Author: Alan Bodros
While doing research before buying a deckboat, I ran across Alan Jones’ review of the Stingray 204LR in Boating World, and it sounded like exactly what I was looking for: fast, roomy, good-looking and affordable. In that article, Jones tested a boat with the Uflex cable steering system and said it steered surprisingly easy, so I ordered mine equipped that way to save a few bucks. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice the part where he tested it with a Yamaha F115; I ordered mine with an F150 and was disappointed in how hard it turned. I contacted Boating World, and Jones called me back. He pointed out that in the article he recommended hydraulic steering for larger engines and then pointed me toward a Teleflex BayStar hydraulic system (MSRP $700). Being an engineer, I decided to install it myself and write about the experience.
I ran into a problem right away when I realized I wouldn’t be able to install the new system without removing the outboard, because the engine splashwell on the Stingray is rather narrow and lacks sufficient room to remove the steering arm. Not having a lift, I called around to see if any repair facility would help me, but everyone wanted to do the whole job, which was going to cost about $300. I finally reached Anglers Marine in Supply, N.C., and the people there were really fantastic, as was Yamaha technician Mark Harden, who helped me lift the engine off. On most boats, you won’t have to lift the outboard off.
The difference in steering ease is quite noticeable. For motors such as the Yamaha F150, hydraulic steering is definitely the way to go. The Teleflex BayStar is good for engines up 150. For anything larger, get the more robust SeaStar system.
This project itself is not difficult, but it does require two people to accomplish several of the steps.
– 3/8-, 7/16-, 1/2-, 9/16-, 5/8-, 11/16-inch wrenches
– 13, 15, 16, 18mm wrenches
– Large adjustable wrench
– Drill with 1/8- and 5/16-inch drill bit
– Small 3-prong wheel puller
– 11/16- and 15/16-inch socket with extension and ratchet
– 6mm and 8mm Allen wrench
– Pipe cutter
– Nylon cord
– Yamaha Marine grease
– Teflon-based thread sealant liquid (not tape)
Step 1: Removing the old steering system at the helm requires a small three-prong puller. After the hub is off, disconnect the cables from the hub.
Step 2: Before pulling the cables through the gunwale, tape a long, strong nylon cord to them to act as a chase line. Use a bunch of wraps, because it will give you something to use to pull the new hoses toward the helm. We found that pulling cables out was a lot easier than feeding them in (as we do in step 4).
Step 3: Pulling the engine is just a matter of removing the cowling, attaching the lift’s chains to the lift points on the top of the engine and removing the two engine bolts. We left the cable steering intact, raised the engine a bit and pulled it back far enough to have room to install the new hydraulic steering ram assembly.
Step 4: The hydraulic hoses are pretty stiff, making them fairly difficult to work with. The starboard hose is marked with green, so you don’t mix them up. Tape the cord securely to both hydraulic hoses and have one person pull the cord from the helm while the other person at the stern feeds the hoses through the starboard gunwale.
The trickiest part was negotiating the first 90-degree turn at the corner of the transom. It took a lot of jiggling, pulling, and pushing back and forth — and some colorful language — to complete this step.
Step 5: Disconnect the old steering from the motor and bolt on the new outboard steering assembly, which connects in three places. Then connect the hoses to the fittings using a Teflon-based thread sealant.
Step 6: Mount the engine back onto the transom and use the 3M 4200 sealant/adhesive before tightening the bolts.
Step 7: Back at the helm, tape the supplied paper template over the steering wheel hole and drill the new mounting holes, starting with the small drill bit, to prevent gelcoat cracking. Trim the hydraulic hoses to remove excess, attach them to the steering hub, mount the helm assembly and attach the steering wheel.
Step 8: The last procedure is to fill the system with the hydraulic fluid that was provided in the kit. Attach the fill line to the helm fitting first, and then screw the fluid bottle to the fill line. Attach the lines to the two bleed fittings located on the ends of the hydraulic cylinder at the stern to capture the fluid when bleeding the system. Turn the steering wheel in one direction as you add fluid until the tube is filled; then turn the wheel in the opposite direction to fill the other tube. Note that the motor will not turn until the lines are filled and all the air has been bled.