Right now is a great time to inspect your steering system. Don't wait until the spring, or until Murphys Law strikes, to check the condition of the steering system. A sailboat without its steering is like an out-of-control houseboat. Now, during the off-season, is a good time to check it out properly.
Its not difficult to inspect a steering system. It takes an hour or so to do a thorough job. Mechanical aptitude is not the number-one credential. The most important tool you need are your eyes: If it doesn't look right, many times it isn't, and if you're not sure, call in the manufacturer of your steering system. If you don't have the time to do the inspection yourself, have the boatyard do it, or ask a sailing buddy to help you in exchange for helping him or her. Generally, it's easy and straightforward. In fact, many people find that the most difficult part of the job is cleaning out the sail lockers in order to access the steering. But, hey, it's a good time to see if your emergency tiller is still there and to make sure it still fits.
Here is a 11-point checklist that will lead you through the process. While it was created by Edson, it will work for most brands and types of steering. (Numbers in parenthesis are Edson part numbers.)Steering system inspection checklist
1. Steering wheel/shaft