Whether your boat has outboard or inboard engines, we stock hydraulic steering cylinders for both, including side-mount and front-mount options. You can also browse our hydraulic steering kits and hose kits, as well as helm pumps, tie bars & hydraulic oil. Our preferred supplier is Ultraflex, who are based in Italy & distributed worldwide, with over 70 years’ experience in manufacturing.
On boats, hydraulic steering is usually used with mid-to-high horsepower outboard motors. Hydraulic steering systems use a lightweight hydraulic hose to control the steering. This offers large or high-powered vessels a smooth, lightweight feel when turning the steering wheel.
With fewer metal parts than a mechanical system, hydraulic steering has the benefit of being more resistant to corrosion. Hydraulic systems can deal with all torque conditions and may only require fingertip effort. There are two main parts to hydraulic boat systems – the helm and the cylinder.
Helm - made of a hydraulic pump and valves. When the steering wheel is turned the pump is activated, and a swash plate presses on small piston pumps. The helm is responsible for converting the rotating motion of the steering wheel into a push-pull action on the cable. This cable directs the rudder to move left or right to steer the boat in the skipper’s desired direction. Most helms are rotary and use gears to move the rudder.
Cylinder – moves when fluid is pumped from the helm after the wheel is turned. The cylinder acts between two points on the outboard and doesn’t exert any force on the hull or deck. The cylinder is made up of a ram, bored cylinder and hardware. Hydraulic hose carries fluid from the helm to the cylinder and back.
The decision on which steering system you choose will depend mainly on the requirements of your boat including its size, the engine trim and propeller.
A hydraulic steering system is recommended for larger boats 10m+ in length and those likely to travel at high speeds. The torque (or force) of a large outboard motor means it can be difficult to bring it out of a turn or veer sharply from heading straight with mechanical steering.
A mechanical steering system is suitable for boats under 10m in length. Mechanical steering shouldn’t be used on boats that have engines fitted that exceed the boat’s recommended maximum horsepower.
Mechanical systems are cheaper, but recently hydraulic systems suitable for smaller boats have become less expensive. This means more people are now keen to upgrade their boat with a hydraulic steering system. This trend is expected to continue, and it will be more common for boats with outboard motors of 50hp or less to use hydraulic steering in the future.
All steering systems need inspection and maintenance, but there is less maintenance required for a hydraulic steering system than for a mechanical one. Despite being more reliable, your hydraulic system still needs regular maintenance however.
Steering is one of the few parts on your boat that has a single point of failure. Total loss of steering is possible if you don’t properly follow installation instructions or inspect and maintain your steering system regularly. An increasing number of boat owners convert their mechanical steering to hydraulic every year. If you carefully follow the manufacturer's instructions in your kit, it is possible to install the new hydraulic steering system yourself. But if you're not confident, it may be safer and less hassle to hire a professional to do it for you.