Auto Pilot

The friendliest place on the web for anyone who enjoys boating.
If you have answers, please help by responding to the unanswered posts.


Sep 5, 2020
Vessel Name
Vessel Make
1973 CHB
I have an older 34ft. 1973 CHB sedan and I need to replace the Auto Pilot and start from scratch I think. Don't know where to start
any Help, ideas, pease
That is a broad question without any background. Would be helpful to know what it has now, why do you need to replace it. What other electronics do you have or plan to install? What level of functionality and integration do you want. How tight is your budget (example: Would you rather save $200 or get a mote fully featued unit?)

Most any of the common brands of autopilot should be OK but knowing answers to the above questions could help inform your selection.

You might not need to start from scratch. For example if your pump is good I would not replace it. They are very reliable and expensive. If working you could also buy a spare of the same model as backup if having an autopilot failure and waiting a few days to get a new pump would be a huge issue.
My brother (also a TFer) and I had chain and cable drive steering systems on our two Grand Banks 42-footer (you likely have hydraulic) with old analog point-and-go APs. No interface to anything, just course holders. At some point we added chartplotters (in my case to replace the LORAN the boat came with when I bought it back in the 1980s). Then we wanted to update the APs. My brother led the way by getting a SITEX AP which he had connected to the big 12-Volt drive motor which drove the chain and cable system and then interfaced to the chartplotter via NMEA 183 interface. This was before widespread NMEA 2000. I followed suit on my boat. Our big 12-Volt drive motors are analogous the hydraulic pump on hydraulic steering systems- they are just big, dumb motors or pumps with a simple connection to the AP's "brain." A bit of study of our Garmin 4208 plotter manuals showed the two or three NMEA output wires to connect to the AP brain, and we were off to the races.
Mine is Cetec Bennmar. Its an old mechanical chain driven system Not hydraulic. All my steering is chain driven. Stand alone system.
I am sure that company is out of business but if I could find the right person who knows how to fix it.
It is all there and used to work. I have not seen any other chain driven ones that why I was asking. I have
Newer Garmin chart plotter that could be used in conjunction with an Auto pilot but looking on their
web side I saw nothing mechanical?
That's what mine was, Benmar Cetek. The drive motor was indestructible, and if yours is working, not a problem to connect to the output of the AP's brain.
My drive motor is working . The problem is in the "Brain" it won't disconnect and Gyro compass sends it in circles. So how do I connect to a new Brain? What brain Where its beyond my scope of current knowledge
I bought my new AP through a local marine electronics dealer who agreed to come to my boat to survey the mounting locations for the various components to be installed by me. He also was on the hook to come a troubleshoot if his connection directions did not result in a properly working AP. It does not take a technician to install an AP, just some knowledgeable coaching. The Benmar Cetek I had used a 12-volt light shining through a slot to a pair of light sensors. If that light burned out, the helm went over hard in one direction, and we circled until I shut down power to the AP.
You really need to consider what is the safest move, after you have asked what are my goals with an autopilot? Taking that into consideration along with what you already have and the age of that equipment.

I'd be glad to help but need to know a lot more before I start.

PM me.
BTW, you are always better with the same manufacturer rather than a number oif disparate parts.

That type of a setup makes you a less than desirable subject for a support persons ideal subject.
The common recommendation here on TF to stay with all one manufacturer is generally sound. Especially when dealing with more modern equipment. Especially with NMEA2000.

If you opt for going with older NMEA0183 your options to mix manufacturers widens. NMEA0183 is not as proprietary as NMEA2000. You should be able to find an autopilot that will work with your Garmin and your existing drive motor.

Because you are inexperienced try to find an old skool marine tech who can help you with selection of the equipment and hook up. I have been able to find techs that will let me mount the hardware and pull in the wires the spec. Then they do the hook up and final setup.
I replaced my Wagner auto pilot with a Raymarine auto pilot. The reason I chose Raymarine is that is what my chartploter {MFD} was. I had and hydraulic steering system and my auto pilot hooked up with that. I don't think there should be any complication to hook an auto pilot up to your present drive unit. My advice is to get a technician or be prepared to do a deep dive into your boats electronics. What type of electronics do you have now?
My drive motor is working . The problem is in the "Brain" it won't disconnect and Gyro compass sends it in circles. So how do I connect to a new Brain? What brain Where its beyond my scope of current knowledge
Have you checked the lightbulb in the compass? Common failure point with these.
This sounds like an old anolog unit. They have relays in the “brain”. One turns the boat to port the other to starboard. The points in the relays are known to corrode over time. If the points stick the boat will go in circles. Easy for an old school electronics type person to test and repair. Doesn’t have to be a marine electronics person.
Top Bottom