Start.bmp (6710 bytes)     INDEXico.bmp (934 bytes)


Home        Index


Subject: Noisy Tiller

After my boat has been underway for a few hours the tiller gets increasingly noisy when manoeuvring. It sounds as if it needs some lubrication somewhere, but where - and with what?


What type of boat?

What type of steering gear?

Where does the noise appear to come from?

Description of what you can see of the steering system please.

Sorry, Think about all the types of boats in the UK and the various systems each could use and you will see your question, as stated, is impossible to answer.

I do not have time to say if you have this system ------, and this system ---

Email your reply and as you have made contact I will accept a simple sketch of what you can see as an attachment.

Tony Brooks

The reply

Tony, I can see now that I have given you very little information to work with - sorry!

The boat is a 50ft trad-stern narrowboat, built 1990 As far as I can tell, the steering gear is typical of such boats. The noise appears to come from the bottom of the tiller - underneath the counter. Unfortunately, I can see very little - At the bottom of the tiller there is a circular housing through which the tiller disappears under the counter through a vertical pipe. There is a very small gap between the bottom of the housing and the top of the pipe, through which one can feel/see the tiller. Even if one lifts the inspection hatch on the counter one cannot see very much. The tiller/rudder mechanism is hidden behind a panel, in front of which is the weed hatch. I don't think a sketch would help as there is nothing to draw! I also don't suppose it would help very much but I am attaching a photo of the stern of the boat.

I have come across similar noises on other boats but what puzzles me is why it is fine for the first couple of hours or so, before becoming noisy. The best way I can describe the noise is a "screeching" - a sort of metal on metal noise similar to that made by trains on sharp bends at low speed.

I do appreciate very much you taking the time to respond.



The picture is fine, I can see what I need. (A picture of a typical narrowboat steering gear was supplied).

I suspect that your rudder shaft is not carried on any form of bearing and is just a fit (of some kind) in the rudder tube. There may be some form of seal just under the "round bit" at the lower end of the swan neck - if it is, it is probably an O ring a little way down the tube. Almost certainly there is no form of seal though.

I would expect you to have a degree of "play" in the shaft, especially at the end of the day. If you do not, there must be some form of bearing, but what and where I have no idea.

My reading of the situation is that whilst at rest a film of oxide (rust) forms between the shaft and tube, but when you use the tiller this gradually gets rubbed away until you have steel on steel, then only thing "lubricating" it being water.

If I am correct about the structure (and I would want to take the swan neck off to have a look to be sure and possibly drop the rudder) I suspect there may not be much you can do about it. It all depends upon the clearance between shaft and tube. If it is more than (say) 6mm you may be able to get a nylon or paxalon bush made up to push into the tube and support the shaft clear of the tube.

If you feel competent you could drill and tap the exposed piece of tube as close to the hull as possible and fit a grease nipple. If you could then fit some type stiff foam seal between the swan neck and the tube, using a grease gun might push grease down the tube to lubricate it.

If it is possible to lift the swan neck so you can get an oil can spout onto the shaft, some perseverance with heavy gear oil worked down the tube may also work. It should float on top of the water in the tube and lubricate the upper part of the shaft to some degree.

I hope this helps but I fear I do not hold out much hope of solving this easily.

Please let me know if you do, and how you did it.

Tony Brooks




Start.bmp (6710 bytes)     INDEXico.bmp (934 bytes)


Home        Index