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Old 12-21-2018, 08:36 AM   #1
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Manual Steering Auto pilot, any suggestions

I am working on an old Biloxi Lugger with cable steering and a Benmar A/P. After continuous repairs, time between failures is getting very short. It is time to move on. Without converting the entire system to hydraulic, what options have worked for other?
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Old 12-21-2018, 08:57 AM   #2
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We have have a Comnav autopilot on our Lindell 36 The flybridge and cockpit steering are all electronic via the autopilot. Their new P4 system runs on a NMEA 2000 backbone, seems very spiffy. Our 1101 system still works like a charm.
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Old 12-21-2018, 09:01 AM   #3
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Benmar's web site says they are still manufacturing. http://www.benmarmarine.com/


Simrad has some mechanical drive units but they not be robust enough for you boat. Mechanical Drive Units | Simrad Marine Electronics
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Old 12-21-2018, 09:04 AM   #4
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I added one of these to a 26 foot (6500 lb) Fortier 26 with Morse cable steering and it worked well. Easy to install.

https://www.si-tex.com/item/dashdriveforsitexautopilots
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Old 12-21-2018, 09:33 AM   #5
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Which needs the constant repairs, the Benmar or the cable steering?

For the Benmar contact them. Talk to them and get some pointers.

FOr the cable system it may need more than just patchwork repairs. But those systems have been used reliably for years.

If the cable system is the trouble then what specifically has been failing?


Actually a hydraulic system might be a good way to consider for the long term. If chosen and installed properly they are dead reliable with LONG repair intervals.
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Old 12-21-2018, 09:58 AM   #6
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There's no reason you couldn't use your existing Benmar drive with almost any pilot provided it's just the Benmar computer hardware that has gone bad and not the drive that is giving you issues. I love it when I come on a boat and the steering drive is already in place...that's the hardest part of a pilot install.
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Old 12-21-2018, 07:57 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by helm View Post
We have have a Comnav autopilot on our Lindell 36 The flybridge and cockpit steering are all electronic via the autopilot. Their new P4 system runs on a NMEA 2000 backbone, seems very spiffy. Our 1101 system still works like a charm.
Eric

Thanks for the info Helm. The P4 system seems to be a little more than we are looking for. I am going to contact COMNAV about the 1001. Looks like the old Robinson AP.
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Old 12-21-2018, 08:00 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Portage_Bay View Post
Benmar's web site says they are still manufacturing. Benmar Marine


Simrad has some mechanical drive units but they not be robust enough for you boat. Mechanical Drive Units | Simrad Marine Electronics

I looked at the Simrad and you are correct, not a good fit. But thanks for the link.
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Old 12-21-2018, 08:03 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Easting View Post
I added one of these to a 26 foot (6500 lb) Fortier 26 with Morse cable steering and it worked well. Easy to install.

https://www.si-tex.com/item/dashdriveforsitexautopilots

Thanks, but wrong cable type.
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Old 12-21-2018, 08:13 PM   #10
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Which needs the constant repairs, the Benmar or the cable steering?

For the Benmar contact them. Talk to them and get some pointers.

FOr the cable system it may need more than just patchwork repairs. But those systems have been used reliably for years.

If the cable system is the trouble then what specifically has been failing?


Actually a hydraulic system might be a good way to consider for the long term. If chosen and installed properly they are dead reliable with LONG repair intervals.

We were trying to keep from going all hydraulic and the cost associated with converting 2 stations plus AP.


It is the computer and binnacle. We have replaced internal components, transistors I think, I'm the mechanical. Now the binnacle seems to be causing a hard over to starboard.
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Old 12-21-2018, 08:20 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by boomerang View Post
There's no reason you couldn't use your existing Benmar drive with almost any pilot provided it's just the Benmar computer hardware that has gone bad and not the drive that is giving you issues. I love it when I come on a boat and the steering drive is already in place...that's the hardest part of a pilot install.

That would be a great solution. I went by my Electronics supplier today but closed for the holidays. I will be back at Advace Marine after the first of the year.


I saw a garmin Radar on your blog. Have you done this on your boat? Just upgraded to a garmin plotter. It would be nice if they talked to each other.
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Old 12-22-2018, 06:31 AM   #12
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The sailboat style unit that mounts in front of or behind the wheel are great easy to install and maintain .

All the toys like remote control can be had .


Perhaps this would suit your boat/


CPT Autopilot Inc.
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Old 12-22-2018, 06:42 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Biloxi Jim View Post
That would be a great solution. I went by my Electronics supplier today but closed for the holidays. I will be back at Advace Marine after the first of the year.


