Steering System Repair/Replacement ???

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Well-known member
Supporting Member
Mar 8, 2006
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Boston, MA
Hi there,
My name is Sam and I am a new member here. Three years ago I bought my first boat, a 98' Parker 1800. Absolutely love the boat but there is one thing that drives me nuts. If I were to let go of the steering wheel while underway, the wheel will fly all the way to the right. I am also fighting the wheel to keep on track more than I think I should. I am not sure what the deal is. Would this be due to the type of steering system or could something be broken or not tuned correctly? Where do I look to diagnose the problem? I am handy enough but I just never spent any time working on boats or cars.

Many thanks :)
SamR":2qpto35e said:
Would this be due to the type of steering system or could something be broken or not tuned correctly?
Hi Sam: You just have cable steering, but of the older type, that which does not have any "anti-feedback" or "torque control" mechanism. What you are feeling is the boat trying to steer to the starboard due to the torque of the RH pitched prop. Usually these helms have a knob under the wheel @ 6 o'clock to tighten up the steering, but this will also make it more difficult to turn.

Your only solution would be to change to a "No Feedback" cable design that has a "lock" that prevents the cable from moving until the rotation or movement is initiated from the steering wheel at the helm.

Yes, if you can believe it ... you are feeling the effects of your prop turning way back at the stern ... all the way up to your helm through the steering cable :shock: !

You might get lucky and only have to replace the control head itself, which would be ~$200 and an hour's labor, plus being a simple "wrench work" remove & replace activity.
Welcome aboard Sam!

I'm guessing that your boat is wearing an outboard in the 115 hp range.
Take a look at the photo of the 90 Johnson in the photo below, and look carefully at the area just beneath the cavitation plate, and above the prop. You will see something that looks like an upside down shark fin there.


I would bet that yours is either missing, or it is adjusted so that it is straight. That fin is how you compensate for the torque of the prop while underway.
On a normal right-hand rotation motor, loosen the screw that attaches to that fin, and turn it as far as she goes to the right (facing it from the rear).

Take your screw driver with you, splash the boat, and give her a run. I will bet you that it'll track straight even when you take your hands off the wheel at speed.

If for some reason it wants to turn the opposite way, raise the motor and take a few degrees out of the fin and try again.

Smaller horsepower motors use that compensation fin on installations where you have manual steering.
Apparently your dealer never adjusted yours when the motor was rigged. :wink:

Good luck, and welcome to ClassicParker :!:
By all means check your steering tab fin located on the OB's vent plate. I guess I should have mentioned that but one would think that a reutable dealer would set it up correctly, plus I've never really seem them work too well. So ... if that doesn't work, then look at your steering system.
Dale, Does that fin actually have a name? :D

True story... When I bought that Dusky in the photo, I bought it from the original owner and the compensation fin was aligned dead straight. I didn't have the heart to ask the original owner (a good friend) if he had struggled with the steering for the 3 years prior to me buying her. :shock:

Sometimes its better not to ask. :wink:
Thanks for the speedy replies Dale and Kevin :)

Some more info and questions...

Yes, I have a 115 Johnson Ocean Runner FICHT. I did mess around with that "sharkfin" thing a little but didn't go the whole way. I thought that I heard this adjustment didn't work equally for all speeds. I guess I should mess around with it some more when I splash her next month.

Dale - how can I find out if replacing just the control head is an option? Just in case the "sharkfin" thingy doesn't work.

Thanks again. Great site by the way. I've got a bunch more stuff to throw at you but I'll go easy at first. Kicking around the idea of making an electronics box to go on top of my console since the one Parker makes is too small to hold my gear. More on that later ;)
Sam, On that 90 hp Johnson Ocean Pro in the photo, I had to turn the fin all the way to the right before it took the prop torque out. Low speed maneuvering and trolling was not affected at all, but the compensation (lack of 'pull') was very noticable at speed.

Good luck!
SamR":aq77zdks said:
How can I find out if replacing just the control head is an option?
I'd bet $$ Teleflex made that helm and that it is a Safe-T or Big-T helm. Usually the model info is stamped, cast, or embossed somewhere on the helm, if there isn't a sticker. With your HIN number, you could also possibly contact Parker and see if they took notes to that level of detail.

Then contact Telelflex or the helm maker for the model you have, to see if the cable is compatible.

yours is clearly not hydraulic nor no-feed-back.....i think you have
the unhappy coincidence of two problems....first, the TRIMTAB is very
crucial to proper steering, and it normally is best ALL THE WAY to the
side the engine pulls toward.....the tab sticking out will get hit by the
forceful stream of water and push it back in line......the tab is ALSO
an anode! it can get eaten away, as well as misaligned....lastly,
it receives some real punch if all the way out, so the bolt must be very
tight....i would use locktight fluid on it........

but even with the tab optimized, you still may ultimately want the
'NFB" rotor IS harder to steer because it falls out of gear
as soon as you stop turning cannot use any type of autopilot
for that reason.......i dont know if the nfb requires different cable, or if
it is just changing out the head/ will tire of any fighting by
the helm, so get new/full tab all the way out, try it....if you dont have a
neutral helm then, go to nfb.........dan