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Old 08-03-2015, 11:32 AM   #1
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Hydraulic Steering Cylinder - New or Rebuild

My new to me boat has set up for awhile and among the issues I'm dealing with is hard steering. It has a Capilano hydraulic system. Both helm stations are difficult to operate, so I added the correct fluid and bled the system. Next, I greased the rudders, but it wasn't much better. I then disconnected the rudder from the cylinder. Rudders move freely, so I had my helper turn the wheel with it disconnected and we had the same difficultly turning the wheel.

That leads me to the cylinder. It will move, but not freely at all. Can these be rebuilt successfully? Is it a specialist job or can a somewhat handy guy do it with instructions? Or, should I just break down and buy a new one?

By the way, this forum is great and I appreciate all of the help I've received on other topics!

Chris
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Old 08-03-2015, 11:40 AM   #2
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Just rebuilt ours this year, a lot easier than I imagined. A small seal kit contained everything needed and it worked great. I would take it apart and see if it is rebuildable or is the metal scored making it hard to operate.

Hope the Univalve is OK as they are not available any more.
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Old 08-03-2015, 11:44 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by clynn View Post
That leads me to the cylinder. It will move, but not freely at all. Can these be rebuilt successfully? Is it a specialist job or can a somewhat handy guy do it with instructions? Or, should I just break down and buy a new one?
Chris
Hi Chris,

A good hydrualics shop can rebuild the cylinder for you. Replacing the seals is not all that expensive and is pretty common for heavy equipment.

I replaced my steering cylinder a couple of years ago and had the old cylinder re-built as a spare in anticipation of cruising in the Aleutians (single point of failure).

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Old 08-03-2015, 11:50 AM   #4
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A piece of cake to rebuild. Bought the seals at a bearing house for chump change and did it myself. When I pulled the cylinder I found that the PO used ATM fluid which is a no no. I bled the system and refilled it with Wagner steering oil. Worked like a charm.
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Old 08-03-2015, 12:01 PM   #5
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My Capiliano Hydraulic Steering instructions says:
"Use automatic transmission fluid, type A or Dexron II or SAE 10 Turbine oil".
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Old 08-03-2015, 12:19 PM   #6
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I just uploaded 4 different manuals in the library for Capilano Steering to the library. Soon as the mods approve they will be there for download, just search Capilano in the manual section............
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Old 08-03-2015, 01:07 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rochepoint View Post
My Capiliano Hydraulic Steering instructions says:
"Use automatic transmission fluid, type A or Dexron II or SAE 10 Turbine oil".
Yep, my manual said the exact same thing. I'll order the rebuild kit and give it a go. Worst that can happen is I screw it up and buy a new one, which I was what I was mentally preparing myself for anyway.

I appreciate the feedback. If I remember, I'll take a few pictures of it disassembled to updated the thread for those that may go this route in the future.
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Old 08-03-2015, 01:48 PM   #8
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My bad, I have Wagner steering with a Hynautic ram.
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Old 08-03-2015, 03:00 PM   #9
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Chris, I concur with the rest, if you have good access. it's an easy but messy job. Mine is very difficult to get at and I have had to pull mine out four times in the last 12 months. Leaks around the rear seal despite cylinder honing and new seals. When you get it apart take a close look for scoring in the barrel, if so I'd replace it. Careful putting it together, the o-ring tends to bunch up and get nicked when sliding the end caps and spool back in. Hard to imagine why your cylinder itself is stiff unless there is no o-rings left and the spool is digging into the cyl barrel. I'm thinking you might have a sticky check valve or dirt in your uniflow valve "assuming you have the 3 line system" with 250/275 model helms. Any impediment to the return flow through the uniflow back through to the helm reservoirs could cause stiff steering. Also be sure the upper helm has a vented fill plug and not a solid one as some dummy did to mine.

If you happen to find a good price on the cylinder let me know, pricing I have seen ranges from $800 to $1000
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Old 08-03-2015, 03:01 PM   #10
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I had our rudder cylinder rebuilt as it started leaking. It was out in the open in the aft cockpit. Subject to all weather including sun. I noticed one day it got fairly hot in the sun. I have since built a platform/table for my new dedicated kerosene fuel tank for the Wabasto. I built the platform and positioned it mostly to keep the sun off the hyd cylinder.

I have my suspicions as to the stiff chacteristics. My hydraulic steering is more stiff than the cable steering it replaced. I think it's because I did overkill on the size of the system. I did it for security and dependability kinda like getting a monster anchor. The seals and shafts are large causing excess drag. But if I had more stiffness than that I'd suspect something is bent or there was a piston problem.

