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How to Bleed Hydraulic Steering

Optimize outboard performance by learning how to bleed hydraulic steering.

August 31, 2017
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Steering is arguably the most important system with respect to safe boating. When your hydraulic steering gets spongy, sloppy or otherwise unresponsive, it’s time to check everything for leaks, correct the problem, and then purge the system of air. Steering bleeding is a DIY-worthy task, and with the expert guidance of technical service representative Gary McMath from SeaStar Solutions, we’re going to show you how.

How to Bleed Hydraulic Steering
How to Bleed Hydraulic Steering Tim Barker

Step 1
For a single-station, one-cylinder rig, start by screwing the filler kit onto a bottle of SeaStar hydraulic-steering fluid. Next, unscrew the vent plug at the helm and insert the hose from the filler kit. Invert and suspend the steering-fluid bottle in whatever way you can. Cut off the bottom with a utility knife.

Step 2
Allow the hose to fill entirely with fluid while you put clear plastic tubes onto the bleeder valves and run them into a ­container to collect the excess hydraulic fluid.

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Step 3
The fluid will get low in the supply bottle as you purge, so you need to fill it again with either new fluid or the collected fluid from the bleed valves. Do not let the fluid get below the filler tube, or you will have to start over because air will be reintroduced to the system.

How to Bleed Hydraulic Steering
How to Bleed Hydraulic Steering Boating Magazine

Step 4
Have an ­assistant turn the wheel clockwise until the cylinder is fully extended. Open the right-side bleeder. Hold the cylinder in place with your hand while your assistant turns the wheel counterclockwise. When no more air bubbles are escaping, close the right-side bleeder valve while your assistant continues to turn the wheel. Watch your fingers. The cylinder will move when you close the bleeder.

Step 5
Stop turning the wheel counterclockwise. Open the left-side bleeder. Turn the wheel clockwise while you hold the cylinder in place with your hand. When the air bubbles are gone, close the left bleeder and let go of the cylinder (it should move whether you let go of it or not). Check your work by making sure the number of turns match those in the chart. They will if the job is completed correctly.

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Hydraulic Steering Filler Kit
SeaStar Solutions makes a Hydraulic Steering Filler Kit (fluid not included) that is essential to get this job done properly. It’s simple (just a hose with two fittings), but you won’t get this job done without it. $19.40; amazon.com

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