Sailboat Idler Assembly | Inspection & Maintenance

You may not always think about your sailboats steering system since it isn't in your line of sight above deck, like your sails and rigging. But, being able to steer your boat is the second most crucial aspect following buoyancy. You can't go very far on the water without your boat floating and a way to navigate!  


Within your sailboat chain and wire steering system, there is what is called an Idler Assembly that is more than just a pulley! This assembly is one of the most critical components in your chain and wire steering system and should be inspected once a year and before any significant passages. The essential parts you should check within your Idler Assembly are the backing plate, the sheave uprights, and the sheaves themselves. 

We suggest you use the following tools to make inspecting your Sailboats Idler Assembly easier. Also, check out Edson's Sailboat Steering Inspection Checklist that goes over the possible parts in an Edson chain and wire steering system. To have an idea of what to look for, you can find your sailboat steering datasheet by visiting Edson's Website. If your boat isn't listed online, they will most likely have a paper version of yours that they can send to you in an email. All you have to do is fill out the contact sheet at the bottom of the Sailboat Data Sheet page.

Tools for inspection: Camera, Headlamp or Flashlight, Wrench (fixed is preferred), Needle Nose Pliers.

Tools for maintenance: Bearing Lubricant (Teflon Grease), Isolating Compound (Tef45)

Edson's Sailboat Steering Inspection Checklist: [Click Here to view PDF]​

Edson's Sailboat Steering Data Sheets: [Click Here to view online]

If you haven't yet, you should watch our Sailboat Chain & Wire Steering System [Maintenance & Replacement Overview]. This video goes over the four main assemblies that make up a chain and wire steering system. Most of the work you do to inspect and maintain one of these assemblies will apply to the others, so instead of doing the word twice, try to check all of them at once.