Replacing the flybridge steering cable

While working on another project, I cleaned up a a fair amount of broken wire strands from inside the bottom of the lower helm. These all came from the steering cable. As you can probably see, it is pretty beat up. I put tape on part of it in the hope that it would diminish damage to the existing cable where it enters the tube until I could repair it properly. I don’t think it really helped.


Lower helm

It is clearly time to replace the cable. At first, I thought I would need to have this done by a professional. I posted about it on the Grand Banks forums and received prompt responses on how easy it was to do. Don Dahl was even kind enough to send me an email with complete instructions.

So first, I visited Fisheries Supply for some cable. I measured the diameter of the existing cable. It was 3/16″. The instructions provided to me suggested 20 feet of 7×19 stainless wire rope would be adequate. I opted for a couple extra feet just to be sure so I bought 22 feet. The cable is surprisingly inexpensive.

Here’s the prices for the stores near us. (Pricing as of the date of this post.)

$.68 a foot at Fisheries Supply = $14.96
$1.91 a foot at West Marine = $42.02

Cable cutters are really handy. They cut the cable much easier than I expected. I suppose a hack saw could be used, but I expect it would fray the ends of the cable uacceptably.

The whole project took about 45 minutes to complete. I expect it could be done in 20 minutes the second time. My friend Bruce, helped me. The job can be done by one person, but a helper makes it easier.

First. Take pictures of the existing installation. The instructions below worked for me. There may be some differences for everyone else.

Shut off the power if you have exposed electrics inside the lower helm. That steel cable will flop around pretty much everywhere in the process of removing and replacing it. I guarantee it will find whatever live terminals or connections you might have in there.

Take care to position the upper and lower steering wheels exactly where you want them before tightening up the new cable. It’s pretty hard to make adjustments after it’s all done.

Here are the instructions Don emailed me from the old GB Web site with a bit of my own additions. The original forum post is here.

1. Remove the panels in front of saloon steering console to expose the steering drum. Turn off ALL power to prevent electric shock.
2. Turn the steering system to center by the king poke indication.
3. Move inside flybridge steering console and loosen the nuts supporting the steering center on top of the A mount. As they are loosened, the steering cable will slack slightly and the steering centre will incline towards the “A’ mount.
4. Remove the old cable. Start at the lower helm. The lower helm drum has one set screw at each end (for the ends of the wire). Loosen the two set screws holding the cable ends. It easier to get to the set screws if you move the steering all the way to one side, loosen the set screw, then move the steering all the way to the other side and loosen that set screw. It may also be necessary to use a flat bladed screwdriver to help move the cables out of the way of the screws. Pull the cable out of the holes on the lower helm. This is the point where you will find out if you have really shut off all the power. Make sure the cable lay out flat with no kinks before moving to the flybridge. The flybridge drum has one set screw in the middle. Loosen the screw and pull all the cable up and out of the tube and the drum. The cable may have some grease on it so be sure to have something handy to contain it.

mvArchimedes Steering Cable Replacement 3

Lower helm. Only one of the set screws is visible here.

5. Wrap the cable ends with a little bit of tape to protect the ends of the wires. Don’t use too much tape or the ends won’t fit through the holes in the drums.
6. At the upper helm, push one end of the new cable through the hole in the middle of the drum and adjust it to have equal lengths on both sides. Tighten the set screw to secure the cable.
7. Turn the inboard cable round the steering drum counter clockwise two turns and the outboard cable clockwise two turns. The cables should be tight against the drums. I had a helper, but you could secure the wraps around the drum with tape temporarily. Push the loose ends down through the tube to the lower helm.
8. Separate the cables inside the saloon and ensure that they are not criss-crossed. Pull on each end of the cable and verify which cable is which so you don’t get them backwards.
9. Make sure both steering wheels are lined up exactly as you want them to be. If they are out of alignment when you are done, you will need to remove the cable from the lower helm drum and realign.
10. Turn the inboard cable round the saloon steering drum counter clockwise. Pass the cable round the steering drum two times. On the third loop, insert the cable end in the corresponding hole in the drum. Don’t pull the cable tight yet.
11. Repeat the above with the outboard cable turning clockwise. Don’t pull this cable tight yet either.
12. This is the time to make sure your steering wheels are lined up and straight. Once you are satisfied, pull the cables tight on the lower helm drum and secure the set screws. Check to be sure the wheels are lined up. Cut off the excess cable as close to the drum as possible so the ends don’t hit or catch on anything when the wheel is turned. We ended up with about 8″ extra on each side.
12. Tighten the steering cable by adjusting the nuts on the “A’ mount inside flybridge console until the steering center is in horizontal position.
13. Check the system by observing the quadrant turns when the steering wheel is turned.

I applied a bit of lithium grease on the cables when everything was done (Bob Lowe indicated Chain and Cable lube * is the right lubricant). I don’t know if it was necessary, but it seemed the right thing to do to decrease wear on the cables where they go into the tube between the steering stations.

* There are several  providers of chain lube. I found some from Liquid Wrench and Permatex at the auto parts store. Bob suggests LUBRIPLATE Chain & Cable Fluid in a spray can.

mvArchimedes Steering Cable Replacement 5

All done. As projects go, this seemed like it would be difficult, but was surprisingly quick and easy. Leave a comment if you have any questions or suggestions.

2 thoughts on “Replacing the flybridge steering cable

    • A number of people were quick to provide the “how-to” information when I asked. I thought it would be nice to document the process once I was done for those who need to know in the future.

      Thanks for taking the time to comment.

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