Many people shy away from owning a tiller steer outboard, because we’re all used to operating vehicles with steering wheels. But truth be told, tiller steering an outboard powered boat gets you excellent maneuverability and control—in many cases even better than that of a steering wheel—and can also help shave some cost off of a new boat’s price tag since you don’t have to pay for a steering system and all the associated pieces and parts. If you’re considering getting a tiller steered outboard boat but have never owned one before, this short Boating Tips video will help. In it, we’ll cover the basics of operating a tiller steer as demonstrated on a 16’ crabbing skiff powered by a Suzuki DF25A EFI.


Let’s recap the basics for using a tiller steer outboard:

  • Attach the safety lanyard.

  • Check fuel line connections, which are not always reliable on small, portable fuel tanks.

  • Use the engine-mounted shifter to shift in and out of gear; each brand is a little different in this regard, but most are located on the front of the motor, on the opposite side of the tiller.

  • Twist the tiller to accelerate and decelerate.

  • Most importantly, remember that the bow of the boat will go in the opposite direction of the way you push the tiller.

  • Slide the tension adjustment handle, to make it easier or harder to push the tiller in either direction.

  • If the tiller isn’t long enough, purchase and add an aftermarket tiller extension handle.

tiller steer outboard

The ability to quickly and effortlessly push the tiller handle in either direction provides handling and maneuverability that can’t be beat.

Right about now, you old-timers are saying “you never mentioned the choke!” That’s because fewer and fewer modern outboards have them. Most are either automatic these days, and/or the outboard doesn’t have a choke at all because it has EFI—now available on the vast majority of even small outboards. If you haven’t heard of small outboard EFI and battery-less EFI, read up on it in these reviews:

What else do you need to know about running a boat with tiller steering? Not much. The other aspects, such as maintenance, proper mounting, trim, and so on, are no different for a tiller steered boat than they are for any other. So don’t get stuck in a wheel-only world—tiller steered boats can be loads of fun.

Written by: Lenny Rudow
With over two decades of experience in marine journalism, Lenny Rudow has contributed to publications including YachtWorld,, Boating Magazine, Marlin Magazine, Boating World, Saltwater Sportsman, Texas Fish & Game, and many others. Lenny is a graduate of the Westlawn School of Yacht Design, and he has won numerous BWI and OWAA writing awards.