I saw a garmin Radar on your blog. Have you done this on your boat? Just upgraded to a garmin plotter. It would be nice if they talked to each other.
If your new Garmin plotter has a network port on the back, it will interface to most Garmin radar antennas.
Sorry about our blog being so behind...my wife does the blogging and we've been lax in keeping it current!
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Old 12-22-2018, 01:55 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by FF View Post
The sailboat style unit that mounts in front of or behind the wheel are great easy to install and maintain .

All the toys like remote control can be had .


Perhaps this would suit your boat/


CPT Autopilot Inc.

Thanks. I think this will be up for top consideration. The only thing that would be better is if it could talk to the Garmin.
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Old 12-22-2018, 06:51 PM   #15
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The transistor you replaced, were they blown?

Years ago I had that happen to my unit. One transistor blew shorting and operating the unit to turn hard starboard immediately it got power.
I replaced them although to test I had to cut the caps. and then replace those also.

I realized after reading the instruction/installation manual while testing after the repair that the hydraulic pump was never set up properly. THe pump oil delivery rate was set at maximum per revolution. The rudder movement was FAST, too fast which overloaded the motor never allowing it to get out of the inrush current state.

Once I dealt with the pump delivery rate by backing off the swash plate the rudder actually was quicker to respond since the motor actually was running faster. Even though each revolution delivered less oil the motor could turn faster revs so delivered more oil in the same time with less strain.

My unit had been installed shortly before the P.O. sold the boat to us so I suspect he just didn't quite finish all the tuning.

So if you are blowing transistors , the main power transistors, then check the pump delivery rate. On mine it was simply a timing exercise to determine the oil delivery rate. Too few seconds meant the pump was trying to deliver too much oil overloading/straining the motor.

If your unit is immediately turning one direction or the other when it gets power at turn on , then maybe another transistor has blown from the above problem. Recheck and replace them including the capacitors and then check into the pump delivery rate.
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Old 12-23-2018, 05:34 AM   #16
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"Thanks. I think this will be up for top consideration. The only thing that would be better is if it could talk to the Garmin."

Have you contacted them to ask?

Although the concept of the AP steering from the GPS , at least in close quarters is scary to me , and in open waters the compass should do fine.
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Old 12-23-2018, 04:35 PM   #17
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Originally Posted by C lectric View Post
The transistor you replaced, were they blown?

Years ago I had that happen to my unit. One transistor blew shorting and operating the unit to turn hard starboard immediately it got power.
I replaced them although to test I had to cut the caps. and then replace those also.

I realized after reading the instruction/installation manual while testing after the repair that the hydraulic pump was never set up properly. THe pump oil delivery rate was set at maximum per revolution. The rudder movement was FAST, too fast which overloaded the motor never allowing it to get out of the inrush current state.

Once I dealt with the pump delivery rate by backing off the swash plate the rudder actually was quicker to respond since the motor actually was running faster. Even though each revolution delivered less oil the motor could turn faster revs so delivered more oil in the same time with less strain.

My unit had been installed shortly before the P.O. sold the boat to us so I suspect he just didn't quite finish all the tuning.

So if you are blowing transistors , the main power transistors, then check the pump delivery rate. On mine it was simply a timing exercise to determine the oil delivery rate. Too few seconds meant the pump was trying to deliver too much oil overloading/straining the motor.

If your unit is immediately turning one direction or the other when it gets power at turn on , then maybe another transistor has blown from the above problem. Recheck and replace them including the capacitors and then check into the pump delivery rate.

It was professionally installed and has worked for decades, but there maybe wear or other issues causing an over current condition. I will check that out.
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Old 12-23-2018, 04:41 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by FF View Post
"Thanks. I think this will be up for top consideration. The only thing that would be better is if it could talk to the Garmin."

Have you contacted them to ask?

Although the concept of the AP steering from the GPS , at least in close quarters is scary to me , and in open waters the compass should do fine.

I intend to ask the local Garmin supplier as soon as they open after the first of the year.


As for AP in close quarters I'm with you 100%. Give me my wheel and/or wheels as in props.
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Old 01-05-2019, 01:44 PM   #19
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Investing in hydraulics is money well spent, and will pay back, if not in dollars, in peace of mind.
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Old 01-05-2019, 02:13 PM   #20
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If your Benmar unit is a course setter then there is a troubleshooting guide available that might help. A hard over condition sounds like it could be one of the IC's that are blown. They are very susceptible to failures from over voltage conditions. The ICs are on sockets so the hardest part is to get the unit out of the boat then 30 minutes to change out about $10 worth of ICs.
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