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Old 03-24-2020, 01:02 PM   #1
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1974 GB 32: converting cable and pulley steering to hydraulic

Good Afternoon all. Just got back from a visit with boat mechanic. We broke a large cable pulley a couple of weeks ago. After checking all pulleys at least one additional pulley bracket was corroded and needs to be replaced. We are having difficulties locating the pulley wheels and the bracket would need to be machined. The mechanic recommended switching to hydraulic steering. We were also in the process of installing a new autopilot. Any thoughts or experiences on converting to hydraulic? Thanks

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Old 03-24-2020, 01:16 PM   #2
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Go for it! Use Kobelt

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Old 03-24-2020, 02:10 PM   #3
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Not bad for 46 years... I’d fix the existing. Does your upper helm have the cable or shaft connection?

If you do fix the steering, watch for jaggers (broken wires) otherwise known as meathooks.
Don't believe everything that you think.
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Old 03-24-2020, 02:31 PM   #4
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Switching to hydraulics seems excessive.
Al Johnson
34' Marine Trader
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Old 03-24-2020, 03:00 PM   #5
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If the dealer is installing the system you should be fine. The wheel no longer is mechanically tied to the rudder, so you need a rudder angle indicator at your steering stations. Hydraulic steering includes a pump that the autopilot runs. You might consider installing a jog lever. I run my autopilot almost 100% of the time and the jog lever is handy when docking. It controls the pump and makes hard over to hard over, fast and easy. One of Kobelt jog levers shown.
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Old 03-24-2020, 03:19 PM   #6
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Hynautic is another brand. If you're thinking about a change to hydraulic steering, getting the necessary lines to where you need them will be no small task.
Ken on Hatt Trick
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Old 03-24-2020, 03:24 PM   #7
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One of the best mods I ever made. I did mine in one weekend of work that I believe any reasonably mechanical person could handle.

PS hydraulic autopilots are so much smoother and quieter.
If you can live with the consequences, go for it - wg
Y'am what y'am an' thats' all that y'am - Popeye
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Old 03-24-2020, 04:26 PM   #8
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Personally, I've never minded the lack of absolute rudder position feedback with my hydraulic steering. No indicator and I've never really missed it. Once you get used to how the boat feels, you'll know if the rudders are centered.

As far as switching, I'd do it. Fixing a leaky hydraulic line is generally easier and requires less specialized equipment than fixing issues with cable steering (unless the issue is only the cables themselves). And the parts should all be off the shelf, nothing specific to the boat. So it's an upgrade for maintainability, if nothing else.
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Old 03-24-2020, 05:50 PM   #9
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Sounds expensive but I would say it will be worth it, especially if you are installing autopilot.

I had cable steering on any number of smaller boats and it seems like they always need something. Adjusting, springs, clamps, lube, etc.

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Old 03-24-2020, 08:11 PM   #10
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Thanks guys. Iíve decided to go with the upgrade to hydraulic. A little pricey but in my plans to cruise the Gulf coast. It was pretty interesting steering when the pulley gave way offshore of St. George Island. Pretty loosey goosey wagging back and forth to the slip, added to my boating experience. The Admiral thinks I did well cause she was having fun watching the turtles and dolphins on the flybridge. Me on the other hand I felt like I was on a slave galleon at the lower helm gently nudging the old girl home. Again thanks for the input.
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Old 03-24-2020, 10:22 PM   #11
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I went to hydraulic about 12 yrs ago.
One of the things you’ll love is that the friction of the oil seals means when you let go the wheel you’ll stay on that course. You don’t have to hold the wheel anymore. I usually adjust the wheel till it stays on the course I want and then relax for a minute or so or more at times. On occasion it’s even longer than that. If you’re solo and fast you can even take a quick whizz w/o going in a circle.

As to rudder pos ind I don’t have one. But I’ve found that basically the only time it’s good to have is maneuvering in port. What I do is go from full helm port to full helm stbd as needed Always using full rudder. I have three turns L to L so when I want dead ahead I turn 1.5 turns. Presto .. dead ahead.

The people that you buy the system from can help you w volume of pump and rudder cylinder related to your required stroke.
I did myself a favor laying out my hydraulic lines/tubing so that from a point just ahead of the rudder cylinder the line goes close to straight down to the lowest the line will be. From there it goes fwd gradually and slowly to helm pump. The air bubbles are free to slowly rise to the helm pump. So to purge the air bubbles all I need to do is turn the wheel all the way to The stop (you may have a stop or you can just run the piston all the way to the end of the slave cylinder). The stop is preferable but if you have an extra heavy slave cylinder (as I do) you can just use the end of travel as a stop. Make sure the cylinder is mounted securely. So to purge the air just go all the way to the stop and wait a few minutes and then go the other way. Do that 5 or 6 times and all the air (even tiny bubbles) will all be at or in the helm pump in the wheelhouse. Add auto trans fluid or other until the oil level is best in the helm pump.


North Western Washington State USA
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