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Old 04-17-2022, 08:09 AM   #1
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Replace whole steering system or just the pumps?

I am finally getting around to having my old seastar pumps replaced and eliminating the U50 valve. Since I suspect much of the work is in the flushing/bleeding of the system do you think itís worth replacing my AP pump and Ram while I am at it and keeping the old ones as spares? I donít know how old either is but also keenly aware newer isnít always better.
Any advice would be appreciated.
AC
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Old 04-17-2022, 08:53 AM   #2
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Assuming your ram is properly sized and isn't leaking, I wouldn't worry about it. There's a stronger case to swap the AP pump, but not sure I'd do it unless you're headed on an extended cruise to remote areas such as Central America. As a thought, it's not incredibly difficult to plumb a second pump into the system with valves so you have a warm standby pump. If the primary pump fails, reroute the wires, turn valves, and your back underway in 15 minutes vs breaking open the hydraulic system, bleeding, cleanup, etc.

Peter
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Old 04-17-2022, 08:56 AM   #3
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I really like that idea, loosing an AP pump wouldn’t end the trip but it would certainly make it a lot more exhausting… I guess the only challenge would be the proper bleeding of the system.
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Old 04-17-2022, 09:02 AM   #4
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Pumps aren't too expensive and you'll have the system open anyway for the helm pump replacement. Install of hydraulic tees and valves would be a half day labor (assuming decent access) so not ridiculously expensive.

Losing an AP pump is rare, but when it happens, definitely sucks. One of the few things outside of drive train failure that would really hobble a trip. Hand steering takes all the fun out of a trawler.

Good luck

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Old 04-17-2022, 09:17 AM   #5
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I did my steering system 2 years ago. Have a Hynautic system which was hard to turn. So I mostly steer with the autopilot. As I didn't expect that to change, I chose to rebuild the helm pump and steer cylinder. Hynautic was bought up by Seastar and everything is still made. After doing some research on their website, I concluded that I would be happier having one of their authorized service centers do both the pump and the cylinder. In talking with the service center (one man business) I learned that the boat manufacturer had installed the wrong size lines and other fittings which accounted for the hard steering.

When rebuilt the cost of the work was exactly what the estimate was. That in combination larger lines and fittings made a huge difference. It's now a pleasure to steer when I occasionally use the helm.

In retrospect, I wished I had replaced the autopilot pump at the same. Would like a size larger to increase the speed when using the jog lever. Probably this winter's project.

My recommendation would be to look at the whole system and atleast talk to a professional rebuilder installer. Simply, you don't know what you don't know. Also, don't assume the boat manufacturer put in what was best for you. Line and fitting sizes make a dramatic difference in manual steering. Don't assume bigger is always better for line size. My lines were 3/8". The installer said that Hynautic required 1/2" for that size helm pump. I asked about 3/4" (bigger is always better right?). He said that I will never get all the air bubbles out. Part of bleeding a system if having enough volume flow to push the bubbles through the system. Not enough flow and bubbles cling to the wall of the tubing with the oil going around them.

Ted
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Old 04-17-2022, 11:18 AM   #6
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Interesting, you would indeed think that bigger would be better. But you do learn something every day.
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Old 04-18-2022, 06:27 AM   #7
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Assuming the A/P is newer than the OEM steering, and that the A/P pump is in a relatively dry location, you may want to hold on replacing that pump. A/P pumps typically won't have the hours on them that the other components have, it's probably not OEM and newer, and are pretty robust units.

The actuator (ram) on the other hand is the least expensive component, lives in the worst environment, and does all the real work.

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Old 04-18-2022, 07:10 AM   #8
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Assuming the A/P is newer than the OEM steering, and that the A/P pump is in a relatively dry location, you may want to hold on replacing that pump. A/P pumps typically won't have the hours on them that the other components have, it's probably not OEM and newer, and are pretty robust units.

The actuator (ram) on the other hand is the least expensive component, lives in the worst environment, and does all the real work.

