Why Does My Boat Have Two Steering Cables?

Why Does My Boat Have Two Steering Cables?

Note: As an amazon associate I may earn a small commission from qualifying purchases if you click to amazon from my site and choose to make a purchase.You can read my complete affiliate disclosure for more details

Why Does My Boat Have Two Steering Cables?

The cable creates resistance for the rudder on a boat to turn it, allowing it to go in different directions.

The cable often winds around some pulleys, which helps make turning it easier for people to control. A boat’s steering cable is usually a steel tube that runs from the rudder to the tiller, which you can connect by steel wires and screws.

Two steering cables are a safety precaution that helps the captain maintain steering even if one cable breaks. Having two steering cables instead of one also makes it easier for the captain to split the number of turns in half. If there is an emergency and you need to switch which cable you are using quickly, then this is easier with two cables than with one.

If there is only a single cable, you need to turn it around before it starts working again. I once had a boat that only had one cable.

I wanted to turn the wheel around, but it took me a minute to turn it. At that time, my boat could have started rolling over sufficiently to make me lose control of the boat.

There are special considerations that go into using two steering cables. With two cables, one can take over steering when the other breaks. This is an advantage but also a disadvantage.

For example, if you are taking a large wave head-on, the cable on the side of the wave will likely break before the other one.

So, you will not be able to steer the ship and should use your motor to try and turn away from the wave.

How Long Should a Boat Steering Cable Last?

A steering cable should last at least ten years. The steel and copper strands are designed to last that long, but the rubber coverings can deteriorate with age or high-temperature exposure.

A braided cable is less likely to fray than a single filament cable because of its dense construction, which should help them last for decades.

It will hold up well when under normal use if it conforms to the design specifications and doesn’t undergo extreme temperature changes.

You want to avoid hearing the cable groan or whine when turning your wheel. Neither should you feel any play in the wheel as you turn it from lock to lock.

A Few Things Will Shorten the Life Of A Steering Cable

Exposure to Sunlight

Too much exposure to sunlight will eventually break down the polymer covering. If you live in a hot climatic area or your boat is parked outside for a long time, this will shorten its life.

When under normal use, as long as the boat is on the trailer & covered when not in use, it should last many years.

Any cover that allows airflow through it would be better than no cover. A soft cover will allow some UV protection while still allowing airflow.

Age and Weathering

The older a boat gets, the less likely it is to remain in the same condition. A worn-out bottom or a cracked deck will cause wear on the cable.

When you sail, avoid heavy use of the rudder while underway, where water can splash on top of it. This can keep enough moisture there to make it acidic, leading to a ‘rust spot’ or corrosion.

The acid can work into the steel strands of cable and eventually cause them to break down over time. The rudder can be packed with foam or other material to increase its size.

A larger rudder is less likely to jam in the water and cause a cable failure.

Heat Exposure

You only need a small amount of heat to break the polymer over time. Just be sure to cover any exposed areas when not in use.

Keeping your steering cables covered from the elements is paramount to keeping them in good working order for many years.

Over-Tightening of the turnbuckles

When you turn your wheel, you don’t want it to make a loud noise as it turns or feel like there’s any play at all.

You can cause this by a worn-out cable, but more often than not, it’s caused by over-tightening. When you tighten your turnbuckles, you want to ensure the water drains out of the cable.

Why Does My Boat Have Two Steering Cables?

This will help prevent future failures from occurring. I suggest not overtightening them and instead using a ratchet wrench, but that depends on how far you need to turn them.

How do I Run a Cable Boat Steering with Pulleys?

Cable boat steering with pulleys needs a jib and a helm station with a tensioning system installed before you can use it.

A simple cable boat does not have a job, so when the boat is at rest, you need to upset the angle of the hull by hand to move it forward or backward.

If you want to push the boat from one side to another, you need two people: one on each side. This is even less efficient than using one person on each side to push and pull with a rope.

Another problem with a simple cable boat is that you have to keep tension on the rope, so after a run, you will stretch the rope, and there will be no tension.

The boats that use cable boat steering need to have some means of maintaining and controlling the tension.

You can do this by installing a jib (pulley) and using weights, springs, or clever pulleys designed for big boats.

To use a pulley, you must fit the boat with a jib. The jib can only move the boat sideways, but in some cases, it can also move the hull above or below the waterline.

