Your boat is a powerful thing. Able to force its way through rough waves and strong winds, you might say that it defies mother nature. But even the most powerful boats become sitting ducks in the water when you can’t steer them. With that logic, it’s easy to see that of all the important, staunch parts, machine, and gadgets on board, the steering wheel might be the most important.
Allowing you to physically maneuver your boat over the waves, a steering wheel is what directly connects you to your watercraft. You might say it’s what makes you and your boat one. So if you feel like your steering wheel could be improved, don’t think twice. Here are some of the best boat steering wheels for a more dynamic boating experience.
The 5 Best Boat Steering Wheels
A steering wheel is a steering wheel, right? Well, not quite. There are lots of things that make steering wheels immensely different from one another. And all of these little factors could result to massive differences in the way you enjoy and experience your steering your boat.
That said, it really comes as no surprise that some steering wheels turn out to be better than others. Wondering which ones made the top? Here are our five best picks.
Attwood Marine has been in the boat accessories industry for over 100 years, so it’s really no surprise how their steering wheels has earned the trust of hundreds of buyers. The design features a soft-grip material using a soft black PVC material that easy and comfortable against the skin.
The rubbery material also makes it easier to maintain your grip, ideal for boat owners who often find themselves having to wrestle with churning waves. Inside the wheel, the design uses a structured, one-piece core that provides shape and durability against heavy hands and the elements.
On the topic of utilitarian, they’ don’t really get as practical as the Amarine Stainless Steel Boat Steering Wheel. This pick features a polished stainless steel design that’s clean and simple. It also comes with a knob that makes it easier to pull off full turns in choppy or rough water.
Underneath the wheel are gentle grooves that allow users to experience a more comfortable grip, resisting slipping even with the wheel’s smooth, polished finish. Complete with Teflon washers for an adjustable tension, this steering wheel is about as durable as they get.
If you were on the market for something more unique, you really can’t top the Woqi WH700 Marine Steering Wheel. This interesting choice features a nautical themed, old-timey steering wheel look. The vintage design is outdated of course, but it still gets the job done.
Perfect for boat owners who want both a functional piece and a conversation starter, the Woqi Steering Wheel is a timber boat steering wheel that uses premium marine-grade materials that won’t degrade after extended exposure to the elements.
When it comes to durability, it’s tough to top the Dometic SeaStar SW59691P. This functional piece features top grade material that’s designed to withstand the tough conditions out on the water. The simplified design does away with all the moving parts so you won’t have to worry about any of it coming loose.
In terms of aesthetics, it might not be a decorative piece. But the Dometic SeaStar SW59691P earns a rightful spot as a viable choice with its ultra comfortable feel and function. The design was intended to mimic your average, everyday car steering wheel, so you can enjoy an experience that’s closer to what you do on the daily.
On the topic of boat steering wheels that look like what you’d find in a car, the Seachoice 28510 touts a familiar look that might make you feel like you’re driving a car. The spoke placement definitely makes it much easier to handle, with spaces towards the bottom of the wheel for a more relaxed grip.
Made from UV resistant materials, the Seachoice 28510 uses reinforced plastic that makes it last much longer than other types of material. Its definitely not going to win you any compliments, but its resilient and durable design should do all the talking.
What to Consider When Buying a Boat Steering Wheel
The boat steering wheels of today incorporate a number of features and qualities that make each one different from the last. That said, some choices might meet your standards and expectations better than others.
Here’s what you need to consider when buying a boat steering wheel:
Of course, the first thing your eyes will see is going to play a big role in the buying process. In a lot of ways, a boat steering wheel can become a decorative addition to your captain’s console. If you own a yacht or a pontoon where style is often a major consideration, then design becomes an obvious priority.
Not all boat steering wheels are designed with aesthetics in mind. Some of them are purely utilitarian, while others just fall short of class and sophistication by adding in design features that lean towards the tacky side. Consider what you’d want for your boat, and try to find something that matches both your style and your console.
Size and Diameter
The size of your steering wheel of choice isn’t really subject to your preference. As your boat’s size increases, so too should your steering wheel size increase. The simple explanation is that bigger boats are easier to steer and maneuver when you use a bigger wheel.
Smaller wheels may require multiple turns to achieve a certain movement, especially if you’re navigating tight channels and rivers that call for precise maneuvering. Most boat steering wheels come at a size of 13.5 inches, but smaller picks around 11 inches in diameter also exist.
Most boat steering wheels use plastic material that’s designed to withstand UV damage. Some of them incorporate a padded material for an easier grip, but that too should be UV resistant if it’s going to stand the test of time, wear, and tear.
Others use wood, which adds a more vintage appeal to the wheel all together. But while it might look unique, wooden steering wheels tend to be less durable than those that use reinforced plastic material.
