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zoom555 04-27-2008 02:05 AM

Steering Cable Replacement
My cable steering system needs a bit of work. Actually, it depends on who you ask. My surveyor wrote "The stainless steel cable run from the pedestal helm to the quadrant on the rudder post is starting to fail at the connection to the port side of the quadrant, with several strands broken. It is required that the cable be replaced as new at this time..." I asked my marina to look at the problem and they wrote "Steering ok ... There is only one section of cable that is frayed." Given the importance of the steering system, this doesn't give me a lot of confidence.

So, since my marina doesn't think this is worth doing, I guess I'll do the job myself. The marina indicated that the existing cable is 1/4" galvanized. One of my books ("Spurr's Guide to Upgrading Your Cruising Sailboat") indicates that the cable is typically 7x19. So, onto my questions:

1. I assume that stainless cable would be preferable to galvanized? (I can order 1/4" 7x19 stainless aircraft cable for $2 (Canadian) a foot. The marina estimated that 20 feet was required.)

2. Spurr's indicates that I should attach the roller chain to the wire with a thimble and a Nicropress fitting (and then the wire to the quadrant using cable clamps to allow for later adjustment). As I don't expect to be doing this frequently and the professional tools from Nicropress are quite expensive, can anyone comment on the much cheaper Swage-It #3 tool (which relies on a wrench to tighten the connection, instead of a ratcheting mechanism)?

3. Anyone have any other helpful tips about completing this job?

knothead 04-27-2008 07:42 AM

I don't know if you have a West Marine in your area. If you do, they most always have a nico-press tool near the area where they sell the wire. They are happy to let you use it in the store and will usually help you if you need it. A better solution may be to seek out a local rigger to replace the cables for you. If there is no one in your area just pack them up and send them to a rigger and they will duplicate them and send them back.
You notice that I am using the plural. IMO you should replace both cables unless you have already replaced one. If there are signs of wear or broken strands on one and they are the same age then it would behoove you tackle the whole job at the same time.
While you are crawling around in the bilge you should probably lube any of the sheaves (rollers) the wire travels around and generally check out the whole system.
A good way of performing this task is to attach a messenger line to the old wire and pull it through while removing the worn out cable. It may make it easier to reinstall.
Good luck

mazzy 04-27-2008 07:45 AM

I just did this job yesterday. A local rigging shop made up the cables to duplicate what I brought him. He had the cables ready the next day. I also had one cable with a couple of "meat hooks" and one cable that was fine.

sailboy21 04-27-2008 04:03 PM

Only problem with DIY is the size and shape of the nicropress fittings used. If you buy from the manufacture (i.e. Edson) the fittings will be small, smooth, with nothing to hand up inside the pedestal. Only stainless wire should be used. I don't know why galvanized would have been fitted. Consider this: with a ferrous metal, like steel, every time you change the position of the wheel you have changed the magnetic field around the binnacle compass. No deviation card is going to fix this!

Giulietta 04-27-2008 04:22 PM

Mine are all dyneema.

radcat 04-27-2008 09:46 PM

Greetings. This is a very timely post. I just finished installing an engine control cable. Since I had the steering cables disconnected, I inspected them and found one with several broken strands. I plan to take the old cables to a local rigger and have duplicates made. My question is, how do you remove the old ones? Will they pull down through the bottom of the pedestal or do you have to pull everything up through the top like the engine control cables?

zoom555 04-28-2008 11:15 AM


I'm not sure if you can do remove the cables the way you're thinking, but I just got an email back from Edson customer service (I'm leaning toward getting them to fabricate the cables and also sell me a new chain at the same time) recommending this approach:
... unfasten the cables from the radial drive wheel or quadrant on the rudder post. Next, tie two messenger lines on the cables and bring the assembly up through the top of the pedestal.
This is essentially what Knothead recommended earlier in this thread.

radcat 04-28-2008 12:42 PM

Thanks for the quick response. From everything I have read, it is also a good idea to remove the sheaves to check the condition of the pins. Some of the older systems used bronze pins and they need to be checked for wear. If they are damaged, they can be replaced with SS clevis pins.

mazzy 04-28-2008 05:03 PM

My rigger built the cables of stainless with nicopress fittings sized the same as the originals. No problems at all. The stainless that Edson uses is supposed to be non-magnetic, but my compass readings didn't change a whit with the new cables.

As far as hints for replacing the cables:
1 Stuff a rag into the pedestal so you don't lose any bits you're bound to drop as you disassemble things (don't ask how I know this one:rolleyes: )

2 My cables were in cable conduit and I tried unsuccessfully to use a piece of thin line butted to the end of the cable with duct tape. Worked for one, but not the other. I decided to unbolt the pedestal to finish the job. This allowed me to replace the conduit end fittings, run the cables easily thru the conduit, and retrieve the various pieces dropped in the process. Getting to the bolts under the cockpit floor required a skinny kid and a deep socket wrench, but wasn't too big a deal.


Northeaster 04-28-2008 07:33 PM

Have a good look at the cahin while you have it apart, and replace if necessary. Although mine passed a survey 2 years ago, I discovered a chain line broken on ome side, and some frayed wire. It would have certainly let go soon. It was 29 years old! I has a rigger nicopress new wires, and bought 10' of stainless #40 roller chain from an industrial supplier, as Edson only sells #50 now. I paid less for 10' than Edson wanted for 1 1/2'. Of course, I only needed the shorter amount. Igf anyone needs #40 chain, let me know!!! Size is marked on the sides of each link.

Easy job to take off compass, duct tape messenger wire on each end, pull up, and then reinstall.

Make sure you have rudder stops below on steering quadrant, as I have heard of one failure, as chain / wire end would contact gears on extreme turns, therefore slowly cutting into wire.

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