The steering wheel of a boat is, for obvious reasons, a critical component. Whether boating in saltwater or freshwater, turning the wheel moves the vessel towards port or starboard. Steering wheels come in a wide range of sizes and designs and are positioned in different locations depending on the hull type. Here is what you need to know about a boat steering wheel, whether driving or as a passenger. 

What Is The Boat’s Steering Wheel Called

A steering wheel is a name for the round device that turns the vehicle in one direction. Steering wheels manipulate the direction of automobiles, tractors, and of course, vessels. 

On a watercraft, another name for a steering wheel is the helm. The helm of a boat is the wheel that turns the vessel to the left or right by rotating the engine or boat rudder. The number of steering wheels onboard is dependent on the size of the vessel. It is not uncommon for a watercraft to have two or more points of operation. 

Can You Change The Steering Wheel On A Boat

Yes, the steering wheel is capable of being changed on a boat. The process of swapping a steering wheel is straightforward. Here is the removal and installation process.


First, back off the nut with a socket and rachet to remove the wheel. Second, remove the washer seated beneath the nut. Next, pull the wheel free. Gently tap the center bolt with a hammer when the steering wheel is frozen in place. Wheels exposed to salt environments are prone to the accumulation of corrosion. Lastly, locate and remove the key positioned at the base of the bolt shaft. 


Before installing the new wheel, wire brush the shaft. The brush removes corrosion and other binding debris. Position the key on the shaft and slide the new wheel over the key and into the seated position. Next, replace the washer and thread the nut by hand to avoid cross-threading. Grab the socket and ratchet and snug the bolt. Lastly, pop the center cover in place, and you are good to go. 

Why Would You Change A Steering Wheel

There are multiple reasons why the steering wheel on a boat is replaced. Some boaters simply don’t like the look or hand configuration. Other reasons for replacing the wheel include damage or wear. It is not uncommon for boat wheels to have soft rubber coatings that deteriorate due to exposure to moisture and UV rays. 

Why Are Boat Steering Wheels On The Left

The position of a boats steering wheel is not standard. The location of the wheel varies based on design. 

We have been on board boats with wheels positioned to the left, to the right, up high in the air, inside a cabin, and even inside of a compartment with no line of sight to know where you are steering. 

Why Do Some Boats Have Two Steering Wheels

Small watercraft under thirty feet are most often fitted with one steering wheel. Boats in access of thirty feet incorporate two or more points of operation.

The purpose of two or more wheels is based on the ability to increase visibility, operate in an enclosed area during harsh weather, or drive in combination with completing a task which is common on commercial crab fishing vessels. 

Sport Fishing Boats

A fishing boat contains two steering wheels. The lowest is level with the deck behind glass or elevated above the deck in the flybridge. Next, climb the steps higher above the flybridge to the top of the tower. The tower wheel provides a bird’s eye view allowing the operator to see schooling fish, weeds, debris, or other in-water structures to increase the likelihood of catching fish. 

Commercial Crab Fishing Vessels

Crab boats are most often configured with a wheel inside of the cabin in addition to an aft deck mounted control station. The aft wheel provides limited visibility but allows the operator to pull crab traps while driving the boat. Less manpower is required when the driver performs multiple duties. 

Cruising Vessels

Cruising vessels larger than day runabouts is similar to that of a sportfish, except for a tower-mounted helm. The points of operation are within a closed cabin in addition to a helm located one level above the main deck. 

Now You Know About Boat Steering Wheels

The steering wheel on a boat is a crucial component of obvious reasons, and that, as you know, is to guide the boat in the intended direction. We recommend a steering wheel knob to increase maneuverability. Steering wheel knobs bolt directly to the wheel, requiring little to no time. 

When the steering wheel becomes damaged, or you don’t feel comfortable with the design, swap the wheel for a new one, considering how much time is spent holding while driving.