Stickier threads for my helm wheel


Member III
Blogs Author
I'm seeking ideas for how to make the nut for my helm wheel stay tight.

One of my first projects with my boat was to free the wheel that had rusted into place on the helm axle. I greased the axle and key liberally, and the wheel became easily removable.

Too-easily removable in fact. The back and forth of the wheel turning has a tendency to loosen the plastic retaining nut that keeps the wheel on. This is not a big deal in normal use, because I can reach down and ensure the nut is hand tight and there is no problem. However, I am about to cover up the nut with a wheel drum for my wind vane, which will cover the plastic Edson nut and prevent me from accessing it to ensure tightness. It would be a bad scene if the wheel slipped off the helm and I had to spend 10-15 minutes unbolting the vane wheel drum from the wheel. I guess I would heave-to and break out the emergency tiller.

But I don't want that to happen - so what do you think would be a good way to keep the retainer nut tightened with permanent attachment (I don't want to epoxy the wheel on...)



Some ideas:

1. Clean all the grease out of the threads on the nut and the shaft (well duh)
2. Edson sells a metal retainer nut - perhaps that would be wiser?
3. Put pipe tape (stretchy teflon tape for natural gas pipes) on the threads. I think that should help somewhat?
4. Use some caulk or 4200-type stuff. (Seems like a clumsy messy way to solve it, but hey, if it works...)
5. I don't want to put loc-tite on the threads because I still want to be able to remove the wheel without damage when necessary. I guess I need a loc-tite-ish product....

Thank you in advance.....


Member III
I have the metal nut - it vibrates loose too. I haven't tried to tighten it more than hand-tight.
I would guess that gas thread tape would work well - it's the thickest of the thread tapes, and you can add as many wraps as needed to get the nut to stay in place.

Hmmm ... is this over the top? I see a threaded hole in the axle - can you drill a hole through the center of the plastic nut and then screw the right size'd screw through the nut, into that thread? - perhaps with a spring washer to keep it tight? (belt and suspenders)

Kenneth K

Sustaining Member
Blogs Author
I don't think a plastic nut is ever going to stay tight. I think it's too big a thread with too much repeated/reversing force from the wheel to stay tight, for plastic. Mine has a SS nut I tighten with a large adjustable wrench--stays tight all through the season.


Sustaining Member
However you secure the nut...make sure it can come off quickly if you lose rudder action...the emergency bar located in the stern locker will not work unless you remove the helm wheel as the wheel inhibits the turning arc of the bar which is hard enough to use as it is. At least that is the way it is on my Ericson. I have the SS nut.


Member II
I've found that sparing use of blue locktite holds my wheel nut reasonably well, and remains serviceable.

I'd avoid red locktite...


Member III
Blogs Author
Thank you for your responses!

I think I will try to order the metal nut from Edson and snug it with a little gas tape and careful determination.

Loren Beach

O34 - Portland, OR
Senior Moderator
Blogs Author
Is it possible to drill a small hole and use a cotter pin/SS wire?
Maybe I'm missing something, just a suggestion.
There is a 32-3 in our club with an "Aerofast" pin, right thru the nut and the ss shaft. Done by about the second owner prior to the present one. I figure that someone either used a drilling jig, or had a really steady hand to do that. Holds it tight and the nut cannot turn until the pin is removed.


Member III
Blogs Author
The "cotter pin" idea is a good one - it would be nice if the wheel had a castle nut like the hub bearing on my trailer - with a hole designed for such a pin.

The challenge is that I am virtually 100% certain that if I tried to hand drill into the large threaded SS axle I would do more damage than good. The last thing I want to do is damage the screw threads.

Other people pointed out the apparent hole at the center of the shaft. I used that indentation to seat my puller to remove the wheel when I first received the boat. The indentation is not threaded, so I would be drilling and tapping threads into solid SS. While I don't think I could worsen my situation by attempting this (as I could if I were to try to drill a perpendicular hole for a cotter pin) I am hoping to find a solution without permanently altering the shaft.

Christian Williams

E381 - Los Angeles
Blogs Author
I bought a big SS lock washer. In fact, I bought 25 of them by accident. Hmmm.

Only then I realized that what was happening was that the wheel itself was moving forward, rendering the nut loose. That was because the retainer ring on the shaft was unable to resist the force of the tightened wheel nut. A hose clamp solved the problem forever.

retain ring wheel IMG_0526-001.JPG


Member III
Blogs Author
To address this situation, I purchased a metal nut from Edson to replace my inherited plastic one, a la @Kenneth K:


And after perusing another forum, I found that McMaster-Carr sells all sorts of shaft collars, to backstop the wheel as @Christian Williams suggested:


The combination seems quite secure:


Thanks for the ideas, all.