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How to Unfreeze a Boat Steering Cable? Step by Step Guide

Written by Anthony Roberts / Fact checked by Jonathan Larson

how-to unfreeze a boat steering cable

You are finally ready to enjoy the water after a freezing winter. Just when you are about to launch the boat, you notice one thing – the steering cable is frozen. How to unfreeze a boat steering cable?

To unfreeze a steering cable, loosen the nuts and use a vise grip to release the tube from the arm. Turn the steering wheel until the cable is out. Clean and lubricate before returning.

Read this short guide and I will share some things to do.


What You Will Need


Before I discuss the steps, here are the materials you need to prepare:

  • Wrench
  • Vise grip
  • Sandpaper
  • Penetrating oil
  • Warm water
  • Mild soap

Step-by-Step Guide


For the uninitiated, one might try to remove the cable and pound with a hammer, thinking that this will get rid of any component stuck in the steering cable. This is a big no! It is a stupid move that can result in a costly repair.

To remove a frozen steering cable, watch this short video. For more detailed steps, keep on reading.

  • Use a socket wrench or similar tool to loosen the nut that holds the steering arm. This makes it easier to pull and unfreeze the cable.
  • Put a vise grip on the tube that holds the cable. Get the vise grip as tight as possible, tighten the fit, lock it in, and slowly shake.
  • Release the vise grip from the tube.
  • Run the steering arm all the way to the end. Do this by turning the steering wheel, which will release the cable.
  • Remove the cable.

Cleaning Your Boat Steering Cable

It is not enough that you remove the steering cable from your boat. You must also clean it, which will restore its peak functionality after winterization or long-term storage.

  • Pull the telescoping arm from the cable.
  • Thoroughly clean the inside diameter of the tilt tube.
  • With the tube out of the steering set-up, use extra-fine sandpaper.
  • Once it is smooth, spray a penetrating lubricant, such as Liquid Wrench Gunk Penetrating Oil. It will loosen rust and get rid of contaminants stuck in the steering cable.
  • Another way of cleaning the steering cable is to soak it in a mixture of warm water and mild soap. This will dissolve any build-up.
  • Return the steering cable to its original position and tighten the nuts, connecting it to the rest of the set-up.

Pro Tips

Aside from the steps above, below are some tips to make the most out of your steering cable.

Pick the Right Steering Cable

One of the most important is to choose a high-quality steering cable. Use one that is made of top-notch materials. Read reviews from other people and buy from a reliable brand.

A good choice is Domestic SeaStar SSC62XX Quick-Connect Rotary Steering Cable. With its superior design and innovative materials, the quality is second to none. It has exceptional protection from external elements, including rust and corrosion.

Grease the Tube

Before the installation of a new cable, add grease or lubricant. This will make it smoother and prevent it from getting stuck. The more lubricated it is, the easier it will be to steer the boat. If the cable is coarse, you need to exert more effort steering.

Run the Engine

Long-term boat storage causes the cables to freeze. Once in a while, it helps to start the engine. Even when out of the water, you can do this with the right tools. Make sure that there is water since dry operation can cause irreversible damage to the engine.

Wait Until the Temperature is Warm

When it is extremely cold, the steering cable freezes. A logical solution is to wait until it gets warmer. As the temperature drops, the tube thaws, making it easier to steer. If you don’t need to use the boat urgently, it pays to be patient.

Avoid Rust and Corrosion

When the components of the steering system rust and corrode, they are easily prone to freezing because the cables are stiffer. You can use a scrubber and rust remover to quickly address this problem.


Unfreezing a boat steering cable is easy if you know how to do it. All you need is a wrench and a vise grip to release the tube and restore it. To clean the steering cable, use a penetrant spray like Liquid Wrench Gunk Penetrating Oil.

Meanwhile, if you need a high-quality replacement, consider Domestic SeaStar SSC62XX Quick-Connect Rotary Steering Cable. You also can find other boat accessories by checking out here.

Did you enjoy reading this tutorial on how to unfreeze a boat steering cable? Feel free to leave a comment below if there is anything else that you would like to add.

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