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How to bleed air from your hydraulic steering system

Almost all boats built today, utilize hydraulic steering systems. You as a boat owner, should have the equipment onboard at all times that will allow you to refill and bleed the air from your steering system. The items you should have onboard are a quart of steering fluid for your specific system, a filler tube that connects to your steering helm fill hole and to the steering fluid bottle and lastly, a clear bleeder tube which connects between your bleeder fittings on the steering ram.

To bleed your system, connect the bleeder hose to the bleeder fittings on the steering cylinder and secure with tie wraps. Next, you remove the fill cap from the steering helm and install the fill tube and fluid bottle. At the steering cylinder, loosen the bleeder fittings until oil flows into the bleeder hose. Invert the bottle of steering fluid allowing oil to fill the helm and filler tube. slowly turn the steering wheel clockwise while watching the steering bleeder tube and cylinder. If the cylinder moves the vent fitting are not loose enough and must be opened more. Do not turn the wheel too fast as it will cause the bleeder hose to be blown off the fittings. 1 turn every 2 seconds is sufficient. As you turn the wheel you will notice air bubbles exiting the helm. When you no longer have air bubbles in the filler tube while turning the wheel clockwise, reverse direction and repeat the process in the counterclockwise direction. Once no air bubbles are present in either direction in the filler tube and especially the bleeder tube, close the bleeder fittings. Test the system by making full turns from hard port to hard starboard and starboard to port. If the steering feels spongy or the wheel turns but the engine or rudder doesn't, you still have air in the lines and must repeat the bleeding procedure listed above. When all the air has been removed from the system the steering ram will move at the slightest steering wheel turn in either direction when not at hard port or starboard. and will come off of hard port or starboard with a minimal turn in the opposite direction.

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