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Old 23-05-2008, 13:32   #1
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Autohelm 5000 - Last Desparate Plea

Pulling out of the anchorage last week in MX and all of a sudden my auto pilot now wants to turn right and only right. Been working great up till now. Worked the afternoon before, first time the next morning-no work-well it works but only wants to turn to the right. Checked everything I know to check and more. No changes to equipment around the unit (or anywhere on the boat for that matter) that might be causing interference. Took linear drive unit apart and everything seems to be fine there mechanically. All connections seem to be good. Disconnected the remote unit to rule that out. Played with the Set/Duty/Steer controls till I'm blue. Adjusted gain. Took control unit apart. The belt is the only non-electrical/computer thing in there and it appears fine. So, am I looking at a bad circuit board or electronic compass or something I can't get fixed (the model is no longer supported)? Will I be forced to either hand steer or follow my autopilot to the right and only to the right???
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Old 23-05-2008, 13:55   #2
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Michael - are you sure that is a AH 5000? and not the 4000 Wheel Autopilot?

The 5000 is a below decks unit and (at least in MY case) uses an electronicly controled ram to turn the quadrant.

If it ONLY wants to turn right, it can be several things:

1) Could be the Fluxgate compass

2) Could be the control head

3) Could be the computer

or

4) Could be, depending on age of the unit, the newer models require - a rudder sensor.

Some easy checks to help narrow the choices.

1 - physically check and see that the rudder sensor (looks like a float switch on steroids and bi directional!! )is still attached.

2 - make sure all cabling from the remote items (rudder sensor, ram, fluxgate, control head(s) are making good contact with the computer terminal

3 - Make sure the OTHER end of all the remote items have cables attached and are intact - detach and attach (if connector, otherwise tighten screw downs).

4 - Engage the autopilot and
a) Note the heading displayed matches your mag compass heading
b) Punch in +10 to PORT a couple of times and note the response
c) locate the fluxgate and try a SMALL magnet about 6" away from it (on the PORT side) and see if the helm responds to PORT instead of Starboard). CAUTION: magnet should be WEAK and NO closer than 6"!!


Those should help you narrow your problem down. Please share with us!
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Old 23-05-2008, 19:50   #3
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Wow! Thanks for taking the time for such a detailed reply!

The manual says it is a 5000. It is a below decks unit.

Check 1: There is nothing that looks like a float switch on steriods, now or before the problem started. There is the control unit (a box with Steer, Rudder and Sea dial controls and OFF, SET, Duty and REMOTE buttons) which is at the nav station, the linear drive unit (the ram) that is connected to the rudder quadrant, and an auxiliary control unit (remote) at the helm, plus the cabling that ties all the above together.

Check 2 and 3: All cabling appears to be making good contact. I have disconnected and reconnected all cabling to ensure.

Check 4:
a: There is no display that shows the heading- just a steer dial with 7 hash marks around it.
b: I have turned the steer dial to numerous settings in both directions while the autopilot is in Duty mode. The steer dial just returns to its position and the helm doesn't change from being hardover to starboard.
c: I will try the magnet tomorrow and report.

Thanks again!



Quote:
Originally Posted by S/V Elusive View Post
Michael - are you sure that is a AH 5000? and not the 4000 Wheel Autopilot?

The 5000 is a below decks unit and (at least in MY case) uses an electronicly controled ram to turn the quadrant.

If it ONLY wants to turn right, it can be several things:

1) Could be the Fluxgate compass

2) Could be the control head

3) Could be the computer

or

4) Could be, depending on age of the unit, the newer models require - a rudder sensor.

Some easy checks to help narrow the choices.

1 - physically check and see that the rudder sensor (looks like a float switch on steroids and bi directional!! )is still attached.

2 - make sure all cabling from the remote items (rudder sensor, ram, fluxgate, control head(s) are making good contact with the computer terminal

3 - Make sure the OTHER end of all the remote items have cables attached and are intact - detach and attach (if connector, otherwise tighten screw downs).

4 - Engage the autopilot and
a) Note the heading displayed matches your mag compass heading
b) Punch in +10 to PORT a couple of times and note the response
c) locate the fluxgate and try a SMALL magnet about 6" away from it (on the PORT side) and see if the helm responds to PORT instead of Starboard). CAUTION: magnet should be WEAK and NO closer than 6"!!


Those should help you narrow your problem down. Please share with us!
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Old 23-05-2008, 20:17   #4
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Wow! Thanks for such a detailed reply!

