How to Convert a Tiller Outboard Motor to Steering

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Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape

  • Steering cable

  • Helm kit

  • China marker

  • Drill

  • 2-1/2-inch hole saw

  • 1/4-inch drill bits

  • Screwdriver

  • Plastic cable ties

  • White marine grease

  • Torque wrench

  • Petroleum jelly


If the wheel doesn't turn the engine, disconnect the cable from the outboard and turn the wheel again. If the wheel turns freely, the problem lies in the outboard's swivel bracket.

If the wheel doesn't turn freely, check the steering cable for kinks or turns too sharp to allow it to move freely.

If there are no kinks, disconnect the cable from the helm and turn the wheel. If the wheel doesn't turn freely, replace the helm

Converting from tiller to wheel allows you to move forward in the boat.

When you decide to convert the tiller steering on your outboard to helm-type steering with a steering wheel, the most important part of the project is testing. A boat's steering system must work correctly and easily every time. Once the installation and testing are complete, though, you can sit with your boating guests throughout the course of your outing.


Step 1

Measure the distance from the proposed wheel location to the side of the boat to the transom using a measuring tape. Add 6 inches to determine the length of steering cable required.

Step 2

Locate the template for the dash layout, found in the helm kit. Place the template where you want to install the steering wheel. Trace the hole perimeters of the template onto the dash, using a china marker.

Step 3

Drill the holes for the steering shaft and mounting bolt into the dash, using a 2-1/2-inch hole saw and drill bits, usually 1/4-inch unless otherwise specified. Slide the helm unit behind the dash so that the steering shaft points to the stern, or rear, of the boat. Push the helm into place under the dash so the steering shaft protrudes through the dash, and secure it in place with the screws provided in the kit and a screwdriver.


Step 4

Remove the screw from the end of the rack gear connection on the helm. Insert the screw through the end-bore of the steering cable. Install the steering cable along the boat's side as you route it to the transom. Secure the cable along the way with plastic cable ties. Direct the cable to the motor, and secure the cable to the corner loosely.

Step 5

Grease the end of the cable with white marine grease. Push the cable through the outboard's tilt tube -- the tube on which the engine tilts up and down. Attach the end of the cable to the motor's steering arm or steering link rod. using the steering arm or link rod's bolt and lock nut. Tighten to 20 foot-pounds with a torque wrench.


Step 6

Dip the sides of the small metal tab -- called a key -- into petroleum jelly, and place the key into its notch in the steering shaft that protrudes through the dash. Push the steering wheel onto the steering wheel shaft. Thread the nut onto the shaft, and tighten it to the torque recommended by the helm's manufacturer.

Step 7

Turn the wheel from side to side to ensure the steering wheel turns the outboard freely.


Will Charpentier

Will Charpentier is a writer who specializes in boating and maritime subjects. A retired ship captain, Charpentier holds a doctorate in applied ocean science and engineering. He is also a certified marine technician and the author of a popular text on writing local history.