Cable to Hydraulic Steering Conversion 330 Sundancer '96

Rizzman

Member
Oct 13, 2020
43
Huron Ohio
Boat Info
Searay 330 Sundancer (current)
Chris Craft 381
Yamaha MY36 (sail)
Baja 260
Chris Craft 230
Baja 184
Engines
454 Mercruiser w/V Drives
So we purchased our '96 330 Sundancer in October of 2020 but didn't drive it until spring of 2021 and I did not remember it steering so hard on the sea trial (I really only drove it on the open water). The steering took two hands to turn it so, took apart what I was able to access and applied some Quicksilver grease, it was better but still two handed steering. So started down the path of hydraulic steering and wondering if it would be better than the current cable/rack system or not? So we (me) decided to upgrade the boat to hydraulic steering and we wanted it to look as factory as possible, you be the judge:)

I started out by sourcing all of the parts and here is the list I was able to come up with:
  • SeaStar HH6541-3 Classic 1.7 Tilt Helm (www.seatechmarineproducts.com)
  • SeaStar HC5313-3 Inboard BA135-7ATM Hydraulic Cylinder (SeaTech)
  • SeaStar 90 degree pivot elbows Model#16275190 (West Marine)
    • Note: They come with the SeaStar Helm pump so don't buy extra like I did.
  • SeaStar Hydraulic Nylon Tubing 50' Model#4732111 (West Marine)
    • Tried to go with the SeaStar premade lines with the nice BIG molded ends but could not get them thru the boat to the back, no room and very tight spaces. Returned to West Marine for $160 return. And I ordered 18' but should have gotten 20'
  • SeaStar Hydraulic Steering Fluid Qty:2 quarts (West Marine)
  • Bronze Rudder Support casting #27635 w/hyd-cyl mount (purchased used on forum)
    • This part replaced the original #27416 upper support which came stock for cable steering.
    • I had a heck of a time trying to find the correct casting # for the upper support with the cylinder mount built in as seen in the photos.
    • This part new from FP was just under $700 with shipping and did not have in stock and they could not confirm the part number fit my 330DA.
    • Wasn't sure it would fit, nobody could confirm if #27435 was the correct one so took a chance and bought one on the forum off a parted out 2003 320DA.
    • To make sure it fit I placed the new on over the old one and perfect lineup!
    • So the correct replacement is bronze casting #27435 (forget the Sea Ray parts manual, those numbers only make sense to Sea Ray)
    • Tie Bar or Jack Bar tab, bought from Summit Racing $5 (used in race car chassis)
Only part left was the tie bar tab, would like to have bought the tiebar with the tab already done but ended up having the tab welded on in my driveway by a "mobile welder" for $60, not bad, had $65 total in that modification. That is the last part needed to finish this much needed upgrade (or so I thought!)

Fogot about the steering wheel, was lucky enought to find a '06 380DA wood wheel on the forum and that completed the build. (Thanks Sam W.)

BTW, the 1.4 helm and BA125 cylinder is what came from the factory but it was borderline for a 33' boat, ratings had it at 32' so I opted to go one size bigger on helm pump (1.7) and cylinder because that is how I am

**Warning - Don't make the mistake I did with the hydraulic lines! I followed the book and kept starbord on starbord side of helm/cylinder and port side on port side of helm/cylinder just like the book shows! BUT, what I didn't notice was book shows rudder arms pointing forward toward the bow and on a '96 Sundancer they point to the rear or transom so YOU HAVE TO REVERSE THE LINES at the cylinder!! I did not catch this and steering was backward, it took me two days to figure out why, I checked, rechecked and traced out the lines (major pain in the a$$). I had put green and red tap on the lines before I ran them and ran one at a time but when we were finished the rudders turned the wrong way!! Wife was like "told you should have paid to have this done"o_O

Switched the lines at the cylinder and all good, turns correct direction.

Total upgrade cost was about $2500+ and worth every penny!! One handed steering around the docks and looks better than the black rubber wheel that came on the boat.

If I had to do all over again would do it in a second, the results are very worth it!
 

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Drilling the dash was interesting and painful to say the least. You need a 4-1/2" hole saw with the support pins or studs and a very powerful drill. I used my corded right angle electricians drill and almost knocked myself out when it dug in and got stuck, the drill came around and about hit me in the face. To hold the centering bit of the hole saw I screwed a piece of wood to the back of the dash and then drilled the new hole as close to center as I could. The dash is about 1-1/2" thick plywood so take your time and keep the drill in the hole, it wants to jump out and ruin the dash.

I did all my behind the dash work thru the chart plotter hole in the dash. Also removed my subwoofer down by my feet and used that hole to access the inside of the wall.

The old cable we cut off and left in the side of the boat, to get to it and remove it you would have to remove the starboard gas tank and it is clamped all the way back. No way, cut off from via the subwoofer hole and tied up in the back for now till I can get some cable cutters. I used a 4" cut off wheel up front.
 

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Awesome upgrade. I had done the research a while back on what was needed, but have never done the actual project. Good to know that it is possible and what parts to get. I may not do it though. This is year 13 of ownership for me and I am used to the "arm strong" steering system on my 97.
 
Ran the boat over to Middle Bass island this past weekend and I have to say what a great improvement over the old cable steering. The boat is so easy to drive now! I recommend this for anyone with a cable (rack) steering, especially if it is 25 or more years old because there is no way to grease it without removing it and that is not an option on a '96 330 Sundancer. When I pulled my old setup out it was dry as a bone except on the end where I was able to apply grease which really didn't help since the issue is the inner slide at the back and rack up under the dash.

MUCH BETTER NOW, I LOVE MY BOAT and it is much easier to turn at high speeds, no more two handed turns.
 
How did you get into there to put all that together in the bilge? Did you remove the exhaust for more room?
What is the secret?
 
Did not remove anything and at times found myself wedged between the engine pulleys and exhaust. Best advice is put the hatch all the way up so it is straight up and down. My engine hatch has a second mounting point closer to the hindge, open up 3/4 way and then pull the pin and lift the hatch, reinstall the pin in the lower position then open until straight up. This makes it much easier to work standing up.
 

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