The manual says it is a 5000. It is a below decks unit and uses an electronically controlled ram. The manual calls the ram a linear drive unit. I'm guessing it is vintage mid to late 80's-the same as the boat.

Check 1:
There is nothing that looks like a float switch on steroids, neither now nor before the problem started.

Check 2 & 3: All connections appear to be good. I disconnected everything and reconnected to ensure.

Check 4:
A: There is no heading display. The control unit at the helm has a Steer, Rudder and Sea dial controls and an Off, Set, Duty and Remote buttons.

The Steer dial has 7 hash marks around it. That is the closest thing that indicates a heading. The boat is currently facing 330 degrees. The steer dial, when the set button is pushed, sets itself to what would correspond to about 10 degrees on a compass.

B:
I have turned the Steer dial to various positions, in both directions, numerous times. When the control unit is put into Duty mode and the Steer dial is turned, the helm turns to starboard and remains. When the control unit is put in Set mode and Steer dial is turned, the Steer dial will return to itís original position.

C:
I will try the magnet tomorrow and report back.

Thanks again!

Quote:
Originally Posted by S/V Elusive View Post
Michael - are you sure that is a AH 5000? and not the 4000 Wheel Autopilot?

The 5000 is a below decks unit and (at least in MY case) uses an electronicly controled ram to turn the quadrant.

If it ONLY wants to turn right, it can be several things:

1) Could be the Fluxgate compass

2) Could be the control head

3) Could be the computer

or

4) Could be, depending on age of the unit, the newer models require - a rudder sensor.

Some easy checks to help narrow the choices.

1 - physically check and see that the rudder sensor (looks like a float switch on steroids and bi directional!! )is still attached.

2 - make sure all cabling from the remote items (rudder sensor, ram, fluxgate, control head(s) are making good contact with the computer terminal

3 - Make sure the OTHER end of all the remote items have cables attached and are intact - detach and attach (if connector, otherwise tighten screw downs).

4 - Engage the autopilot and
a) Note the heading displayed matches your mag compass heading
b) Punch in +10 to PORT a couple of times and note the response
c) locate the fluxgate and try a SMALL magnet about 6" away from it (on the PORT side) and see if the helm responds to PORT instead of Starboard). CAUTION: magnet should be WEAK and NO closer than 6"!!


Those should help you narrow your problem down. Please share with us!
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Old 23-05-2008, 23:34   #5
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It is quite possible the main control unit has failed and the current/voltage control devices for that direction are shorted to "on" all the time. It has been 20 foggy years ago since I worked on Autohelm products. But even if we could diagnose the fault,they are not component servicable. Plus Autohelm or I shopuld say, Raytheon no longer support that product, so I doubt you will find spares, unless you are very lucky. So I think you may have to look at a new pilot.
There is one remote chance of a possible user issue. I think that if you hold down two buttons, the unit reverses itself. That was for tiller steering set up. Is there any chance you pushed the two buttons and reversed unit? That would upset the thing by turning and the rudder control telling it the rudder is still to port so the pilot keeps applying starboard.
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Old 24-05-2008, 09:27   #6
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Michael - As Wheels pointed out, you have the ANCIENT version! I had that also. The newer control heads show your selected heading. And, the older ones do NOT have a rudder position indicator. The DIAL adjustment - I'm presuming that is a separate small box with a switch in the middle ... if so, that is the "sea state" adjustment.

Wheels is also correct in that RayMarine (use to be Raytheon) does NOT support those older models. In fact, if you call them and manage to actually speak to one of their reps, they will tell you that you can send in the whole system, they will look at it, and let you know if it is possible to fix it. If they cannot fix it (most likely) they will send it all back (you are out the postage one-way). They do, however, have rebuilt NEW units, that they will sell you at a substantial discount. Unfortunately, you will need MOST new items, not just the one(s) that failed. The exception is the ram - it works with the newer stuff (they won't tell you that or admit it).

I don't recall the exact symptoms on the autopilot failure - but the results sound similar to what you describe. My problem turned out to be the fluxgate compass. If you disconnect the compass, and try it and get the same symptoms, tadaaaaa. I've sold the two control heads that I had, but still have the 'computer'. If you find that it is the computer, you can contact me in PM and we'll see what we can work out. But, frankly, I think your best bet is to ship it all off to RayMarine, let them ID the problem and then make your choices then (and, I would suggest buying their rebuilt system).
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Old 24-05-2008, 14:05   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alan Wheeler View Post
Is there any chance you pushed the two buttons and reversed unit? That would upset the thing by turning and the rudder control telling it the rudder is still to port so the pilot keeps applying starboard.
I don't believe I pressed two buttons simultaneously. But the control unit does have a phase switch inside for reversing the unit. I tried that too but no difference.
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Old 24-05-2008, 14:27   #8
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Hmmm, that does basicly the same thing. I think it is a new unit to be honest. I know you probably don't want top spend that kind of money,(ho does) but you need to weigh it up against how mission critical it is. And if you get this part going, how far down the track before another fault occurs and you go back through it all again. Those old things were never reliable even way back when they were new.
I used to have a fault flow chart that gave symptoms and possible causes. I won't have it now, but I am surprised Ratheon doesn't have it in the back of their manuals. Itook a look around their site and could find nothing.
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Old 24-05-2008, 14:51   #9
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Michael,

