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Ultraflex steering problem

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My Viking 24 is fitted with an Ultraflex cable steering system.

I found that there was excessive free movement of the steering wheel (150mm) before moving the outboard engine.

Thinking that the steering was was worn, I purchased a new helm and cable, which I have installed on the boat.

To my disappointment, I found that the new system had pretty much the same amount of free movement, as did the old system. I had gained nothing from the expense of a buying a new system. :(

Investigation has shown that the 'free movement' to be due to the cable, and not the helm.

At the engine end of the cable, there is a metal tube, inside which slides another smaller diameter tube (like a piston). It is possible to slide the outer tube, back and forth, over the inner tube for several millimetres, without there being any movement of the cable.

When this free movement is transferred to outer circumference of the steering wheel, it equates to some 150 cms of free movement of the wheel.

A previous boat was fitted with Teleflex steering, and did not have this problem.

In this an inherent problem with Ultraflex cables ?


P.S. I have e-mailed Ultraflex in Italy in the hope of getting answer .

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All push pull cables will have play to a greater or lesser degree, Ultraflex are not the best in this regard as the rotary to lilear inteface by it's vey design introduces play. You can help reduce it by making sure that the outer cable is secured at regular intervals along it’s entire length including (in fact especially) all bends. There are so many small good value hydraulic systems around nowadays, even for outboards that it surprises me that any maker would still fit a mechanical system.

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I think that the 'bottom line', is that the Ultraflex system, is poorly engineered.

I suspect that the inner cable is attached inside the outer tube, to the 'eye' which is then attached to the engine to steering cable 'link rod'. The outer tube is crimped onto the the connecting eye, so its not possible to see how the cable end is attached, and why there should be 'free play' at this point.

As I said previously, when I had a boat with Teleflex steering fitted, there was very little free movement at all.

Hydraulic steering would be nice, and perhaps something to consider at a later date, as having just paid out for a new Ultralex system, I not yet ready to scrap it.


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I had a play around with the old cable, which I had brought back home, and now know exactly how the 'freeplay' / 'backlash' is introduced.

Basically, the inner cable diameter is too small, compared to the inner diameter of the outer sheath, or visa versa.

If I lay the cable out in a straight line, any in or out movement of the inner cable at one end, happens at the other end, without any 'free play'

Put a single 90 deg bend in the cable, and 'free play' starts to appear. Add another 90 deg bend further along the cable, and the 'free play' doubles.

There is obviously enough space between the inner cable, and the outer sheath, for the inner cable to move sideways, before any movement happens at the far end.

So, the answer is a perfectly straight cable, which is of course, not possible, or a better engineered cable. Whether or not the latter exists, is I guess, questionable.


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:grin: As I told you Ultraflex is a inferior copy of the Teleflex system, we had the same problem with their domestic system and it was one of the reasons we wouldn't touch the stuff, the bad fit between the inner and outer cables allowed all sorts of crap to be drawn inside the cable causing it to sieze up solid without warning, not a problem on a window, you just can't open the thing, but on a steering system I hate to think what could happen if that siezed up,,
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