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Marine controls are an essential part of any boat (including auxiliary powered sailboats). After the wheel or tiller, there is nothing else that you touch as much. Your marine controls connect you to the thrust and direction of movement of the vessel whether docking or out on the open water at full throttle. A control may operate the throttle or shift or both; several choices and options are available. Reliability, smoothness, accuracy and response are all features to look for in a marine control.

Shift / Throttle Functions of Marine controls:

Single Function / Single Lever (Controls Only One; Throttle or Shifter) – This is the simple lever that controls just the throttle or just the shifter. Some typical applications are with a Berkley Jet, this lever is the shifter and a foot pedal is used for throttle.

Dual Function / Dual Lever, Binnacle Mount Control

Dual Function / Dual Lever (Controls Throttle and Shift for Two Engines) – This control sees typical use with a twin-engine vessel and offers the simplest to use setup. Like all dual function controls, the lever controls both the shift and the throttle. As you push forward on the lever, the transmission engages and the engine throttles up.

Dual Function / Single Lever (Controls the Throttle and Shift) – By far the most common controller available for virtually every inboard, sterndrive and outboard application. This control is suitable for only one engine. The mounting options for this style control can range from helm stations to the side box controls on an outboard to sailboat cockpit controls. Like all dual function controls, the lever controls both the shift and the throttle. As you push forward on the lever, the transmission engages and the engine throttles up.

Single Function / Dual Lever (One lever controls throttle, the other lever controls shift) – A more traditional approach to controlling the throttle and shift. Some manufacturers do not recommend this type of control because you could throttle up (first) then slam the transmission into forward while the throttle is high! For twin engines, you simple mount two of these. Not for novices and can be dangerous when operated in a panic situation.

Control Mounting:

Traditional Runabout w/ Side Box Mount Control

Runabout, Outboard or Sterndrive Controls – Smaller boats typically use a side box mount controller, fitted to the right of the helm. With the exception of some jet boats, most of these controls are dual function, single lever. There are specific controllers made for Mercury / Mariner / Force as well as OMC / Johnson / Evinrude. You may be able to use a more generic controller by choosing cables that have end options that work with your system.

Sailboat Controls – Most sailboats use a flush side mount marine control. Older sailboats typically operated with Morse single function / dual lever controls. Most sailboat auxiliaries setup since the 1980’s use the dual function / single lever control to manage the throttle / shift in a smooth fashion.

Inboard and Larger Vessels – These controls are most often binnacle mounted controls that may have two stations (upper helm and lower cabinhouse) and twin-engine setups. The common traditional setup is a single function / dual lever control at the helm station. Owners often want more response and a ‘make sense system’ to help when maneuvering larger vessels with twin engines.

With the right controls, nearly anyone can take the helm* – note that the boat below is not under power!

Upper Control Station - Twin Engine, Single Function / Dual Lever

There are four main manufacturers offering replacement throttle, shift and control cables for the boat owner. The choices between these are often small construction details.

Teleflex TFXTREME Control Cables

Teleflex – Teleflex bought up the original Morse division of control cables. Most boats over 20 years old will have Morse controls and cables. Teleflex has upgraded the original CC series cable to the new design CCX TFXTREME. Teleflex’s unique TFXTREME technology incorporates a patented splined core. Ridges on the core allow a close fit with the cable’s inner liner, but with minimum contact, so the core glides back and forth smoothly like a skater on ice.

The Teleflex TFXTREME control cable was designed because of the original ‘issues’ with traditional marine cables. Traditional cables vary by the stiffness of the core wire and how tightly it fits in the casing. More flexible core/looser fit has an easier feel, but allows more lost motion. This approach leads to an overall sloppy feel, RPM loss or difficult gear engagement. Stiffer core/tighter fit offers less lost motion, but is harder to move. With longer and more complex runs, cable movement becomes progressively more difficult. Thus the classic trade-offs that have existed in control cable design have been resolved with the Teleflex TFXTREME.

Uflex MACH Control Cables

Uflex – Uflex control cables are relatively new on the scene, offering some of the most popular OEM control cables in their own high performance design. To reduce the friction the MACH series control cable, Uflex use’s a multi layered core to shield design that allows for high efficiency and smooth operation. The maintenance free cables are wrapped in a long life, high resistance blue outer jacket to offer protection against abrasion, UV and chemicals.

Glendinning PRO-X Control Cables

Glendinning – Glendinning has also come on strong in the world of replacement control cables. Glendinning Pro-X cables offer a core which is very stiff while very having a great deal of flexibility is the heart of the Pro-X cable, providing minimal lost motion with high-efficiency. Glendinning builds a maintenance free control cable with a high density polyethylene liner around the central armored core. The entire multi-layer cable is in a corrosion resistant case with protective end seals for long life.

Felstead Marine Control Cables

Felstead – Felstead control cables are used in commercial vehicles, agriculture, construction and, of course, marine. Chances are, you handled something using a Felstead cable recently. They are reliable enough for parking brake systems that last the life of an automobile, truck and bus and are rugged enough for use in commercial vessels. Although not tailored for the smaller outboard industry, the 33C, 40 Series and 60 Series mirror the original Morse control cables and are found in vessels everywhere. Long life and smooth operation are assured with such features as rod bearing (the only in the industry) and a sealed, multi-layer cable design.

Ready to buy a throttle, shift, control cable? Check out the Go2marine’s guide to Making Sense of Marine Control Cables.