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Old 05-23-2017, 04:41 PM   #1
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Bigfish's Avatar
City: Salem, Oregon
Vessel Name: My Lady
Vessel Model: Formosa 42 Double Cabin
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 284
Hydraulic steering problem

Hi folks,

Embarrassing that I need to ask here but my ability to focus on things seems to be seriously declining lately.

I'm living on my 42' Formosa Trawler and pulled off my mooring ball last week in a stiff wind to go get my water tanks filled and I realized I had no rudder control. Fortunately I have two engines. I'm suspecting that I have a hydraulic leak. When I purchased My Lady four years ago, I vaguely remember mention of a leak and I believe it's up on the flybridge behind the wheel. I've never had a steering problem until last week.

How do I check the fluid level? and is there any trick to getting things back to normal??

Thanks for your help!

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Old 05-23-2017, 04:47 PM   #2
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City: Quebec
Vessel Name: Bleuvet
Vessel Model: Custom Built
Join Date: Jan 2016
Posts: 4,273
Depends on your steering setup but if like mine (seastar I and II) the fluid reservoir is on the wheel support, there is a little plug, unscrew it and look inside it should be topped by your hydraulic fluid. In different setup you may have a fluid reservoir somewhere on the line, should be easy to find as it should be accessible and on your hydraulic line. And finally if you lost your control because of a fluid leak, there should be clear evidence of the leaked oil as you must have lost a lot.


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Old 05-23-2017, 06:26 PM   #3
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City: Litchfield, Ct
Join Date: Aug 2012
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Seastar sells a kit consisting of a pint or so of hydraulic fluid and a tube to connect it to the fill port on the top of the helm pump. Hook it up and turn the helm back and forth a dozen times to fill the top of the pump.

Sometimes you have to bleed at the steering ram, but if the leak is only affecting the upper helm then you can fill it as above with no bleeding.

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Old 05-23-2017, 07:05 PM   #4
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Vessel Name: Relenti
Vessel Model: Atlantic 30, 1983
Join Date: Mar 2015
Posts: 451
My steering has a tank which has an air valve and fill cap on it. Can't remember the brand, have to look at my log book. Anyway had to change the seals in the upper helm and bleed the system. To bleed you loosened two nut on the tank and turn the wheel 20/30 revolutions each way. Tighten the two nuts on the tank and your finished.
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Old 05-23-2017, 08:17 PM   #5
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City: Gig Harbor
Vessel Name: Kinship
Vessel Model: North Pacific 43
Join Date: May 2015
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You need to check what type of system you have. On mine, there is a reservoir near the rudder. There are some clear sections so you can see the fluid level. There is also pressure gauge and a Schrader valve on the top. The idea on mine is to fill the reservoir and then pressurize the system with a hand-pump. I've never had to add fluid but I have pumped up the system twice in the year that I have owned the boat. Mine calls for between 25-30 psi but the steering still seems to work at 0 psi.

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Old 05-23-2017, 08:39 PM   #6
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City: Paris,TN
Vessel Name: Joy Lynn
Vessel Model: Jorgensen custom 44
Join Date: Jan 2013
Posts: 3,671
The first winter we had our trawler (5 years ago ) the air bled down on the system and we had no steering . We had plenty of fluid in the reservoir. I just pumped it up to 25 psi and haven't had any trouble since.
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Old 05-24-2017, 04:49 AM   #7
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City: South Florida
Join Date: Sep 2014
Posts: 869
The pressurized system is made by Hynautic. The company was purchased by Sea Star some years ago and the system is still supported. There is a third system that is found on boats made by Wagner, not many of those around.

All the previous comments are correct. If a leak was mentioned, you should only have to fill her up, if Hynautic then pressurize. Of course someday you will need to address the leak.

If you have a 2 station boat with a Sea Star system ONLY fill it at the upper station. As a vented system the lower station has a non vented plug and if you pop the lower station all the fluid in the system uphill will drain out, not pretty.

Sea Star Helm -- Hynautic Helm -- Hynautic Reservoir
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Old 05-24-2017, 09:01 AM   #8
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City: Gig Harbor
Vessel Name: Kinship
Vessel Model: North Pacific 43
Join Date: May 2015
Posts: 8,670
This is the reservoir that I have on my boat. Those little plastic windows are supposedly to be able to view the fluid level, but it is darn hard to see it, at least where it is located in my boat.

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Old 05-24-2017, 10:08 AM   #9
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City: Gibsons, B.C., Canada
Vessel Name: Island Pride
Vessel Model: Palmer 32'
Join Date: Oct 2007
Posts: 3,455
If you have a leak then try to find it. It might be a pump leaking, it might be a loose fitting, it might be the cylinder needs resealing, or it could be a hose or line in trouble.

Find and assess to know why the leak occurs.

I saw a guy some years ago [25] lose his steering completely because he ignored a leak.

It was a line worn through at a too sharp bend rubbing against something else. Eventually the line let go almost completely with a loss of steering in a BAD spot to lose it. Unfortunately none of us had anything of any use to him. Oil yes but it just leaked out again. We didn't know enough at the time to figure out what could be done and although even then I carried a lot of fittings I had what I needed which were all the wrong sizes.

But seals wear and breakdown from age and can let go completely and abruptly causing some troublesome problems.

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