I had the same unit as you have, but with a chain drive instead of a ram drive.

For 13 years I put up with it. It tried to kill me on numerous occasions, one most notably by turning 90-degrees directly in front of a 300-foot USCG vessel exiting Port Everglades.

It went back to Autohelm two times. They pronounced it just fine. I bought and replaced two circuit boards in the motor unit. It would work for awhile, then do it's nasty stuff all over again.

It was completely unpredictable. It seemed to work better in cold weather, but even then it would occasionally go bonkers.

I was about to toss it over the side. I tore down the motor unit one last time. Only then did I notice the problem. It's a basic design and engineering problem which is easily corrected, though Autohelm "engineers" should really be shot.

There's a polished stainless steel shaft about the diameter of your little finger, onto which is mounted a nylon gear. This gear contacts a much smaller nylon gear which attaches to what looks like a small motor. It's not. It's a small generator which creates voltages to simulate rudder feedback.

Problem is, the larger nylon gear is friction-fit onto the s/s shaft. When it gets hot, or when there's a tiny bit of oil there, it slips. The shaft turns, but the gear slips, so it doesn't turn the little nylon gear which turns the little generator which provides feedback on the rudder position.

The fix is simple: the larger nylon gear has a hub. Just drill through the hub and put a dimple in the s/s shaft, and fit a set screw. End of problem.

Hope this helps.

Bill
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Old 24-05-2008, 17:49   #10
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Originally Posted by S/V Elusive View Post
c) locate the fluxgate and try a SMALL magnet about 6" away from it (on the PORT side) and see if the helm responds to PORT instead of Starboard). CAUTION: magnet should be WEAK and NO closer than 6"!!


Those should help you narrow your problem down. Please share with us!
Tried the magnet today in various positions and distances and no difference. Good to know I may have a chance with Raytheon. I emailed them Friday so we'll see!
Thanks again!
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Old 24-05-2008, 18:22   #11
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[quote=btrayfors;165786]Michael,

I had the same unit as you have, but with a chain drive instead of a ram drive./quote]

Hmmm. Did you have the same sympton where the unit wanted to turn one direction, always?

Would the ram unit have that same design as the chain drive?
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Old 24-05-2008, 19:05   #12
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Hi, Michael..

Yes, whenever the symptoms began the autopilot always wanted to turn left it seemed.

You're right, though, about the RAM drive vs. the chain motor drive. I don't know if they're the same design re: rudder feedback. In my old unit, the rudder feedback mechanism was inside the cube-shaped motor drive unit. There was no separate sensor. And, the compass was located inside the main control box...there was no other.

Your RAM drive may be different.

Whatever the configuration, however, I'd bet that your problem is a fault in the rudder feedback mechanism.

Bill
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Old 25-06-2008, 09:48   #13
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AH 5000

I took one of these units off my boat 6 years ago and have intended to sell it on eBay ever since but haven't. Sounds like there me some demand for it. Everything is in good shape except for the control head which is weathered. Before I bought the boat, it sat in it's cradle for 5 years, so the autopilot hasn't been run for 11 years.
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Old 26-06-2008, 05:57   #14
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My older Navico system did the same thing and I finally ended up replacing the fluxgate compass to solve the problem.
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Old 02-09-2008, 10:36   #15
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My Autohelm 5000 my unit only turns to Starboard

After leaving on a 3 day cruise, our Autohelm 5000 suddenly only went to starboard. It works fine if it only needs to correct to the starboard direction, but refuses to respond to the port. The feedback sensor on the rudder quadrant appears to give the correct signals to the display, and the display compass heading is correct. The ram and hydraulic pump work properly, but only in the starboard direction. I have the navtalk unit, and all the connections look good. Any new advice on how to fix this problem?? I sure hope not to replace the system, but if I do, is there something out there where I can salvage the hardware that I have that seems to be working OK?
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