Not sure I'd agree the ram is least expensive part - they are close to a grand for most boats in the 40+ foot range.

I replaced my A/P pump recently because it had broken. More accurately, the sheave on it had broken. You ask, how does an A/P pump have a sheave? Mine was 50+ years old. It has an electric reversable motor that belt-drove a conventional hydraulic pump. As you can imagine, a fairly sizeable piece of steel. One of the aluminum sheaves had a chunk missing that would chew-up belts. Very reliable setup, albeit a space hog so I jettisoned it.

Peter
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Old 04-18-2022, 07:16 AM   #9
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I'd also say that if the steering ram is good quality and hasn't been routinely bathed in salt water, they can last a very long time. 36 years and the shaft on mine still looks perfect, seals are bone dry, etc. I keep debating whether to pull it and rebuild at some point, but so far, it's given me no reason to worry about it.
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Old 04-18-2022, 09:21 AM   #10
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I'd also say that if the steering ram is good quality and hasn't been routinely bathed in salt water, they can last a very long time. 36 years and the shaft on mine still looks perfect, seals are bone dry, etc. I keep debating whether to pull it and rebuild at some point, but so far, it's given me no reason to worry about it.
They're usually like that before they catastrophically fail.

An interesting side note: I thought none of my steering system had been worked on as the boat was about 13 years old with 1,000 engine hours. The rebuilder called me and told me the steer cylinder had been rebuilt with the wrong seals. Most likely by a hydraulic shop that just tried to match them.

Ted
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Old 04-18-2022, 03:10 PM   #11
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I find that when an actuator (ram) fails its typically a leaky seal, and rarely what I would consider catastrophic.



Originally Posted by rslifkin
I'd also say that if the steering ram is good quality and hasn't been routinely bathed in salt water, they can last a very long time. 36 years and the shaft on mine still looks perfect, seals are bone dry, etc. I keep debating whether to pull it and rebuild at some point, but so far, it's given me no reason to worry about it.

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They're usually like that before they catastrophically fail.
Ted
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Old 04-18-2022, 05:30 PM   #12
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I find that when an actuator (ram) fails its typically a leaky seal, and rarely what I would consider catastrophic.



Originally Posted by rslifkin
I'd also say that if the steering ram is good quality and hasn't been routinely bathed in salt water, they can last a very long time. 36 years and the shaft on mine still looks perfect, seals are bone dry, etc. I keep debating whether to pull it and rebuild at some point, but so far, it's given me no reason to worry about it.
To go a little further, most non power steering system have very small reservoirs. When the cylinder starts leaking, it doesn't take a long time to run the reservoir empty and then get air in the lines. That's when it becomes a catastrophic failure (no steering). Most people that don't consider PM of the steer cylinder, probably don't check the reservoir fluid level either.

Ted
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Old 04-18-2022, 08:06 PM   #13
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To go a little further, most non power steering system have very small reservoirs. When the cylinder starts leaking, it doesn't take a long time to run the reservoir empty and then get air in the lines. That's when it becomes a catastrophic failure (no steering). Most people that don't consider PM of the steer cylinder, probably don't check the reservoir fluid level either.

Ted
Good point on that. My system is Hynautic, so it's got a good 2 quarts in the reservoir. Plus it's mounted right behind the starboard engine next to the coolant bottle for it, so I get a visual on level and pressure at least daily. Many systems are smaller and harder to monitor, unfortunately.
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Old 04-18-2022, 08:15 PM   #14
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You don't say how old your system is. Age of the entire system should be considered in making your decision. For what it's worth my system is 1983 Hynautic. I started with fixing a significant leak in a fitting at the AP pump discovered while installing a new to me AP. I found most of the joints and fittings were wet or noticeably leaking. The ram seals were beginning to leak. The decision was made to pull both helm pumps, the AP pump and the ram for overhaul. Close examination showed the copper tubing had work hardened throughout and was corroded severely in some places. Rather than a bunch of patch work and annealing that was replaced too.

