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Jason
Jason, Marine Mechanic
Category: Boat
Satisfied Customers: 14292
Experience:  Degree in Marine Technology. Gas and diesel marine mechanic.
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Kenny, I'm trying to determine if I have a problem with my Mercruiser steering ram

Customer Question

Hi Kenny, I'm trying to determine if I have a problem with my Mercruiser steering ram. I replaced my gimbal ring and swivel shaft last week to resolve a large amount of play in the swivel shaft to gimbal ring contact that allowed 2 5/8" side to side free play (measured at the prop shaft). I was surprised when I put the boat on the water last weekend that I still had steering wheel free play. The wheel would turn 1/3 rotation left to right before actuating steering. I found that the steering cable nut was not drawn up tight on the steering cylinder, and while my son turned the wheel left to right in the free play range, the steering cable was moving in and out of the steering cable nut. I tightened the nut up, while holding the flats of the guide tube vertical per the manual (as best I could see behind the motor). I now notice that the guide tube itself moves inside the steering ram. Is this normal? If guide tube flats were not perfectly vertical, would that cause this?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Boat
Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.
Hello my name is ***** ***** I will be helping you today. There are flat spots on the guide tube that you hold in place with a wrench while you torque the steering cable nut down. When tightening the cable where you holding the guide tube with a wrench?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Hi Jason, yes I was holding the guide tube with a wrench while tightening the steering cable nut. The Seloc manual I was using said to keep those flats vertical. I did that as best I could with the limited visibility behind the engine.
Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.
I know it's tight in there. Can you open up PDF files if I send you something on this?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Sure, I can open a PDF
Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.
I am attaching a file, see attachment.
Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.
The way this is supposed to go together if it was a new assembly is you apply some thread locker to the threads of the guide tube, and turn it into the steering ram housing so that there are 3/4 of an inch of thread sticking out of the other side, which is about the depth of the inside of the steering coupler nut. On this measurement, it can actually be a little over 3/4 and there really won't be to much of a problem. But it can not be under, or else the steering cable coupler nut will not tighten up properly. So you would rather be a little over 3/4 vs a little under. After the steering tube is threaded in, then you would tighten up the steering cable guide tube nut. And ideally let the Loctite dry for a couple of hours.
Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.
After that's dry, if the thread locker is doing it's job then really you don't even need to hold the guide tube with wrench. But when assembling the steering cable it's a good idea to just so you don't break the thread locker. If your guide tube is spinning you will want to pull it out, clean up the threads with a wire brush, and then apply some thread locker and install it all back together from scratch, paying attention to the threads on the other side of the guide tube and that 3/4 inch measurement.
I do want to make sure you are happy with the service I am providing to you before you go. Did you have any other questions on the engine or do you think that covers it?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
That is a different style steering ram that what I have on my Bravo 3. Mine doesn't have a tube with a locking nut like that.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Mine looks like the attached pictures.
Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.
Ahhh okay, I should have asked if you had an alpha or bravo first. On the Bravo's if you look at the round part with the 2 holes in it that's actually a special nut. All you need to do is hold the flats of the guide tube with a wrench and then tighten up the steering coupler nut to 35ft/lbs, or the best you can to that torque. Does that make sense?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Hi Jason, yes that makes sense. But if you read my initial description and question, you'll see that I already did that before coming for help. So far, you have not spoke the question I've asked. If possible, please focus on that, because in all the time you've spent to this point, there hasn't been any information towards that end. The question was/is: On a Bravo 3, is it normal for the entire steering cable guide tube to move back and forth inside the steering ram?
Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.
No it is not normal. It needs to be tight. What you want to do is get a wrench on the guide tube and tighten it up. Try to get it to 30-35 ft/lbs if you can.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thanks Jason. What is the procedure to eliminate this movement?
Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.
Tighten it up. Its threaded righty tightly lefty loosey.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Tell me you didn't seriously just say that. How do I get a Mercruiser mechanic that is familiar with what I'm working with to answer my question?
Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.
I am a Mercruiser mechanic. The steering tube is threaded. Do you not think it is threaded?
Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.
Let me ask you another question here. If you start the engine up, does the tube still spin on you?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
The only threads I am aware of on my Bravo 3 are for the steering cable nut, which is tight per my original post. The document you posted earlier shows the steering guide tube on an alpha which is threaded and secured by a locking nut. If there is something similar and a Bravo 3 steering guide tube, then yes I am unaware of it. Do you have the service manual showing the proper tightening procedure. If they exist, they are not visible. My Seloc manual simply directs to hold the wrench flats vertical while securing the steering cable nut, but has no information on proper guide tube installation / securing.
Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.
Do me 1 quick favor/test. As we might be thinking about 2 different things here. Start the engine up and let it idle. Does the slop go away/will it stop turning?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
The guide tube doesn't spin. It moves laterally inside the steering ram. Here is someone else's video of the movement I'm talking about. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJJEN69Oe6o
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
The movement is less while the engine is running, but yes it still moves. Which equates to play in the steering wheel. I'm trying to eliminate as much of this as possible.
Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.
That should go away when the engine starts up and there is pressure in the actuator. On yours, does it go away when you start the engine up?
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
The movement is less while the engine is running, but it still moves maybe 1/4 inch each way. Which equates to play in the steering wheel. I'm trying to eliminate as much of this as possible.
Expert:  Jason replied 1 year ago.
Okay. That's going to be normal. Next, do this. Have a helper hold the wheel rock solid. Go back to the sterndrive and look at the very top of the gimbal ring. Look in there with a flashlight. Shake the drive back and forth. Do you see any slop/play between the upper swivel pin and the gimbal ring?

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