A boat has a lot of important parts. It has a stern, hull, gunwales, propeller, anchor, and so much more. However, all these components will not do anything when a boat has no steering wheel. Without a steering wheel, a boat will just become an uncontrollable fancy floating raft.
If you want to replace your steering wheel, you have to ensure you get one that fits your boat. The question I want to address in this post is, are boat steering wheels universal?
Most newer boat steering wheels are generally universal in the sense that most fit a standard 3/4″ (1.91 cm) tapered shaft. Some do require an adapter so ensure to carefully check the listing if this comes with the steering wheel or is required separately.
Read on to learn more about boat steering wheels as well as which ones we recommend.
The Impact of the Steering Wheel on a Boat
A boat’s steering wheel is not a new high-tech invention. It dates back to the 1600s or 1700s, first positioned high on the bridge of a sailing wooden ship. Think Jack Sparrow and you get the picture of the first boat steering wheel with spoked designs.
In the old days, boat steering was handled using a whipstaff or tiller. This was before the steering wheel was eventually attached to the rudder. Using a tiller to steer the boat was a thankless job, often making the boat unresponsive to the operation.
Today’s boat steering wheel designs are pretty cool when you don’t have to contend with the massive designs of old.
The size of most boat steering wheels is about the same as a car’s steering wheel. They should easy to use, ergonomic, and comfortable.
Choosing the Right Steering Wheel for Your Boat
Most boaters stick with the same steering wheel that came with their boat, never thinking of changing it.
But replacing the steering wheel can happen for a lot of reasons. You might want a more stylish design or you want to upgrade it to something better. With this said, are boat steering wheels universal?
Most boat steering wheels will fit a standard 3/4″ (1.91 cm) tapered shaft. Manufacturers have found this to be an industry standard so as to make it easy for boat buyers to change their wheel.
They do vary in wheel size, color, and material. Knowing more about them is the best way to choose the right one once you’ve decided to change the wheel of your boat.
Boat Steering Wheel Size
Worn-out or damaged hardware on the steering wheel of your boat means it’s time to purchase a new one. Changing the steering wheel could also mean that you want one for aesthetic or ergonomic reasons. For you, the best bet would probably to purchase the same size used when you got the boat.
Yet, you can opt for a steering wheel that’s one or two inches bigger or smaller than the original steering wheel on your boat. However, deviating from the size of the steering wheel is not recommended.
The design of the steering wheel is to make it fit with the other gear such as the radio controls, throttle, etc. However, the thing to consider when it comes to steering wheel size is your comfort. This means choosing a size that your legs won’t bump or rub against.
Simply put, the wheel grip’s diameter must be comfortable for you without it being too big for the boat’s space.
Boat Steering Wheel Material
The steering wheel’s material is the next important factor. A great dry grip is with steel or hard plastic material. They may look amazing but can become slippery and slick when wet.
A wheel covered with absorptive foam or a textured grip is the best option if you expect to get wet almost all the time. Having the same steering wheel material also works for boats with an open deck design that frequently gets hit by breaking waves.
The wooden wheel design may look fantastic but not long-lasting. A weathered and worn-looking wooden wheel will not look great for your boat. One way to preserve their look is to do the proper care and maintenance.
Boat Steering Wheel Color
Black is typically the color for most boat steering wheels.
The black color for the wheel is a great choice. Being black, stains or dirt won’t readily show. It is a good color that complements most cabin and deck color schemes. Sun damage can discolor any other kind of color except black.
However, this should not stop you from choosing a preferred color other than black.
To replace your boat steering wheel, check out the following videos for some helpful tips:
Our Top 10 Universal Boat Steering Wheels
If you’re on the market for a trendier, affordable, and top-performing boat wheel to replace an older steering wheel, a spin using one of these could be the ticket.
These steering wheels are universal in that they will fit a standard 3/4″ ( 1.91 cm ) tapered shaft; however, some may require an adapter.
Our top 10 list of high-performing and trendy boat steering wheels:
- Attwood 8315-4 Weatherproof Soft-grip 13-inch Steering Wheel – Click here to see it on Amazon – Our #1 Top Pick!
- SeaStar Champion SW5929IP Steering Wheel – Click here to see it on Amazon
- H-A-Motorsports Adapter 3 Spoke Wood ¾” Key Boat Steering Wheel
- Forever Sharp Pursuit Carbon Fiber Style 14” Classic I Steering Wheel
- Rxmotor Universal Fit 6 Bolts JDM Horn Button 320MM Steering Wheel
- Pactrade 5 spoke 15 ½” Marine Destroyer Steering Wheel
- Amarine 5 spoke 13-1/2 inch black foam grip and knob boat steering wheel
- Amarine stainless 13-1/2 inch 5-spoke boat steering wheel
- Ongaro Foletto Polished Spokes 14.2” Steering Wheel
- Seachoice 5-spoke Permanent Foam Grip Stainless Steel Steering Wheel
Also, for an excellent steering wheel for a boat, take a look at our top pick, the Attwood 8315-4 Weatherproof Soft-grip:
1. Attwood 8315-4 Weatherproof Soft-grip 13-inch Steering Wheel
Fine quality yet affordable are the sterling qualities provided by the Attwood 8315-4 Soft Grip Steering Wheel. A comfortable grip is guaranteed whether you’re gripping it firmly in choppy seas or resting a hand on it in smoother waters.
