View Full Version : Steering gone on my 1981 old buddy

08-31-2004, 07:24 PM
Hi folks, am totally new to this forum, so apologies in advance if I offend anyone with a neophyte question...but here goes:

My old pal 1981 Mastercraft has suddenly lost all ability to steer. I am guessing the steering cable has broken, but am at something of a loss to fix it.

My biggest problem is the rudder is nearly impossible to reach without taking out the gas tank -- at least that's the way it appears to me. So my first question to you fine folks is this:

Is it reasonable to take out the gas tank to get to the rudder?

Assuming I can get to the rudder, is it easy to determine how the cable attaches to the "rudder arm"? I'd like to detach the cable here and attempt to "push" the cable through and figure out where it is broken.

My suspicion is the cable is broken somewhere in the middle as I am able to turn the rudder by "pushing" the cable (turn the wheel to the right), but "pulling" the cable (turning the wheel to the left) has no effect on the rudder position.

So I guess my 2nd question is: should I attempt to detach the cable from the rudder and "push" the cable out and feed a new one in through the box under the dash? That box seems to just move the cable back and forth depending on the wheel movement.

I am not explaining myself that well (upon re-reading this), but am hoping one of you experts can help me decide if i'm over my head, or if this is considered a relatively simple fix.

I've had this boat since 1989 and it's got some emotional attachment, so i'm totally motivated to learn. As a testimony to the quality of this boat o' mine (and an explanation to my ignornace), I've only had to replace the water pump, and other minor engine stuff in over 800 hours of use! What a great boat.

Many, many thanks for your assistance!

08-31-2004, 08:27 PM
Welcome aboard td. I have not had to work on any of my cables yet but you have come to the right place. Personally I donít think itís unreasonable to remove the tank to get to the rudder. Its quite possible someone on the board has the exact information you seek. Good luck with your old Pal:wavey:

08-31-2004, 08:41 PM
I have an '83 and I think it's fairly similar to the '81. Once the floor panel is removed you can reach under the tank to get to the rudder connection. If you are in need of a new steering system, I have one in great condition for sale in the marketplace.

08-31-2004, 09:00 PM
I agree with Terry. On my 82 it is fairly easy to get to the rudder with the rear center floor removed.
You will need to remove the rear seat if you have one and the rear cover. disconnect the engine cover and take out the rear center floor by removing 4 screws. That should give you plenty of room to work.

There should be no need to remove the tank, unless yours is a lot different from mine.

Hope it all goes well.

08-31-2004, 09:44 PM
Man, am i glad I posted here. I didn't even realize the floor board could come out at all!! I just removed the engine cover, seats, back panel, and there are the 4 screws. Sheesh, I am not the sharpest tool in the shed, apparently.

Anyway, I can now get to EVERYTHING and I believe even with my limited intellect, I can make a go of this.

Stretching my luck a bit, perhaps somebody could tell me this: do I necessarily need an entire "steering kit" (as one of the gracious posters had offered), or can I just replace that steel-like cable that runs down through the outer housing?

In my head, I was thinking about just buying 17' of cable and force-feeding it down the steering box-thingamajig after removing the old. But based on my track record so far, that's probably pretty far off the mark.

Further assistance is greatly appreciated!
TD aka Tom

08-31-2004, 09:53 PM

Tie a rope to the old cable, so as you remove it, you have something to help you 'thread' the new cable into place.

Sounds like the boat has become a wonderful 'friend'... My first choice would be to upgrade to rack and pinion steering (there's a thread on the old site about that); my second choice would be to consider the steermaster kit (assuming it's not 'sticky' - Terry?) and my last choice would be to replace the cable only.. My two cents worth... others will have other slants on this.
Be thankful it's not a v-drive....

08-31-2004, 10:12 PM
I'm glad you were able to get to the rudder. Yes, a new cable may be enough to solve your problem, but, I've heard that they are hard to find. (anyone know of a source?) And... yes, rack and pinion would be great but I think you may have to cut some of your dash support for the rack to fit. Anyhow, you may be able to get more information about your options from other posters here. Please let me know if you would like to explore the Steermaster option (It works smoothly)

08-31-2004, 10:27 PM
Good point, Terry... retrofitting for rack and pinion is a fairly big job...

Only source I can think of for a replacement cable is to contact Teleflex Morse..

