Hydraulic steering help/advice wanted

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I have a 196 Starcraft with a 150 Merc and 9.9 Merc kicker. The motor is mounted correctly with steering cables free and good, but the boat is still hard to steer, especially for my wife or girls. I would like to add a hydraulic steering unit to this boat/motor. Those with experience, What unit/brand/model would be applicable for this setup? I am pretty handy, can I do this myself or is it a shop project? The 150 2 stroke runs really well but if it gets as old and tired as me I am planning on repowering with a 150 Merc 4 stroke. I would like to be able to use the same unit then also. Advice/your experience? Thanks in advance.
Hydraulic steering is awesome but keep in mind it’s much more expensive than cable steering.

I installed the SeaStar hydraulic system on my older houseboat, completely replacing the original hydraulic system including all new hoses, helm unit and steering ram. It was over $2K, compared to about $500 for a comparable manual cable steering system, but well worth the investment.

Installation can be done by one person but the final step of bleeding will require a helper to turn the steering wheel while you are bleeding air at the stern.

Regarding ‘hard’ steering, what type of helm do you have...Rotary or Rack and Pinion? Do you know if it’s NFB or Non-NFB?

Non Feed Back (NFB) helms utilize a form of clutch to counter rotational forces from the prop. This makes initiating turns feel somewhat ‘sticky’ requiring a bit more force on the wheel to initiate turns. Most newer boats manufactured over the past decade or so come with the NFB option.

Non-NFB helms, usually found on older boats, do not have this clutch feature and tend to turn more freely. The downside of Non-NFB is the boat will tend to ‘pull’ to one side at cruising speed requiring constant driver input to counter the turning forces generated by prop torque. The amount of torque increases with higher-HP engines/higher speeds.

Non-NFB helm units are still available but you must specify you want this when ordering.

My 75hp pontoon boat had the NFB Rotary helm and I was unhappy with the difficult steering. This year I replaced the NFB Rotary helm with a new Non-NFB Rotary helm. The Teleflex steering cable was compatible with both helms so I didn’t have to replace the cable.

Cost was less than $150 and I’m super happy with the smooth, effortless steering.
Not yet. Good advice. Turns fairly easily in the shop realizing that i am maneuvering about 400 pounds or so, but don’t have enough experience to know about how much effort it should take. Might get to it this weekend, been burning the midnight oil trying to dry in our house i am building. I have greased fittings but need to spend some down time with the boat.
Did you check to see if the motor moves freely with the cables disconnected? The grease fittings on the motor often get neglected.

My boat is a 2003 Crestliner, with a 90hp. The steering had required more effort over time, but It was a slow increase over the years, and I did not notice it. I lubed everything up, and was amazed at how much less effort was required to steer....
Get the specs from Seastar for the helm and parts you need for the boat and engine size. Shop ebay for the helm and you might find a new one on there for less money. I have always paid my local boat mechanic to install but I am 100% certain that hydro steering is worth the investment. No comparison in ease of steering and the boat tracks a lot better.
Seastar does put out a great system, they are an established company AND rebuild kits are available for both the help pump and the steer cylinders. Lets face it, if it is hydraulic, it will eventually start to leak somewhere.

Stay away from the cheaper systems as they tend to wear/leak faster and parts may be harder to find.

Also, one thing to consider with your transfer lines (from helm to motor cylinder). Being a smaller boat that will get up on plane (unlike a houseboat) they will be experiencing a lot more vibration. Advice would be to go to a hydraulic shop and have custom rubber hoses made up instead of using a ridged line. May be a little more expensive in the initial cost, but will last a lot longer in your application.

If you are on a budget, I do have a couple used Seastar motor cylinders and help pumps and can get the re-seal kits thru my distributor.
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