In hind sight the two things I should have done differently would be to replace the AP pump and add valves to isolate the AP pump.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Arthurc View Post
I am finally getting around to having my old seastar pumps replaced and eliminating the U50 valve. Since I suspect much of the work is in the flushing/bleeding of the system do you think itís worth replacing my AP pump and Ram while I am at it and keeping the old ones as spares? I donít know how old either is but also keenly aware newer isnít always better.

Any advice would be appreciated.

AC
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Old 04-18-2022, 08:15 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by rslifkin View Post
Good point on that. My system is Hynautic, so it's got a good 2 quarts in the reservoir. Plus it's mounted right behind the starboard engine next to the coolant bottle for it, so I get a visual on level and pressure at least daily. Many systems are smaller and harder to monitor, unfortunately.
Another reason to like flybridge boats is they are very easy to monitor hydraulic fluid level. When you go up for docking or anchoring and the rudder doesn't answer the helm, you know you need to add fluid.

Peter
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Old 04-19-2022, 08:36 AM   #16
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Good point on that. My system is Hynautic, so it's got a good 2 quarts in the reservoir. Plus it's mounted right behind the starboard engine next to the coolant bottle for it, so I get a visual on level and pressure at least daily. Many systems are smaller and harder to monitor, unfortunately.
To the 3rd window as recommended, is about a quart. I have the same system. A leaking cylinder can loose that in a day of cruising. My buddy's helm pump shaft seal lost it in less than 3 hours.

Ted
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Old 04-22-2022, 11:09 PM   #17
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I'd be interested in buying your uniflow valve if it's in good condition.
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Old 04-24-2022, 04:15 PM   #18
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It might be useful to describe how my autopilot died one time. I use a Raymarine system that drives a comnav pump. A few years ago the system would only turn the boat in one direction. I assumed that the power transistors were fried in one channel. But I checked all the electronic innards and could find no flaw. Also when I put 12vdc power to the pump directly it turned in both directions. So i concluded there could not be a problem with the motor right? Wrong!. For further testing, i disconnected the pump motor and in its place connected a water pump that used a dc motor. I could then see that the electronics would run the pump in both direction when properly signaled. So the electronics must be ok and the problem had to be in the pump motor, even though it ran in both direction when connected directly to the battery.

Upon dis-assembling the motor I found that one of the outer dc magnets was loose from the outer body. Somehow the electronics could detect a slight drag from the motor when driven in one direction but not the other. I epoxied that magnet back in place and presto, problem fixed. It only took me five weeks of effort to do this!
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Old 04-25-2022, 06:59 AM   #19
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Pumps aren't too expensive and you'll have the system open anyway for the helm pump replacement. Install of hydraulic tees and valves would be a half day labor (assuming decent access) so not ridiculously expensive.

Losing an AP pump is rare, but when it happens, definitely sucks. One of the few things outside of drive train failure that would really hobble a trip. Hand steering takes all the fun out of a trawler.

Good luck

Peter
I was bringing a Santana 39 (sail) back from Bermuda in 1999 in the remains of Hurricane Edna and it was petty sporty. 2 of the 4 of us went down with injury after getting tossed in the cabin. On day 2 the autopilot gave up. We hand steered 4 hours on, 4 hours off for 3 days. I have never been so tired in all my life.
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Old 04-25-2022, 08:54 AM   #20
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Would like having back up steering to be totally independent of system for daily use. On last boat had
Direct rod linkage to wheel
Separate arm to electrical AP
Separate rudder and controls via a Hydrvane. It got its input either from a tiller pilot if motoring or it’s wind vane if sailing.
Emergency tiller.
Current boat is hydraulic with two stations. AP is hydraulics as well. When cruising kitty allows it will get a second standby non hydraulic AP on a separate arm driven electrically. It may not be able to follow a string of waypoints but we never do that anyway but rather assess the situation and then change course. So simple electronics would serve.
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