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Old 08-11-2018, 13:10   #1
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Autohelm 6000 with 3000 wheel drive?

Hi all!


First time poster, so I hope I'm not making any big etiquette errors in this post. =)


Our sailboat came with a Autohelm ST4000 autopilot that never worked, turns out the electronics in it was totally fried, have been sailing this season without autopilot but been thinking about how to get a functioning system. Last week, by pure luck, I was given a ST6000 autopilot, control unit and flux gate compass for free by a guy that thought it might work with our existing wheel unit (which I thought was a ST4000 unit).



On closer inspection it turns out that the wheel unit mounted is a ST3000 belt unit. Can I connect this to the ST6000 computer or will I break something (either the wheel drive or the autopilot computer)? I have tried searching the net but find no good answer.
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Old 08-11-2018, 14:01   #2
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Re: Autohelm 6000 with 3000 wheel drive?

Well welcome to the forum.
I believe not 100% positive, but pretty sure that it would work. The wheel drive is pretty much just an electric motor at the end of the day so I don't see how they could harm each other if you do decide to try it. But I'm not exactly the electronics guru (or guru of anything really)
Not exactly the clear concise answer you were probably hoping for but someone here should be able to answer far more fully than myself.
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Old 09-11-2018, 01:40   #3
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Re: Autohelm 6000 with 3000 wheel drive?

Thanks for the welcome and the answer!
I will try to connect the computer and the wheel drive, I guess the worst that could happen is that I would burn the engine and in that case I would have to get a wheel drive that is supposed to be connected to the ST6000. The boat is on the hard now, but should be able to at least test the setup in the coming month, proper sea trials will have to wait until May.
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Old 09-11-2018, 02:19   #4
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Re: Autohelm 6000 with 3000 wheel drive?

Greetings. I have used 4,000 control heads to drive my 3,000 wheel pilot so would think a 6,000 unit should work. The drive unit it self just accept signal to turn clock or anti clockwise.
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Old 09-11-2018, 10:00   #5
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Re: Autohelm 6000 with 3000 wheel drive?

Can we assume that you have a cable system for steerage? And if you had a belt system before, the likelihood this working again is good. Weatherhelm would be my only consideration, but my boat came from Hawaii on a 3000 system, before it burnt out. Then I went to an octopus pump to the rudder head, which was much stronger and more reliable.
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Old 09-11-2018, 10:17   #6
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Re: Autohelm 6000 with 3000 wheel drive?

Should be fine since the load on the 6000 will be far less than it was designed for. If you ever want to use the course computer for the drive it was designed for you want to put a dummy load across the clutch connection. Any 12 volt relay would do the job.

I used to hoard those course computers to keep my old autopilot working. They are worth a lot to someone that has an old autopilot and wants to keep it going instead of paying the very high price to replace it.
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Old 12-11-2018, 02:30   #7
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Re: Autohelm 6000 with 3000 wheel drive?

Thanks for all input!

Yes, its a cable system for the steerage and the autohelm 3000 motor is installed in the steering pedestal, I'll try to post a photo of it later. My idea is to keep using the motor and belt that is already installed and replace the course computer from 4000 to 6000. Do I need to put a dummy load on the clutch in that case?

I've heard the idea about replacing the wheel drive with a hydraulic dive connected to the steering quadrant before (I know others who have the same type of boat - Najad 34 - who has done it with good result). It seems to be a good and reliable solution, the problem for me is the price. I got the computer for free and already have the installed wheel drive, a hydraulic drive would cost me a lot.
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Old 12-11-2018, 02:41   #8
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Re: Autohelm 6000 with 3000 wheel drive?

You say the 3000 motor in IN the pedestal? How is it disengaged?
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Old 12-11-2018, 02:53   #9
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Re: Autohelm 6000 with 3000 wheel drive?

Yes, in the pedestal. Its a bit of a home-brew system by one of the former owner, using levers. A bit hard to explain, I'll snap a photo of it today if I can and will post it here.
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Old 12-11-2018, 13:38   #10
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Re: Autohelm 6000 with 3000 wheel drive?

Hope I done this right, the attached picture shows how the wheel drive is mounted inside the pedestal. Engaging the drive is a two step process, first you use the top lever to move the whole black panel down, and then engage the (broken) lever on the panel to further tighten the belt.
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Old 12-11-2018, 23:00   #11
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Re: Autohelm 6000 with 3000 wheel drive?

This looks like a very old style Autohelm drive unit which was designed to mount on the side of the cockpit and could be removed by taking out a pin and disconnecting a plug for the electrics. It looks like it may have been mounted in the plate and installed into the back of the pedestal to get it out of the way of the access to the rear of the cockpit.

