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December 22, 2008

Fly by Wire

Digital controls are changing the way outboards are rigged and operated

Harnessing the Horses
Digital control throttles are not the only accessories unique to big block outboards. Because of their heavier weight and the extra torque generated, special modifications are required for the steering systems. Mercury developed an electro-hydraulic power steering setup for the Verados. Similar to a car, it uses an electric pump with a hydraulic steering cylinder to reduce torque and fatigue.

Suzuki and Yamaha relied on existing after-market products. Teleflex Marine (, makers of SeaStar hydraulic steering systems, beefed up cylinders and added a power-assist pump to counter the extra weight and torque.

Latham Marine ( builds another option specifically for the Yamaha F350 V-8 engine. Its side-mount stainless-steel bracket ties into the power head so the entire engine turns instead of pivoting on a center-mount connecting pin.

The Players

Mercury DTS System
Verado Four-Strokes
135 to 350 hp
OptiMax DI Engines
200 and 225 hp

Suzuki Precision Control
DF300 Four-Stroke

Yamaha Command Link
Digital Electronic Controls
F250, F300 and F350 Four-Strokes