The soft-grip provides grip power even when wet. UV fading is unheard of with the coat-resistant feature of the wheel.
The standard diameter size of 13 inches is suitable for most private boats. This is my personal favorite all-around excellent, universal boat steering wheel. It is comfortable, weather-proof, and has a great price point.
- Soft-grip steering wheel
- UV coat-resistant feature
2. SeaStar Champion SW5929IP Steering Wheel
Smaller speedboats, pontoon boats, or any mid-sized motorboat stand to gain with the stylish yet classic design of the SeaStar Champion Steering Wheel.
The medallion design in the center provides a stylish look to this corrosion and UV-resistant boat steering wheel.
- Stylish medallion design in the center of the wheel
- Corrosion and UV-resistant
- Ruggedly classic look
- Indented finger grooves
3. H-A-Motorsports Adapter 3 Spoke Wood ¾” Key Boat Steering Wheel
Stylishly designed, the H-A-Motorsports Steering Wheel has a wood outer encasing the 3 chrome spokes. The billet adapter feature provides the steering wheel’s suitability to use for different varieties of boat fittings.
The combination of the wood and chrome design and the 6-bolt pattern will look amazing in the center of the boating console.
- 6-bolt pattern
- Wood and chrome design
- Billet adapter feature
4. Forever Sharp Pursuit Carbon Fiber Style 14” Classic I Steering Wheel
Another great-looking 14-inch boat steering wheel has been created with the Forever Sharp Pursuit. The spokes are aluminum with a black handle grip.
It comes with a horn button, 14 inches in size and finished off with a burlwood style. The 6-bolt pattern is universal with the inclusion of all the needed mounting bolts.
- 6-bolt pattern with mounting bolts
- Horn button feature
- 14” size
5. Rxmotor Universal Fit 6 Bolts JDM Horn Button 320MM Steering Wheel
The five varied color choices from Rxmotor Universal Steering Wheel make it the perfect option if you want unique color designs.
You’ll have a hard time picking out the color you want from the choices of black, silver, red, and carbon fiber. Included with this wheel are a 30-day-money-back guarantee and a 90-day warranty.
- Multi-color varieties
- Money-back guarantee and warranty
- 320mm universal fit
6. Pactrade 5 spoke 15 ½” Marine Destroyer Steering Wheel
Pactrade Marine has produced another fine-looking, five stainless steel separate spokes steering wheel.
Durability against the harshest marine environment is guaranteed with the stainless steel material used in the steering wheel. The Bakelite cap designed to fit ¾” tapered shafts further enhances the look.
- 5 separate spoke design
- Made of stainless steel
- Features a Bakelite cap
7. Amarine 5 spoke 13-1/2 inch black foam grip and knob boat steering wheel
The permanent foam grip feature for Amarine’s five-spoke wheel is guaranteed never to become hot even from long exposure to the sun.
The 304 stainless steel construction is highly polished and well-welded. The knob is made of stainless steel and includes the black plastic cap for the center as well.
- Permanent foam grip
- UV-resistant grip
- Stainless steel knob
8. Amarine stainless 13-1/2 inch 5-spoke boat steering wheel
A stainless steel steering wheel with 5 spokes is the advantage provided by the Amarine 13-1/2 inch Boat Steering Wheel.
The wheel gets an updated and stylish look with the shiny black cap in the center. The destroyer style ensures a trendy appeal for your boat.
- Destroyer style
- 5-spoke stainless steel
- Black plastic cap in the center
9. Ongaro Foletto Polished Spokes 14.2” Steering Wheel
The polished spokes of the Ongaro Foletto Black Poly Steering Wheel create a trendy look to any boat.
The black poly wrap of the steering wheel provides a great and comfortable grip in all kinds of weather conditions. Easy to install, the Ongaro provides a wonderful wheel replacement for your boat.
- Easy to install
- The comfortable and secure grip provided by the black poly wrap
- A trendy wheel replacement design
10. Seachoice 5-spoke Permanent Foam Grip Stainless Steel Steering Wheel
The Seachoice 5-spoke Stainless Steel Steering Wheel is the right choice for a distinctive look to the boat.
The polished stainless steel is corrosion-resistant and the permanent foam grip provides the most comfortable grip. The welded construction of the wheel makes it extra sturdy and strong. The black cap in the center is suitable for any ¾ inch tapered shaft.
- Permanent foam grip
- All-welded construction
- 5-spoke Stainless steel material
Conclusion – Are Boat Steering Wheels Universal?
To revisit our initial question, “Are boat steering wheels universal?”; yes they generally are in the sense that they fit a standard 3/4″ (1.91 cm) tapered shaft. However, make sure to check if the wheel requires a separate adapter, which will be mentioned in the listing.
Any good quality steering wheel will prove useful as long as they fit your boat’s dash area. The things to consider are a steering wheel that is installed properly and in good working shape. Remember that even though they may fit the same, all boat steering wheels are not created equal!
In the meantime, happy sailing!