Dinghy Steering Repair

Typically, when you buy a larger boat, you often end up getting some kind of dinghy, which is just a small boat that is either viewed as a life-raft or just a way to get to shore if you anchor or moor the boat away from land. Some are inflatable, and some are rigid; some have motors, and some are meant to be rowed. Our boat came with an old inflatable dinghy with a hard bottom, which is great for running your boat onto shore without worrying about damaging the inflatable bottom, but because it’s old, it does leak air out faster than I’d like. That repair will show up on a future post.

Anyhow, the first thing I noticed about this dinghy is that the steering was really stiff… to the point of nearly being useless. I borrowed a grease gun and injected some lubricant into the grease fittings to see if that would free things up, but that didn’t help at all. In fact, the old shaft seals could barely hold the extra grease, so that just made a mess.

The first possible sticking point that could have caused the steering stiffness.

After removing the steering linkage from the shaft, I was able to figure out that the neck on the engine wasn’t seized up, either. The engine freely rotated left and right by hand once I disconnected it from the steering cable.

The “neck” of the engine. It’s another place that could mess up the steering. However, this wasn’t the problem.

The next place to look was the actual steering box itself. With the steering linkage disconnected from the engine, I tested the steering wheel to see if it was still seized up, and sure enough, it would hardly budge. Even after removing the steering cable from the box, the shaft that holds the steering wheel wouldn’t move… which meant that a gear inside had seized. These boxes aren’t serviceable… so it meant buying a new one.

This is a seized steering box. You can’t tell it doesn’t work until you try spinning that shaft. It should free-spin when the cable is disconnected.

Once the new part arrived, I wrestled with the installation (the cable is rather thick and unwieldy) for over an hour, but after getting it bolted in and reconnected to both the steering wheel and the engine, the steering worked like it was brand new.

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