

Boats have more features and premium benefits. You have better manoeuvrability and a more comfortable ride. An integrated system streamlines installation and simplifies operation.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Hydraulic Steering System

There are You have several factors to consider when choosing a hydraulic steering system. Your boat's features, budget, and personal preferences affect the decision.

Boat Size and Type of Motor

The right marine hydraulic steering system depends on the size of your boat and the type of motor it has. The motor is a major consideration for a boat hydraulic steering kit. For example, a system for an outboard motor will be different than for an inboard rudder.

The total horsepower of the motor determines the size of the hydraulic cylinder and pump. If you have multiple engines, you'll need to account for the total power. Manufacturers provide specs for their steering systems that include each model's boat size and horsepower limits.

Steering Load

The combination of engine horsepower and boat speed exerts a load on the steering system. The speed of the boat changes the torque on the base or rudder. Power-assisted steering is one technology to make steering easier no matter the steering load.


A boat hydraulic steering kit is more expensive than other steering options. However, the benefits of hydraulic steering over the alternatives are significant.

The cost of boat hydraulic steering varies based on a range of factors. The brand, size, and features of a steering system influence the cost. You can save money by installing the system yourself.

Personal Preferences

The right steering system is the one that feels best to you. For example, you may prefer a higher or lower number of turns lock to lock. You may like the way one model handles compared to another one.

Maintenance and Troubleshooting Tips

Hydraulic boat steering is very reliable. Basic maintenance will help ensure your steering system performs the way you expect. Use a yearly inspection to:

  • Check ram seals
  • Look for shaft pitting, which can indicate corrosion
  • Check the hydraulic oil
  • Examine the helm for oil behind the wheel or a spongy feel when turning
  • Check hoses and connections for leaks or cracks

If any steering issues occur, the solution is usually straightforward. For example, air in the system or old hydraulic fluid can make the steering feel soft. Slow steering is often a result of leaking cylinder seals.

Choose Your Hydraulic Boat Steering System

Hydraulic boat steering has many advantages. It's more precise and responsive,. and iIt's easier to operate.

There are You have many factors to consider when choosing boat hydraulic steering. The best type of hydraulic system depends on the features you want and the type of boat you have. With proper maintenance, you can enjoy your hydraulic steering for years to come.

Dometic Outdoor is your source for hydraulic steering systems. Our line of hydraulic steering kits has various options for most applications. Check out our catalogue for more great accessories for your boat.

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