These were common before they made the arrangement into a single wheel mounted unit.

The motors and gear boxes in these older units were often far more durably made than their modern counterparts. I found that the Raytheon head with the computer inside the head were very durable units and I have one which has been in use, and much abused, for about twenty years.

The plastic wheel units you get with the modern arrangement are rubbish and I threw two of them away and manufactured two of my own design. The first one used the Raymarine motor driving two sets of the gears from cheap Chinese battery screw drivers and the second one the 24V 300W geared motor from an electric bike.

The original Autohelm head had bipolar transistor output stages which were "delicate" and tended to burn out if powered without being connected to a motor. The Raytheon heads had MOSFET output stages which were far more robust but could still burn out if disconnected under high load such as a motor failure under load.

I'd be inclined to continue to use the old unit but if you get the opportunity to acquire a hydraulic drive unit at a good price, go for it. The operating voltage, output current capability and drive unit current requirements are the critical factors to match.
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Old 14-11-2018, 10:01   #12
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Re: Autohelm 6000 with 3000 wheel drive?

Thank you all for all informative answers!

I've checked the manuals for the 3000 and the 6000. I can't find any current ratings for the Autohelm 3000 belt drive unit, but it seems like the whole system (drive unit and computer) have a maximum draw of 2.5 Amp. The Type 1 rotary drive unit for the autohelm 6000 has a power consumption of maximum 3 amps (the type 2 has 7 amps), so it seems like the 6000 course computer can provide a higher amperage to the 3000 drive unit than it was designed for. I'm not sure how much of a problem this will be?
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Old 14-11-2018, 10:41   #13
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Re: Autohelm 6000 with 3000 wheel drive?

Quote:
Originally Posted by najgel View Post
Thank you all for all informative answers!

I've checked the manuals for the 3000 and the 6000. I can't find any current ratings for the Autohelm 3000 belt drive unit, but it seems like the whole system (drive unit and computer) have a maximum draw of 2.5 Amp. The Type 1 rotary drive unit for the autohelm 6000 has a power consumption of maximum 3 amps (the type 2 has 7 amps), so it seems like the 6000 course computer can provide a higher amperage to the 3000 drive unit than it was designed for. I'm not sure how much of a problem this will be?
That is not a problem. An open circuit can be a problem as transistor circuits need some load on their output. An open circuit can cause the voltage to rise to a point where the transistors breakdown. That is why I made an earlier comment about putting a dummy load on the clutch circuit to protect it.

That Autohelm 3000 drive is fine for casual sailing. I would not trust it for any long distance cruising. I have a lot of experience with passages using autopilots, now over 130,000 nm. I always carried a lot of spare parts and needed them often. I now have two autopilots that are switchable to the same type 2 drive and the drive can be replaced quickly if necessary. I have had to replace drives and course computers while under way. And even a compass sensor but had to hand steer for over a thousand miles before being able to fix that one.
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Old 14-11-2018, 12:51   #14
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Re: Autohelm 6000 with 3000 wheel drive?

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Originally Posted by stormalong View Post
That is not a problem. An open circuit can be a problem as transistor circuits need some load on their output. An open circuit can cause the voltage to rise to a point where the transistors breakdown. That is why I made an earlier comment about putting a dummy load on the clutch circuit to protect it.

That Autohelm 3000 drive is fine for casual sailing. I would not trust it for any long distance cruising. I have a lot of experience with passages using autopilots, now over 130,000 nm. I always carried a lot of spare parts and needed them often. I now have two autopilots that are switchable to the same type 2 drive and the drive can be replaced quickly if necessary. I have had to replace drives and course computers while under way. And even a compass sensor but had to hand steer for over a thousand miles before being able to fix that one.
Thanks! Valuable information for me! I'll make sure to get a dummy load on the clutch. I'm not planning any long distance cruising (yet.. =) ) If I would than I would invest in windvane steering. I think I got enough information to dare to try to install the autopilot. I'll keep you posted on my progress!
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Old 14-11-2018, 18:08   #15
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Re: Autohelm 6000 with 3000 wheel drive?

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Originally Posted by najgel View Post
Thanks! Valuable information for me! I'll make sure to get a dummy load on the clutch. I'm not planning any long distance cruising (yet.. =) ) If I would than I would invest in windvane steering. I think I got enough information to dare to try to install the autopilot. I'll keep you posted on my progress!

Even if you install a windvane there will be times when you will have to motor. The windvane will do you no good for motoring unless you fit a tiller autopilot to it.


Autopilots can handle both sailing and powering. Granted, they use a lot of electric power but they are a lot easier to use than windvanes.
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