The thing I like about the hyd steering is that after a heading adjustment is made one can let go of the helm and it always stays put.
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Old 08-03-2015, 03:59 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Capt Kangeroo View Post
I'm thinking you might have a sticky check valve or dirt in your uniflow valve "assuming you have the 3 line system" with 250/275 model helms. Any impediment to the return flow through the uniflow back through to the helm reservoirs could cause stiff steering. Also be sure the upper helm has a vented fill plug and not a solid one as some dummy did to mine.
It is the 3 line system and I had not considered the check valve. Is there a way to test it? Is it potentially a condition that can be remedied by fully bleeding the system? There is some fluid on the bottom of the cylinder, but I would consider it a trace amount.

Also, to be clear, when I say stiff steering, I mean it's hard to turn the wheel at both stations and it feels like something is binding.

The wheel moves freely when the bleeder screws are opened if that makes any difference.
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Old 08-04-2015, 10:29 AM   #12
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Hi Chris, sorry for the lag in response. I know exactly your symptoms, had the same issue with stiff steering at both helms and have been battling with my system for over a year. It has been a maddening, and frustrating, but valuable learning experience. I have completely disassembled both helms, the uniflow and the cylinder multiple times and installed new seals in all. I am not aware of any easy method of testing the check valves "in the univalve" other than disassembly. Note that despite what all the literature says to the contrary, there are also check valves inside the port/starboard line connections to each 250V/275V helm It sounds like your helms are fine however, they are in parallel so only one would / should? be affected by a bad internal check.

If you have noticed any tranny fluid at all, anywhere, your getting air in the system and is likely your entire problem. That little bit on the bottom of the cylinder you noted is all it takes. Air will definitely cause stiff steering as well as lock-ups and screwing up your autopilot. Try running your autopilot manually from hard over to hard over, listen close, if the pump squeals, gurgles or changes pitch at any time, you have air. Before pulling everything apart, as a test you could try fully bleeding the system and see if that improves things temporarily. If not, then I would pull out the cylinder (which you have to do anyway to fix the leak, but also take out the univalve to clean up and instal o-ring kits in both. (comes with instructions). While your at it, you might as well put new seals in your helms. Mine didn't leak at all until I began working on the system, in fact it started to leak virtually everywhere, not sure why.

If the cylinder itself is binding I highly doubt it is internal, having had them apart so many times I just don't see how it could unless it is completely shot. Did you check the rear fixed mount which is ball mounted, when I pulled mine I found it was completely seized from lack of grease. Also check the front clevis mount that the ball moves freely and not binding on the rudder arm. To check, undo one end and swing cylinder back and forth, then do other end. Also have someone turn the wheel hardover both ways while you watch to see if it's binding anywhere.

I put my money on your uniflow acting up. It directs the flow back to the reservoir and if it is stuck/restricted there will be pressure on both sides of the spool in the cylinder causing it to work against itself. This would effect both helms turning in both directions. Chances are it just needs cleaning up and seals. Any defective internal parts can easily be duplicated by a machine shop.

I'm not however put off Capilano, far from it. The newer Capilano 2 line system that does away with the uniflow is in my opinion bar-none the best steering system in the world.

In retrospect if I had half a brain I should have bit the bullet and bought two new 1250/1275 helms and a new cylinder and converted to a two line to do away with the obsolete univalve. Would have been far and away less work but I refuse to be beat, Murphy will not win. It has become a battle between man and machine and I intend to win regardless of pain and cost. Once I've finally won and got the old system working to perfection, I'll rip the damn thing out and go with the new system.
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Old 08-04-2015, 11:38 AM   #13
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This is fantastic information and I appreciate the time you put into your write-up. It will be a few weeks before I'm able to make it back to the boat, but I'll work through your suggestions.

Question on the uniflow valve. Does it just unscrew in order to renew the seals? Seems like a reasonable PM item even if that isn't the issue.

According to this post from SeaStar, you're hosed if the valve is faulty...

Capilano U50 Valve (uniflow valve) - The Hull Truth - Boating and Fishing Forum
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Old 08-04-2015, 01:46 PM   #14
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Chris, a link to pics & description of operation of uniflow valve is here.
Patent US3908687 - Marine steering control valve and system - Google Patents

There are dire warnings about the uniflow valve all over the internet. Its actually a very simple mechanical device. The moving parts are a couple of machined spools along with springs and ball bearings for check valves. Although there are only seal kits available for it these days, with some effort I'm sure substitute springs can be found and the spools could be made by any machine shop if needed.