08-31-2004, 11:00 PM
Hi Neil, Terry,

Thanks so much for your continued assistance. I've learned a ton from your posts and spending the last 45 minutes disassembling the cable from the rudder, the ball support, etc. I think I finally now realize that the "cable" is the combination of a rubberized outer sleeve, some mystery rigid thing sliding inside of it, and a metal "bar" that attaches to the rudder itself. In my head, I had been thinking of the cable as just the thing that slides along inside the housing and that it could somehow be easily replaced.

Can you confirm that little realization for me? Which, if I'm getting this, totally explains why Neil suggested tying a rope to the original as you pull it through, so the replacement can be easily fed along those twisty, narrrow passage ways. Is that about right?

Ok, with all that said, I'm now faced with the replacement, which sounds like it may not that be easy to find. For what it's worth, my original 1981 Owners Manual (with a dude with a decidedly hippy haircut double skiing on the cover) calls this a 17' RM-5 Steering Cable. I'm guessing that product number went the way of the dinosaur, but the brand on the outer sleeve is Teleflex (as one of you mentioned).

I'll try to find the same style cable, but if I strike out on that, I'd very much like to pursue the SteerMaster system that you spoke of.

Finally, should I keep posting to this thread or create a new one as interesting things develop? This is just so cool. Thanks for all your help!


tall_ andy
09-01-2004, 12:27 AM
I think you should keep posting to this thread it helps those helping you to keep track of where to find you.
Welcome to the board it will be an unimaginable wealth of knowledge as I have found out.
As far as the replacement cable goes I would try skidim first. If you have to call them they are a ton of help on the phone as well.
Good luck and keep us posted on your progress

09-01-2004, 01:20 AM
If your system is made by Teleflex, you are probably in luck. I think those cables are still available. I was referring to replacement cables for the Steermaster system. Please keep us posted on your progress.

09-01-2004, 07:09 AM
Good point, Terry... retrofitting for rack and pinion is a fairly big job...

Only source I can think of for a replacement cable is to contact Teleflex Morse..

no, actually it's very easy, and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND SWITCHING TO RACK AND PINION. I just did the project on my '85, everything should be the same.

tdayton, call me at work today at around 1:00pm EDT. I work at West Marine. I'll get you the part numbers and tell you all about the project. 803-750-5034

09-01-2004, 08:12 AM
Hey Tom,

Welcome, I too am in the "learning curve" process...apparently someone had reassembled my ball support backwards allowing the tiller arm (that's the arm thing on the head of the rudder) to move too far which actually allowed the rudder to turn far enough to get into the prop - (LOUD clunk, clunk, clunk, followed by a "What on earth was that) - that's when I started learning about MC steering....anyway, my cable had been replaced so I can't shed much light on that but get in touch with Teleflex/Morse (the cable manufactuers) and skiDIM (aftermarket supplier and all around good knowledgable folks) and between the two, you'll get fixed up...I do recall a thread on doing exactly what you've suggested - i.e. pulling the new cable in with a piece of string....

Sounds like you have a great ole friend :D


09-01-2004, 11:13 AM
It's great to hear that a rack and pinion unit will fit into the older S&S's. I considered it when switching to Teleflex tilt many years ago, but it looked like the rack unit wouldn't fit under the dash. My boat ('83) has a vertical fiberglass brace that extends all the way to the bottom of the dash on both sides of the wheel mounting area. Does the rack drop below the dash? or is it far enough behind the dash (towards the front of the boat) that it clears the braces, or ?


09-02-2004, 04:02 PM
Hey guys, thanks for all the posts. H20SkeeFreek, I just saw your gracious invitation to call you about the Rack & Pinion option, but I just yesterday ordered a replacement Teleflex steering cable from a pretty cool outfit named Go2Marine.com (out of Seattle, I believe).

Some Googles (tm) on Teleflex led me to their site and I spoke with a dude at length who helped me find what I needed. I ordered the replacement kit and am hoping it'll arrive tomorrow (paid for 2 day shipping).

Now that the boat is all opened up, I think I can actually make this repair. Funny how daunting it seemed before you great folks shed light on this.

If I strike out entirely, I'll definitely pursue the rack n pinion option, but at this point, I'll be satisfied to get back on the water for the upcoming 3-day weekend.

I guess I'm something of a packrat...I just can't seem to bring myself to buy a new boat even though this 23 year old girl is starting to show her age. $110 for a steering cable and a few hours of sweat seems worth it to get her going again.

I'll keep you posted, if you're interested!

07-21-2008, 04:25 PM
FYI, if you do remove the tank, make sure you drill and tap the steering coupler and run a line up to the motor area with a zerk fitting so you can remotely lubricate the coupler. I did it and it works great...

07-21-2008, 11:12 PM
holy thread resurrection!!