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OMC Power Steering Problem

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  • OMC Power Steering Problem

    I have and old but very nice 1981 Ranger I/O with a GMC 3.8 and an OMC 800 out drive that I have owned owned for about 5 years. This unit has a power steering system that appears to consist of a pump, shuttle valve, cooler, and actuator piston. The system worked fine for the first several years of ownership. Then I noted an increased resistance to turning and detected a growling sound and my repair shop in Fort Worth replaced the pump which seamed to work. A couple of months latter I had the same shop replace the ball gears which turned into an overhaul of the out drive because of bad bearings. By the following winter it felt like the power steering had become completely nonfunctional. The boat sat for about 8 months then I took it back to the same shop where they tried swapping out the power steering pump, then the shuttle valve, then the actuator piston and cleaned the cooler. I picked up the boat and took it to the lake this weekend and there was no change in the power steering. It still feels like it is completely inoperative. The shop did say that I had a lot of drag in the steering cable and would replace for an additional $500.

    Any idea what the problem can be, I am about to give up on my repair shop.

  • #2
    Re: OMC Power Steering Problem

    Increased resistance and growling is usually a loose belt, but a failing pump would cause the belt to slip too.

    Funny there is no mention of anyone ever checking the p/s fluid lever. Is it losing oil?

    One common mode of failure for boat p/s system:
    -p/s cooler improperly winterized- freezes - cracks tube internal
    -p/s cooler leaks next summer- p/s fluid into the lake with the cooling water
    -pump runs low on fluid, p/s acts up
    -p/s pump fails
    -bad pump gets replaced and cycle repeats

    The cable is super easy to inspect visually. It can also be lubricated.
    The actuator valve, or power cylinder could be leaking internally.

    The actuator valve requires balancing, but imbalance would cause harder steering in one direction only so it's not that.
    The p/s gearbox, or the steering shaft through the intermediate could be binding due to lack of lube. There is a grease fitting inside the boat on the intermediate for that steering shaft.
    The outdrive itself could be the problem too, if the pivot grease fitting has not been lubed.
    The grease fitting is on the nose of the drive about level with the exh. port out the back of the intermediate- might have a red plastic plug over it. start there.
    If they left the shims out of the upper (under the top cover) that can also make for stiff steering.

    $500 a bit pricey for the cable - it's not the typical cable/drum stringer cable like they use for manual steering, it's a teleflex push pull type like Mercruiser etc. You could change it yourself if needed.

    Your symptom now is that it is stiff both directions and consistently stiff? Never even kicks the wheel or feels like it's trying a little bit?
    Is the belt on it?


    • #3
      Re: OMC Power Steering Problem

      Thanks for the input! I have not seen any leaks or loss of p/s fluid. I will try to find and both of the grease fittings you mentioned and lubercate them. Can I just unscrew the steering cable from its attachment point on the drive to see if the steering cable is binding once seperated from the drive? How do I lubercate the steering cable? I will also check the tenshion of the p/s belt, I did notice some excessive vibration of the belt since it came back from the shop.



      • #4
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        Re: OMC Power Steering Problem

        ok...not all 800 drives have the grease fitting for the steering shaft..mine does not..not sure what years do and dont.....i had the same problem with mine, and as it turned out it was the steering box.....the output shaft was nearly froze in bottom bushing due to corrosion and lack of lubrication...i took whole assembly off, (mine was easy, as i had rubber boot off of transom for replacement)..anyways..i split the gearbox apart and had to beat the hell out of that output shaft to free it, i then took emery cloth to the shaft and bushing until it went together easily and rotated freely, then i greased everything and put back together...everything works great now....but, i think a bad seal on the steering shaft itself was the culprit..allowing water to seep along shaft and in and aroung that gearbox shaft.....easiest way to find your problem is to take off steering arm and try to move by hand, if it cant be moved, then remove outdrive and see if you can move it..with drive off it will be able to be moved by hand, if not its the gearbox or a seized steering shaft....