Yes, around the perimeter of the valve are screw plugs with orings, unscrew these and the springs, balls & spools can be pulled out. Instructions come with o-ring / seal kit. Note that some model uniflows have a blade slot in plugs to unscrew and others have two holes and require special tool. If the latter, just use the tips of snap ring pliers in the holes to remove. Careful, some are plastic plugs. Capilano recommends stretching springs before re-inserting and to use a wood dowel to smack the balls against the seats to renew them. I skipped this step and ended up taking it all apart again. Good luck. By the way I scoured the hydraulic shops for a replacement for these grossly over priced cylinders and while a few were close, I found no joy. Looks like my wallet is going to get 1K lighter.
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Old 08-06-2015, 06:48 AM   #15
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New or Rebuild BOTH!

If you are going cruising and the cylinder wore out , I would purchase a new one , AND rebuild the old one.

After operating with the new one , I would remove it and install the rebuilt unit.

Now you have an operating spare , that you know fits , and how to install it.

This should be the drill for any spare (like a starter) Install it to see it fits and works, then remove and stow it ,rather than get a big surprise sometime.
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Old 08-12-2015, 09:38 AM   #16
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Here's what I know from years of owning construction equipment and heavy trucks-

If it's a relatively cheap cylinder, say less than $500, you're better off buying a new one rather than paying a shop to rebuild.

You can rebuild yourself, but most folks don't have the means to bench test before re-installation. So you're risking unnecessary labor in removing and replacing the cylinder a couple of times if the rebuild is not successful. You can ignore this if you're not concerned about your own labor.

If the rod is scored, and the cylinder is small, you should buy a new cylinder.

A competent cylinder shop can rebuild a cylinder, and bench test it before installation. Scored rods can be replaced/fabricated by a shop with machining capabilities.

Small cylinders we replace with new; large cylinders we rebuild. The line between the two depends on your labor cost, cost of a replacement cylinder, and the availability of replacement parts.
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Old 08-12-2015, 09:58 AM   #17
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Here's what I know from years of owning construction equipment and heavy trucks-

If it's a relatively cheap cylinder, say less than $500, you're better off buying a new one rather than paying a shop to rebuild.

You can rebuild yourself, but most folks don't have the means to bench test before re-installation. So you're risking unnecessary labor in removing and replacing the cylinder a couple of times if the rebuild is not successful. You can ignore this if you're not concerned about your own labor.

If the rod is scored, and the cylinder is small, you should buy a new cylinder.

A competent cylinder shop can rebuild a cylinder, and bench test it before installation. Scored rods can be replaced/fabricated by a shop with machining capabilities.

Small cylinders we replace with new; large cylinders we rebuild. The line between the two depends on your labor cost, cost of a replacement cylinder, and the availability of replacement parts.
Good response and mirrors my experience. But, does the OP know his cylinder is BO? Without a bench test hard to know for sure. A good boat yard guy with gauges and relevant knowledge would be the way I'd go unless you have lots of time and no schedule.
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Old 08-16-2015, 06:48 PM   #18
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There was a good discussion on boatdiesel.com a while back, I learned a lot from it.
One important item is the diameter of the hoses, often skimped on by builders.
Also a good flush and fresh fluid can do wonders for helm effort.
I now run ATF cut 25% with diesel fuel, very smooth!
A zerk on the lower rudder bushing is a good idea, frequently a source of binding.
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Old 08-16-2015, 07:51 PM   #19
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kapnd,
I went w large dia hoses and the steering effort is more than I thought it would be .. tollerable but dosn't make me smile. I went out of my way do insure my hoses were large ID. Thought it would be effortless steering .. w one finger as w a 55 Buick. Wrong. I think the drag in my system is the over sized helm pump and rudder cylinder. And even more specificly the large shaft seal in the cylinder.

No plans to "fix" it as more important things are there for me to do.
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Old 08-24-2015, 10:11 AM   #20
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Update:

A local boat mechanic stated that he had seen instances of cylinders freezing up after long periods of disuse. Access is good, so I went ahead and pulled the cylinder and sure enough I can't move it at all manually. I'm planning on purchasing the rebuild kit and either taking a stab at it myself or having my local rebuild shop do it for me.

I'll update once that has been completed for anyone else that may have this issue in the future.

This is the rebuild kit i found:

SeaStar Inboard Cylinder Seal Kit - HC5182
Mfr. SeaStar Solutions
Part No. 87740 | Mfr No. HS5182
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