You must make some plans and calculations before installing the driving system.

How Much Can You Bend a Boat Steering Cable?

A boat steering cable can bend up to 70 degrees before breaking. A typical 1-inch wire rope has a bending strength of about 1500 pounds, meaning it will take over 14,000 pounds of force for the rope to break with some difficulty.

This strength cannot withstand many of the forces the boat would encounter.

To determine the strength a steering cable must have, you must measure the force it can bend up to.

This means measuring at a specific angle (in this case, 70 degrees) and then placing a load on the cable while it’s being bent in that direction.

The more precise measurement of the cable’s breaking strength would be over a 4-inch diameter pulley with a 2.5-inch radius.

The measurements are taken from the center point of the pulley to where the cable breaks, providing a much more precise braking force.

The bending test over the 4-inch pulley using a 2.5-inch radius has a breaking strength of about 2200 pounds. So, the 1-inch wire rope has a breaking strength of about 1.15 times its bending strength, which is good enough.

The 2200-pound breaking force over the 4 by 4-inch pulley equals a breaking force over a cable with an 8-inch radius being tested at a 23-degree angle over a 4-inch diameter pulley.

So, 23 degrees is the closest thing, considering all the wind and other interference that can make it difficult for the cable to maintain its integrity.

How Do I Make My Boat Steer at Low Speed?

If you want to steer your boat at low speed, here is how to do it. You want to put the tiller over to the side of your boat where you want it to go.

Turn it in gradually so the rudder will catch some water and push against it. Make aggressive movements with this tiller at first, so there is less resistance when turning.

Also, if your motorboat has a steering wheel, use that to steer your boat because it will be easier on your hands than using the tiller.

Given that this is how the boat is steered, it may be necessary to compare it with the rudder.

A rudder is a rectangular plane at right angles to the keel of a ship or boat that is used chiefly to counteract lateral forces and keep the craft on its desired course.

The principle of lee helm can also help you in case you want to reduce speed while sailing.

The rudder is responsible for setting the boat’s direction and controlling its course. Even driving at reduced speeds should help your boat head in the direction you want.

You can achieve this through a simple yet effective method of steering: by attaching your rudder to the tiller arm or wheel.

How Much Will It Cost Me to Replace a Boat Steering Cable?

There are 3 types of boat steering cables- rotary, rack, and pinion. A rotary steering cable has a core that is wrapped in wire. The cable is connected to the wheel, which keeps the boat from turning off course by moving around an axis.

The rack and pinion have a pulley at one end, turning the shaft through a set of gears so you can apply the torque for propulsion on both sides of the boat.

Direct steering uses two independent shafts with their motors to steer straight ahead.

This is for extreme power boats and can cause a lot of complications. A direct steered boat should have an auxiliary steering system to avoid this problem.

Here is a small table showing the cost of the cables.

Rotary$300 to $600
Rack$500 to $1,200
Pinion$250 and $1,200

Should you solder Marine wire?

Soldering Marine Wire is the process of joining two or more wires together. This process is done with a soldering iron that melts the wire and another wire, creating a joint between them.

There are many reasons to solder Marine Wire, including construction, marine electronics installation, boat maintenance, and many other applications.

The downside to Soldering Marine Wire is that certain safety considerations have to be considered when doing this type of work around electricity, which is hard for beginners to wrap their heads around at first.

The process of soldering Marine Wire is fairly simple, but the first step is understanding what you should and shouldn’t do.

There are different ways you can make a joint between wires, such as butt welding, crimp lugs, or soldering.

To see which is better for your particular application, you need to look at some basic information about the electrical properties that each of these methods may have.

Why Does My Boat Have Two Steering Cables?

You should use two types of joints for soldering your Marine Wire: Ring and Pin connectors. Ring and Pin connectors use ring and pin terminals crimped onto the wire.

The crimp is made with a crimp die, similar to a die cutter. But instead of cutting, the crimp cutters apply pressure to the wire to create the joint.

One advantage of this method is that it is easy to use and can fit many different wires in the same terminal.

However, if you are soldering many wires together, you will have problems if your crimp needs to be stronger. More on this later.

The other option for soldering Marine Wire is ring and sleeve connectors. Ring and sleeve connectors have ring terminals connected to the outer ring of the wire, where an inner sleeve or bus bar holds both wires end together.

