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Old 06-04-2016, 04:49 PM   #21
CaptTom's Avatar
City: Southern Maine
Vessel Model: Prairie 36 Coastal Cruiser
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 2,475
Try bleeding the upper pump. Start with the pressure at or above the max (40-50 lbs.) Depending on the orientation of the pump, you either back off the compression fittings a little, or just open the bleed fittings, until no air, only fluid, comes out. Turn the wheel back and forth repeatedly (dozens of times) until it starts to take. Repeat until the wheel turns the rudders every time.

Be sure to first check for fluid leaks anywhere from the pump. If it's leaking, take it in for a rebuild.
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Old 06-05-2016, 04:55 PM   #22
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City: Cape Cod
Vessel Name: Slip Aweigh
Vessel Model: Prairie 29
Join Date: Oct 2013
Posts: 1,219
@ Tom: With the system being pressurized, you mean I still have to spin the helm dozens of times each way? While purging, I got NO air out of port or stbd lines, just fluid.

Don't understand. After looking at this today in depth I can't figure it out.

Upon initial inspection the system had 18lbs pressure (so no leaks).

The upper helm just spins freely.

The lower helm and auto pilot performed flawlessly for the 4 hours use from launch to home mooring.

Today I took a bike pump to boat, pressurized system to 45 lbs, and bled from upper helm. Only fluid came out. No air.

Is it possible that the helm itself is worn out?

Here is a set of pics with pretty good explanations I found on the net about changing seals.
H 50 helm rebuild.

I ordered a set of seals to change myself. Will have to tackle this upon return from the briny blue in two weeks. But this would appear to not be leaking seals but a mechanical issue of the balls and pistons inside the helm itself.

Has anyone else had similar issues? One more thing I will check tomorrow is if the wheel is spinning the helm shaft. It almost felt as if the wheel was free wheeling. It doesn't look like the key could be spit out....... But it is a boat. Stranger things have happened!
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Old 06-05-2016, 05:22 PM   #23
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City: Southern Maine
Vessel Model: Prairie 36 Coastal Cruiser
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 2,475
I'm no expert. All I have is my own recent experience. After I bled my upper helm and thought no more air came out, I spun it back and forth like 1000 times. The folks in the yard all thought I'd lost my mind. After a while I gave up and decided it was totally broken and went looking for a mechanic. Finding none, I went back to flopping the wheel back and forth. And suddenly...success!

It happened again, a couple of times, after running the (new) autopilot for a few hours. I bled one more time, and (knock wood) so far, so good.

All I can say is try persistence. Failing that, I found (as explained in the rest of this thread) that it can be incredibly cost-effective to have a good local shop rebuild it. Or give it a shot yourself. It would be a good skill to learn.
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Old 06-05-2016, 05:41 PM   #24
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City: Clear Lake Shores,Tx
Vessel Name: In Disguise
Vessel Model: 1985 Mainship 40 DC
Join Date: Aug 2014
Posts: 483
Per the manual for my hydraulic steering. Bleed the air as you have done....spin the helm 40 turns to starboard, bleed. Turn 40 turns to port, bleed. Keep repeating until positive response to the rudders. Wait 24 hrs, then repeat the many times as necessary. The upper helm should always be bled before the lower helm. Sounds to me like you have an air lock between upper and lower......that's why the 40 turns in each direction. After every bleed, check the level in the reservoir, fill as necessary. Mine only requires 30 psi pressure, but that can vary with manufacturers. Good luck! And yes, it's worse than bleeding brakes!
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Old 06-05-2016, 05:46 PM   #25
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City: UMR MM283
Vessel Name: Northern Lights II
Vessel Model: Bayliner 3870
Join Date: Jan 2013
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I've rebuilt both of my H-50 helm pumps, it isn't a difficult job. If you haven't developed a leak or lost the system charge pressure I would suspect a fault with the helm pump itself. Make sure you go thru the bleeding process when putting it back into service.

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Old 06-05-2016, 07:17 PM   #26
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City: Southern Maine
Vessel Model: Prairie 36 Coastal Cruiser
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Yeah, or you could follow the process in the manual. Why didn't I think of that? Duh.

Thanks for the reality check, wyoboater!
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