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Old 10-03-2016, 12:14   #1
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Brunton Autoprop -- Brinelled Bearings

When I dried out in September, it was obvious that the bearings in my Autoprop were shot, which was a real p*sser considering I had just had the prop rebuilt at the factory (at considerable expense) two years previously. Definitely not a normal service life for them.

Today I took it apart, and here's what I found:

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Heavily brinelled thrust bearing races on two of the three blades.

The bearing kit is horrendously expensive at 325 pounds (almost $500), so I kicked up a fuss with Brunton's. They asked me to take the prop off and send it in, but that's not realistic since I need to get back in the water, and crating it up and shipping it two ways is a royal PITA. I wanted them to send new bearings, but they refused, requiring me to buy them first, send in the old ones, and if a defect is seen, they will refund the cost. I guess I see their point of view as they have not seen my prop, so that's what I've done.

I'll put it back together tomorrow and send the old bearings in, and I'll let you know how it turns out.


It seems to me that this design might be prone to this problem, as the bearings are not turning except when the pitch is being changed. Still, I got a couple thousand hours out of the last set without this problem, so two years seems far too little.


P.S. the prop was a snap to take apart -- took me less than an hour using the special tools. It was a pleasant job, reminding me of stripping Lewmar winches.
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Old 10-03-2016, 12:42   #2
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Re: Brunton Autoprop -- Brinelled Bearings

I haven't disassembled one, but do you think the blades could have been loose?
How did you learn to disassemble? cost of tooling?
You found this how, by rough feeling rotation or loose feeling blades?
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Old 10-03-2016, 13:00   #3
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Re: Brunton Autoprop -- Brinelled Bearings

This makes me appreciate my maintenance free Flexofold
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Old 10-03-2016, 13:07   #4
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Re: Brunton Autoprop -- Brinelled Bearings

This has been a problem with Autoprops for as long as I remember. Saw the first one in 2004 in Trinidad and they were replacing the bearings.
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Old 10-03-2016, 13:34   #5
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Re: Brunton Autoprop -- Brinelled Bearings

Quote:
Originally Posted by hoppy View Post
This makes me appreciate my maintenance free Flexofold
I threw a blade on a Flexofold one time.

Thank God it was a catamaran, so there was a backup in the other hull.
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Old 10-03-2016, 13:39   #6
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Re: Brunton Autoprop -- Brinelled Bearings

Quote:
Originally Posted by a64pilot View Post
I haven't disassembled one, but do you think the blades could have been loose?
How did you learn to disassemble? cost of tooling?
You found this how, by rough feeling rotation or loose feeling blades?
Yes, I always, every time I lift or dry out, check the blades for smoothness, looseness, etc. I also grease them.

You could obviously feel the brinelling by how the blade rotated.

Disassembly is very, very easy -- almost like taking a winch apart. The instructions are on the Brunton website. Basically -- unscrew the caps with the special tool, then unscrew (reverse thread) the tab screw, with another special tool, then unscrew the main bolt, with yet another special tool, and the blade comes off in your hand. After having done it once, I now reckon I could change all the bearings in under an hour. The parts are very beautiful -- heavy bronze and precision steel.

Tools cost about $150.
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Old 10-03-2016, 13:48   #7
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Re: Brunton Autoprop -- Brinelled Bearings

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Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
I threw a blade on a Flexofold one time.

Thank God it was a catamaran, so there was a backup in the other hull.
I through the whole prop last year. Luckily it was at anchor and I had my scuba gear and recovered it, but I did fit my fixed on to get back to a marina
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Old 11-03-2016, 07:26   #8
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Re: Brunton Autoprop -- Brinelled Bearings

we have had ours on for 13 years with an occasional cleaning and lube when we haul which is every 2-3 years -- we just hauled and had it rebuilt by the guys here in Kusadasi - we will see how it works this summer
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Old 11-03-2016, 07:54   #9
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Re: Brunton Autoprop -- Brinelled Bearings

I've been keeping an eye open for a fixed blade prop to keep on board as a spare.
Thought mine was a Brunton when first got the boat but it's actually an old Prowell feathering and I don't trust it too much. Some wear on non-replaceable bearing surfaces.

You can bet Brunton don't make their own bearings and bearings are usually type etched. Swan Bearings near me haven't let me down in thirty-odd years.

If Brunton weren't 2ats enough to remove the identification marks maybe you could find the exact same bearings to keep as spares for next time - without the tenfold marine surcharge?
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Old 11-03-2016, 08:00   #10
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Re: Brunton Autoprop -- Brinelled Bearings

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dockhead View Post
Yes, I always, every time I lift or dry out, check the blades for smoothness, looseness, etc. I also grease them.

You could obviously feel the brinelling by how the blade rotated.

Disassembly is very, very easy -- almost like taking a winch apart. The instructions are on the Brunton website. Basically -- unscrew the caps with the special tool, then unscrew (reverse thread) the tab screw, with another special tool, then unscrew the main bolt, with yet another special tool, and the blade comes off in your hand. After having done it once, I now reckon I could change all the bearings in under an hour. The parts are very beautiful -- heavy bronze and precision steel.

Tools cost about $150.

