Choosing an Autopilot???

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May 9, 2008
There are so many choices and I have to confess, I've never even seen a system.

It was suggested to me by one who seems to know, that since I have hydraulic steering that is pump driven, adding an autopilot to my boat would be simpler and perhaps cheaper than on some.*

That guy is away right now and I'm trying to put his comments into focus.

My questions are -

1.*What are the*components that make up an autopilot system?
2.Can I buy them seperately?
3. Is it possible to buy good 2nd hand stuff?
4. where should I shop, new, or shop used?
5. Can you point me to any resource that diagrams a sysyem - I'm a picture learner.
6. What should I be wary of?

Many of us are also are on chat board that you should also post to.* There have been several discussion about auto pilots on the PMM site.


Don - I am not sure if you are permanent in Asia or if you are coming back with the boat to N/A as that might have some bearing on what autopilot you choose. There are several big guns in this business besides the manufacturers such as RayNav etc. Two of the most common autopilot firms in the North West are both in Vancouver BC. They are AutoNav and Comnav. Both firms have an excellent reputation and have world wide reps.


If you go to the Comnav site and pull up the autopilot section you can work through what / how / why of a system. The dotted lines show what else besides the basic system can be added.

I believe that either companies systems can be slaved into a hydraulic power steering system by using a set of solenoid valves in place of the reffered to "pumpset" as all it does is provide pressurized hydraulic fluid to the steering ram that in your case already gets it from your power steering pump.

I have a ComNav 1001 system that is very common on commercial craft in this area and has worked great for many years.

Let me know if you want any further info on either of these system as I know the people at both firms.

John Tones "Penta"
Sidney, BC
With any AP that does not have the wheel attached to the pump the AP is as easy as pie.

The system gets 2 T's on either side of the wheel and a set of solenoids feed fluid left or right as commanded by the controll unit.

There is usually a brain that figures out the steering and a second module that sends big juice to a DC hyd pump.

With the solenoids only needing an amp or two , many times the expensive switching gear is not required.

Will look for the supplier of the Vickers solenoids , as we use on the LUCY.

Works great in 10,000 miles we never popped a single 2A fast blow fuse.

COmnav is good as any , just be sure the brain can feed 2A DC.

As you are in SE Asia you can shop locally.
2 good Australian/NZ auto pilots are the TMQ and Navman
TMQ AP4 is a very popular unit in Aus for both pleasure and commercial boats. The AP5 is a more modern (digital) unit .
Pilot head (dash unit) plus octapus p/p with block valves and easily fitted.
I fitted an AP4 12 years ago when i built Tidahapah and never had a problem with it.
fantastic response and steers my boat like it's on a wire even in big following seas.
We have a TMQ AP4 as well, it is brilliant. Simple to use, it is probably more complicated but since I only use a few of*its features, I find it quite easy. This one has also got a cable remote, so when we are cruising we can sit out on the fore deck and steer from there. Cool.
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