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Old 16-08-2018, 10:57   #1
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Autopilot maintenance?

Ive been using my autopilot a lot lately. If it were to die on me (which has happened in the past), Id be in the crapper. Not dead, just in an uncomfortable crapper.

What sort of maintenance do you guys do on the autopilot? Electrical? Mechanical? Hydraulic?

Are there lubricants I need to check? Oil?

Any input will be appreciated.
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Old 17-08-2018, 10:26   #2
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Re: Autopilot maintenance?

No replies means no maintenance required
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Old 17-08-2018, 10:34   #3
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Re: Autopilot maintenance?

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No replies means no maintenance required
Electrical: Not much to do, ever. Just make sure you feed it well with voltage that is not too low, and address ANY corrosion on electrical contacts NOW.

On all drives of all kinds the single best thing you can do for them is make sure they are not working harder than they need to. In other words, trim your sails for as close to a neutral helm as you can. At least once a watch, I shut off the AP and steer by hand, if only for a few minutes, just to be sure that the boat steers easily and comfortably. If it is hard for me to steer by hand, I am working the AP more than it needs.

For everything else, any linkages than rotate need a touch of grease once in a while, a chain drive needs lubrication. Everything else... follow the recommendations in your manual.

If you are doing long distance passages, backups are an excellent idea...
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Old 17-08-2018, 10:37   #4
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Re: Autopilot maintenance?

On the boat we recently bought, the surveyor spotted that the hydraulic drive had a loose bolt giving some movement to the drive. I insisted on a full service/overhaul/inspection of the autopilot and steering system. The guy checked and oiled all the chain and mechanism, checked the torque of all fixings, drained and refilled the hydraulics, and did all the usual commissioning tests of travel/stops etc. All seems good now. He did tell me that he hardly ever gets asked to do this.
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Old 18-08-2018, 07:22   #5
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Re: Autopilot maintenance?

What autopilot do you have?
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Old 18-08-2018, 08:24   #6
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Re: Autopilot maintenance?

Can i ask what sort of failures are common with basic auto pilots? (Eg ray marine electrical )
Computers?, motors? ect..

Ta
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Old 18-08-2018, 09:05   #7
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Re: Autopilot maintenance?

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Originally Posted by Ausluke View Post
Can i ask what sort of failures are common with basic auto pilots? (Eg ray marine electrical )
Computers?, motors? ect..

Ta
Surprisingly I've had more computer controller failures than drive units over the years. Mostly Raymarine stuff ---- no longer on my boat.
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Old 18-08-2018, 09:53   #8
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Re: Autopilot maintenance?

I add hydraulic steering oil to my autopilot every month or two. Its a couple decades old and the oil weeps past the cylinder seals. Id replace it before Id cross an ocean.

Heres a lesson I learned the hard way: top off the oil before you leave the dock, not offshore after the autopilot mysteriously stops working in the middle of the night. In many boats the hydraulic fluid reservoir is far from easily accessible.
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Old 18-08-2018, 10:08   #9
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Re: Autopilot maintenance?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ausluke View Post
Can i ask what sort of failures are common with basic auto pilots? (Eg ray marine electrical )
Computers?, motors? ect..

Ta

Depends on the type.



Hydraulic:



1. Leaks; corroded pipes; cracked hoses
2. Pump seals go
3. Pump motor brushes, or bearings, go

4. Ram seals go

5. Bypass valve fails

6. Electronics fail or go wonky.
7. Networking problems.





In other words, every little bit of it can fail!




Serious long distance cruisers in remote places often have TWO separate autopilots to give redundancy.


In my own opinion, FWIW, they are very reliable and very easy to fix, so full redundancy might not be really necessary.


What I would suggest:


1. Change the ram seals and have a good hydraulic shop give the ram a good going over, every 5 years.


2. Carry spare ram seal kit.


3. Carry a spare pump and motor. Most of the big name ones are made by Hypro in the UK, and you can buy them directly for half the price (PM me for contact details) -- they are surprisingly inexpensive.


4. Carry a spare set of hoses.


5. Carry a spare bypass valve.


6. If you're really anal, carry a spare pilot computer.



7. Take good care of it; keep it topped off; inspect it; don't let any parts of it get corroded; know how it works and know all of its parts.
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Old 18-08-2018, 10:45   #10
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Re: Autopilot maintenance?

I have seen many motors dead. So you want to carry a spare motor. A pump, if it is a hydro unit. A belt perhaps too.



Electronics, should these fail, then that's that.


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