How Do You Determine the Correct Cable Size?

AmperageThe amperage rating for the equipment being powered by the cable is an important factor in determining your cable size.

For instance, a power company may need a high-capacity cable to service 110-volt high-power equipment.
Power LossThe length of the wire determines power loss and heating over time, so make sure you use a shorter cord if this is a concern.

Try to plug your devices as close to each other as possible, and make sure you use quality wires with sufficient thickness.
Cable RootingSome wires are smaller in diameter than others and have more capacity.

You should use a cable with a larger root diameter, which provides room for the thicker insulation to protect against surges/spikes compared to thin wires.
Voltage DropThe voltage drops over a given length of wire depends on the resistivity of the conductor material and its cross-sectional area, the current in the conductor, and temperature.
Temperature RatingIn some instances, the thermal expansion of wire and connectors may cause a temperature variance in the cable that could affect performance.

Pick a cable rated for your geographical location (different climates) to ensure proper performance.
Cable SheathSome cables are made of solid copper, and others are made of stranded steel wires coated with tin plating. Solid copper must be grounded at the sheath to avoid potential leakage issues.

Controlling Cable Boat Steering With Pulleys

There are ways to control the direction of passage for a cable boat. Here are some basic pulley systems and their possible use for steering a cable boat.

Directly connected: There is no horizontal movement with this system. You can attach the pulley side by side to cause change in height.The handle is directly attached to one pulley or the other.

If the bottom pulley has a larger diameter than the top, the direction of rotation will be opposite.

The two pulleys should have opposite rotation directions. This allows you to use one hand to turn in either direction.

You can use a long enough handle so that it is okay to keep your arm bent at all times. Pulleys with different diameters should have opposite rotation directions.

Connected to moving pulley: You attach the handle to the top pulley, and the bottom pulley goes around a rotating post.

One hand controls the rotation of the bottom pulley, and the other controls the wire. There are two main ways to use this system.

You attach the handle to one of the two pulleys, and it passes through a rotating post. Here, one hand controls the bottom pulley’s rotations and the wire’s movement.

Connected to moving rope: This system is essentially the same, but with a rope instead of a wire going from top to bottom.

You attach one of the ends of the rope to the top pulley or handle and its opposite end to one side of a winch. The hand holds the rope, and the winch turns to move the top pulley or handle.

Connected to moving cable: Attach the pulleys side-by-side with one another. Although there is no horizontal movement, the direction of rotation will be opposite.

The two pulleys should have opposite rotation directions. This allows you to use one hand to turn in either direction.

Cable Boat Steering Lubricants: Cable Boat Steering Lubricants are designed to lubricate the cables and joints of cable boats.

Cable Boat Steering Lubricants are available in two different forms: A light feed-through system and an oil-free, water-based system.

You can apply the oil-free and light feed-through systems by hand or power rotary equipment.

The water-based lubricants are ideal for use in any boat where a hand application is impossible, such as on the large equipment of cable boats.

Cable Boat Steering Lubricants solve the problem of gray water, which threatens the environment. By preventing gray water from leaving your boat, you are protecting the ecology of the Great Lakes.

For any boat, water is its worst enemy. Water will corrode any metal it comes in contact with, which can lead to leaks and equipment failure.

One area where water is prevalent on a boat is the steering gear. Cables for steering gear are constantly exposed to moisture, which can cause corrosion that will eventually render the cable inoperable.

Cable boat steering lubricants are designed to protect the cables from water and corrosion.

These specialized lubricants are ideal for use in positions requiring frequent steering gear access, such as on steering gear technicians who install and service steering gear.

Lubricants are also beneficial for older boats that you cannot clean to standard specifications.


The steering gear is integral to any vessel, especially a cable boat. It keeps the vessel moving linearly or circularly.

Steering gear components for cable boats are reliable and long-lasting as long as they are maintained appropriately.

There are many parts inside a cable boat steering system that you must properly maintain for the system to work at its best.


Hi! I' am Tom. I was a manager in one of the biggest stores for over 10 Years, am also an SEO by night. I don't like to call myself a blogger; they are very analytical, do email marketing, and know all SEO stuff. I faced many questions from customers about different products, and there was hardly any help on the internet. After learning all the things about these products as a manager the hard way, I decided to start a blog and help other people.

Recent Posts