I think I may procure the tools and bearings and I assume seals and have as spares for when we go cruising, the Autoprop puller would be dead easy to pull a prop while in the water too.
So if I understand then , you can "rebuild" yourself, assuming no blade build-up / reshaping / balancing required? I assume only parts changed in a normal rebuild would be bearings, races and seals? Any shimming, how is bearing preload applied? I'll look on the website too.

Only negative thing I have heard about autoprops is bearings and the old ones, slinging a blade, now slinging a blade is of course a catastrophic failure, but I believe is no longer an issue? I think the old Autoprops weren't greased bearings?
Mine is the only one I have experience with, they are not common here.
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Old 11-03-2016, 08:30   #11
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Re: Brunton Autoprop -- Brinelled Bearings

Keep us posted on what you find. i have them on my 2015 Fountain Pajot Helia 44. She's in the charter fleet @ cruise abaco and they were initially hesitant to leave them on the boat. So far though we have had no issues; knock on wood!
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Old 11-03-2016, 09:23   #12
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Re: Brunton Autoprop -- Brinelled Bearings

Quote:
Originally Posted by a64pilot View Post
I think I may procure the tools and bearings and I assume seals and have as spares for when we go cruising, the Autoprop puller would be dead easy to pull a prop while in the water too.
So if I understand then , you can "rebuild" yourself, assuming no blade build-up / reshaping / balancing required? I assume only parts changed in a normal rebuild would be bearings, races and seals? Any shimming, how is bearing preload applied? I'll look on the website too.

Only negative thing I have heard about autoprops is bearings and the old ones, slinging a blade, now slinging a blade is of course a catastrophic failure, but I believe is no longer an issue? I think the old Autoprops weren't greased bearings?
Mine is the only one I have experience with, they are not common here.
The old ones did indeed have ungreased open bearings. We had ours ( inherited with the boat) for some 20,000 miles and replaced the bearings just once, mostly because I had bought a set of spares just in case and thought it 'time' not for any specific breakdown or fault cause

I did adjust the bearings as per manual, every other lift out, simple and quick.

I loved my Autoprop, just wish I could afford to buy one now for our current boat in the USA.
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Old 11-03-2016, 09:37   #13
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Re: Brunton Autoprop -- Brinelled Bearings

Quote:
Originally Posted by a64pilot View Post
I think I may procure the tools and bearings and I assume seals and have as spares for when we go cruising, the Autoprop puller would be dead easy to pull a prop while in the water too.
So if I understand then , you can "rebuild" yourself, assuming no blade build-up / reshaping / balancing required? I assume only parts changed in a normal rebuild would be bearings, races and seals? Any shimming, how is bearing preload applied? I'll look on the website too.

Only negative thing I have heard about autoprops is bearings and the old ones, slinging a blade, now slinging a blade is of course a catastrophic failure, but I believe is no longer an issue? I think the old Autoprops weren't greased bearings?
Mine is the only one I have experience with, they are not common here.

Yes. The old ones were water lubricated. My first one was like that. Some of those had faulty lock tabs and threw blades. AFAIK that was dealt with ages ago.

The new ones (since at least 2000) are sealed and greased. You grease them every time you haul with a grease gun.

The wear parts are one thrust bearing with two races, and one taper roller bearing, with one race, per blade, plus one seal between blade and hub, and one seal for the bearing cap. No shims. Preload is applied by torquing the bearing retainer nut, which is put on with loctite and stopped by a reverse thread tab nut.

Comes apart very easily, like a winch, except I am having a devil of a time getting the thrust bearing races out of two of the blades. They are suppose to be loose in the journal, but mine are stuck in with grease and you can't get a tool in to pry them out. I'm thinking about supergluing a tang on it.

Probably not much reason to send to the factory for bearing replacement; it's quite straightforward. The job is easier than pulling the prop and crating it up.

Or at least crating it up and hauling it to UPS. Pulling the prop is very simple and could be done in the water if you have a good way of locking your shaft.
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Old 11-03-2016, 13:34   #14
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Re: Brunton Autoprop -- Brinelled Bearings

Very interesting post as l have a Bruntons H5 Autoprop and when l hauled out last season , when greasing the bearings l noticed a drop of water appear before the grease pumped through . My blades rotated smoothly but obviously my seals are no longer watertight .

Are the bearings corrosion resistant ?
Secondly are the special tools freely available or only available from Bruntons ?
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Old 11-03-2016, 14:15   #15
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Re: Brunton Autoprop -- Brinelled Bearings

Quote:
Originally Posted by unclemack View Post
I've been keeping an eye open for a fixed blade prop to keep on board as a spare.
Thought mine was a Brunton when first got the boat but it's actually an old Prowell feathering and I don't trust it too much. Some wear on non-replaceable bearing surfaces.

You can bet Brunton don't make their own bearings and bearings are usually type etched. Swan Bearings near me haven't let me down in thirty-odd years.

If Brunton weren't 2ats enough to remove the identification marks maybe you could find the exact same bearings to keep as spares for next time - without the tenfold marine surcharge?
Well, the surcharge isn't 10x.

The thrust bearings are commonly available SKF 51110. They cost 20 pounds each (about $30).

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That's 60 pounds for 3. If the other bearings cost the same, then 120 pounds just bearings.
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