The reason why some steering wheels add a padding or a rubberized coating is to improve the feel of their wheel on the hand. No doubt, hard material that’s stiff and rigid can cause discomfort, especially for older sailors who might have achy hands and joints.
Some use a PVC material that feels like a soft, pliable rubber layered over a single plastic core. Others use more of a foam type material that’s extra soft, but often far less durable than others. For those who want a premium feel and experience, leather covered boat steering wheels combine comfort and sophistication.
Another reason why a rubberized coat or layer might be helpful is because it prevents your hand from slipping. A grip works wonders to give you a steady hold your steering wheel which can be particularly important if you’re navigating treacherous waters.
A rubber grip material resists slipping, allowing you a firmer hold on your steering wheel for strong currents and churning waves. Stainless steel steering wheels tend to fall short in this department, and might not work well for boat owners who suffer from a sorry case of sweaty palms.
Aside from all of that, there are a few other features that might make a boat steering wheel better for you than others. For instance, some boat owners really closely consider the number and placement of the wheel’s spokes. While it might not mean a lot for some, boat owners who want a familiar steering experience often opt for wheels with three spokes positioned similar to what you would find on a car’s steering wheel.
Other than that, there’s the turning knob. This little guy sits on the wheel and gives you a different way to grip the piece. The added option might be ideal for boat owners who struggle to make large turns by grasping just the wheel.
Are Boat Steering Wheels Universal?
In general, yes they are. Most manufacturers have stuck with designs that fit the 3/4’’ (1.91cm) tapered shaft that exists on most boats. In case your boat doesn’t have a tapered shaft that measures 3/4” or if you manage to buy a boat steering wheel that doesn’t fit the shaft, you can always get an adapter.
Some boat steering wheel kits come with an adaptor right off the bat, allowing yo to make the installation without having to make any added purchases. However these can be pretty rare. Make sure you look into your manual to find out the exact measure of your boat’s steering wheel shaft so you don’t end up buying something that doesn’t fit.
How to Install a Steering Wheel
The thing about boat steering wheels is that they’re pretty easy to remove and replace. But if you’re new to the task and you haven’t really seen it being done before, it’s easy to feel confused as to what you should do to get the job done. So to help you out, we’ve put together a simplified step by step.
Remove the Cap
At the center of your boat’s steering wheel, you should see a cap. This can have the manufacturer’s logo on it, but for cheaper wheels, it’s typically just a black piece that covers the center part. To remove it, you should be able to locate a small hole off to the side of the shaft that holds the cap in place. Just take a knife or a flat any flat edge to pry the cap off.
In some cases, metal caps can be pretty tough to remove because of rust and corrosion. Feel free to grease her up so you can pry off the piece. Some don’t even have the cap all together, so you can skip this step if that’s the case. Removing the cap should reveal a nut that holds the steering wheel to the helm of your boat.
Take Out the Nut
Now that the nut is exposed, take a socket wrench and work it out of its place. In most cases, you’re going to find a couple of washers right behind it. Take those out and replace the nut back on the screw. Make sure that it juts slightly out of the screw so that it isn’t tightened all the way back.
Pop Out the Wheel
Place your knee or thigh right behind the steering wheel against the helm, and place your arm in the same space on the other side. Then push against the wheel so that the force pulls it away from the helm. Then take a hammer and give the nut a gentle hit. This force should pop the wheel out of place.
When that happens, you should be able to work the wheel off with less force. But it’s still not recommended that you pull and twist it out if you’re looking to protect the thread. If you feel like it’s still on there pretty tight, you can go ahead and repeat the process. Others find it easier if they have a friend to help them with the task.
Clean the Shaft
If you take a closer look at the steering wheel shaft, you’ll notice that it’s covered in all sorts of grease, gunk, and corrosion. Give it a thorough wipe down and get rid of as much of the debris as possible. You can also use a cleaning agent like a polish that’s appropriate for the material.
When you’re done, you can apply grease to make sure the new steering wheel glides seamlessly over the shaft. The grease should also make it easier for you to remove the steering wheel later on if you device to replace it down the line.
Install the Wheel
When that’s done, everything else is pretty straightforward. All you have to do is slide down the shaft nut, the key wheel insert, and then finally, then the steering wheel. Then place the little nut to keep it all in place, and tighten until the nut doesn’t turn. If it’s a bit of a loose fit, you can always add a few washers right behind the nut.
If your steering wheel comes with a cap, then you can pop that on to conceal the nut. Otherwise, you could always purchase one or have on customized. Some boat owners custom make their own steering wheel caps, especially those that are a little more interested in personalized details.
Steering You in the Right Direction
There’s a lot more to a boat steering wheel than you might think. And whether it’s high time for a replacement or if you’re just hoping to replace that stock steering wheel, there are loads of options to choose from. Knowing your preferences and understanding how different factors can affect your experience should help steer you to the best boat steering wheels to meet your expectations.