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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

Elliot Lewis & his boat - Bennington Banner / by Peter Crabtree

Students in an engineering class at Bennington, Vermont’s Career Development Center are working to repair the steering and other components of a boat in order to return it to the water.

Elliot Lewis, a 17-year-old senior at Mount Anthony Union High School, is one of the five students in an Engineering 2 class who is trying to restore a 15-foot, 1959 fiberglass and wooden Runabout, the Bennington Banner reports.

“I started out thinking I would do the whole boat, but with time constraints, I decided to just do the lighting and steering instead,” Lewis told the news source.

He added that these components needed the most work. “The steering was non-existent when I started.” Cable and pulley style steering was the standard fitment to a boat of this era. Indeed, helms and cable steering systems have come a long way since those early days of the “close-line” style of steering system with cables running down both sides of the gunwhales to the outboard.

Outboard Steering

Single cable steering systems are most common in smaller boats that are propelled with an outboard. The Uflex Rotech Universal Rotary Cable Steering System, which includes helm, bezel and cable, is ideal for replacement marine boat steering systems.

If you’re replacing a cable steering system, you will need to calculate the cable length. When replacing an existing system, you can usually find the cable part number and length about two feet from the helm connection, imprinted into the cable’s jacket. If you can’t locate or read the numbers on your cable, you can calculate the appropriate steering cable length by measuring the plastic jacket only and adding 18 inches

Rotary Steering Helm

Cable steering systems are the most common type of boat steering mechanisms used in vessels with an outboard or stern drive for propulsion. Available cable systems include single or double cable models offered with either a rack and pinion or rotary helm unit.

All cable steering systems contain a jacketed cable that connects the turning wheel through the helm unit to the outboard or drive of the boat. The helm uses a push-pull motion on the steering cable so that when the driver turns the steering wheel, steering cables control the outboard or stern drive and direct the boat.

Rotary steering systems are manufactured by both Teleflex Morse and Uflex. A planetary rotary helm is the most compact and consists of three or more gears that mesh internally with the cable drum to move the helical core of the steering cable. The rugged reduction gear rotary helm is built with one or more gears that mesh externally with the drum to move the helical core of the steering cable. These rotary helms offer a compact system that will fit behind any dash or console. Rotary steering cable systems are available in both standard versions and no-feed (NFB) versions.

Rack and Pinion Steering Helm

Rack and pinion systems are also available in standard and NFB versions. This system involves a pinion gear, hobbed directly into the helm shaft and engages a rack gear in a tubular housing. The rack and pinion helm may require more space behind your boat’s console because of the long bar that acts as the rack. Rack and pinion steering is the most efficient mechanical approach to moving the steering cable.

If your boat has an engine over 150 horsepower or multiple engines, you’ll want to choose an NFB or “Zerotorque” steering cable system, which is designed for higher horsepower performance applications. If you are looking for a smaller, practical system for a vessel with under 60 horsepower, the Uflex Rotech will work well.

Teleflex Control Cables

August 28, 2009

Go2marine carries a complete line of Teleflex control cables for most applications, including vintage Morse cables. Teleflex Incorporated is a diversified global company supplying research and goods to Medical, Aerospace, Commercial and the Marine market sectors.

Teleflex control cables are the current replacement for traditional Morse 33c cables that fit operational Morse controls. Whether you are outfitting the controls on an inboard or outboard, Telflex cables are the industry standard. Beyond the 33c control cables, there are cables for both Mercury / Mercuiser as well as 1979 and newer Johnson Evinrude. Control cables are available as either “General Controls Cables“, which will satisfy the needs of many boat operaters or the  “TFXTREME Control Cables” which are used on performance, commercial and military vessels.

General Controls Cables

  • Available in varies quality, from Standard to Supreme
  • 3300 / 33c fit Morse, Teleflex and many other manufacturers controls
  • Mercury, Mercuiser cables available for standard Mercury controls and Mercury Gen II
  • Johnson Evinrude cables fit 1979 to current, (adapter available for pre 1979)
  • Cables available in 1 foot increments
  • Quality built for most environmental applications
Teleflex General Control Cables from Go2marine

Teleflex General Control Cables from Go2marine

TFXTREME Controls Cables

  • Built to survive in the harshest environmental conditions
  • Unique splined core construction
  • Maximum performance with no lost motion
  • Cables available in 1 foot increments
  • Excellent for long cable runs
  • Available for most 33c, Mercury / Mercuiser and Johnson Evinrude applications
TFXTREME Control Cables at Go2marine

TFXTREME Control Cables at Go2marine

How to measure your replacement cable

For all your Control Cable, Steering Cable and Marine needs; visit Go2marine

Did you know…Go2marine sells complete boat steering systems as well as steering parts to build your own system or repair your existing  system? Whether you are looking for helm pumps, steering cylinders or rebuild kits, you will find that we carry a large selection of  Teleflex, Hynautics, Vetus, Uflex, Wagner parts to finish or maintain your vessel.

SeaStar Hydraulic Outboard Steering System

SeaStar Hydraulic Outboard Steering System

Teleflex offers the BayStar Hydraulic Steering System that is ideal for small boats, including inflatables and runabouts with small to medium single outboard powered engines to 125 horsepower.  This system comes complete with everything needed for an install.   For single and twin nonpower-assisted outboard engines up to 300HP, cruisers, runabouts, offshore fishing boats, the SeaStar No FeedBack, Hydraulic Steering System is an industry standard. Suitable for speeds up to 60MPH. For more information about SeaStar Steering, visit Teleflex http://ww2.seastarsteering.com

If you have any questions about purchasing a hydraulic steering system, don’t hesistate to contact our Go2marine Engine Specialists at 1-800-998-9508.