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Old 26-08-2015, 17:29   #1
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Garmin Autopilot Problems - any ideas?

Hi everyone!

I'm on a brand-new Helia we just picked up in La Rochelle, which we're hoping to sail out of here in the next weather window... if only we could get our Garmin autopilot to work.

We've been working on this problem for weeks, since it was installed, and it's been no end to frustration and also incompetence on the part of the company that installed the system.

There have been so many problems simultaneously, in fact, that we're not sure if the current problem is to do with poor installation (most likely), the Garmin system, or both.

I wondered if anyone here had a Garmin Autopilot installed on their Helia that they either had success with or problem with that sound similar to ours? Here is a run-down of the current issues:

1) Post-calibration, the autopilot has never held a steady course. It feels like it doesn't quite understand where the bearing is because it heads towards the bearing, veers off the bearing about 30-40 degrees, then heads back to the bearing and veers past it again about 30-40 degrees. So the result is we zig zag our way to any location when the autopilot is on. We expect some play, but not this much.

2) We are getting an error message on our screen that says "Low GHC supply voltage" -- even though the batteries are fully charged, and even when the engine is running. We think the guys who installed it didn't use thick enough wire to keep the system powered.

The guys who installed the system tried to talk us out of going with Garmin, but we had a choice between Garmin and Raymarine. And we had Raymarine on our old boat and had very bad experiences with that autopilot, so we went with Garmin this time instead.

Does anyone have any experiences with Garmin that would tell me that I should go with a completely different autopilot system, or is this just a case of installation teething problems that you think, once resolved, will mean my system could be reliable?

Thanks for your help / advice / input. I really appreciate it.
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Old 26-08-2015, 17:54   #2
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Re: Garmin Autopilot Problems - any ideas?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cheeky Monkey View Post
1) Post-calibration, the autopilot has never held a steady course. It feels like it doesn't quite understand where the bearing is because it heads towards the bearing, veers off the bearing about 30-40 degrees, then heads back to the bearing and veers past it again about 30-40 degrees. So the result is we zig zag our way to any location when the autopilot is on. We expect some play, but not this much.
Do you have a rudder reference sensor installed? This will be necessary no matter what Garmin tells you.

Does this only happen when navigating to a waypoint or also when just trying to hold a compass bearing?

Mark
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Old 26-08-2015, 18:57   #3
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Re: Garmin Autopilot Problems - any ideas?

Wow, I feel your pain.

No doubt the Garmin A/P works as I have just done over 5000km whilst using it constantly. The Raymarine is superior as it allows adjustments for sensitivity which the Garmin does not.

I do not quite understand the low voltage error. Surely this is simply a matter of measuring the voltage at the GHC. If it is low then the wiring needs to be replaced.

If in fact it is low then this could well explain the problem. Like all modern A/P systems this one is software based and the system can reset under certain curcumstances like voltage fluctuations and the rudders being at one or other of the stops for too long. I have had to power the system down a couple of times when the software glitches. This can be quite disconcerting. Works no problem from then on.

I also assume you have done a full mechanical check to ascertain that the rudders are not slipping in any way. This is pretty easy to do given the easy access from the motor hatches.
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Old 27-08-2015, 11:09   #4
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Re: Garmin Autopilot Problems - any ideas?

Do you guys have a multi meter on board? If not go to the nearest store and buy one preferable a clamp on style that will also allow you to read amperage.

The obvious first thing is to check the voltage at the autopilot control where the wires hook to it. It is critical that you are getting proper voltage there and that the guage of the wire can carry the amperage necessary to drive the autopilot and the hydraulic steering on the Helia. I would expect this to be at least a #12 and preferably a #10 wire. If they ran a small wire to the factory switch panel this could well be the problem. FP runs a very small wire for the switch that is labeled electronics instruments etc. and uses that wire to switch a bosch style relay that switches a much shorter and heavier wire to actually run the auto pilot.

I have seen as much as a half a volt drop at the sub panels installed in FP boats. I have also seen loose lugs in the fuse boxes. Open them all up and check them. Typically FP daisy chains the three or four fuse boxes together. One long run of wires to the first box then continuing throughout the boat.

Once you make sure you have good voltage and power source then track down the CCU and make sure it's not mounted near a speaker or any ferrous metal that can cause interference.

Jay
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Old 27-08-2015, 15:53   #5
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Re: Garmin Autopilot Problems - any ideas?

I think there is a defect in the latest garmin software. Mine started to do this after I installed the latest update. In fact, I have found the latest updates to be absolute junk and sent them a nastygram.

You can try recalibrating the unit in dealer mode.
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Old 27-08-2015, 17:37   #6
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Re: Garmin Autopilot Problems - any ideas?

I have a Garmin A/P, and it has performed flawlessly, with the latest software update.

Do you have, and have you read the manual. After a new installation you must do a Dockside Wizard to calibrate the pilot to your boat, then a Sea Trial Wizard to finish the calibration to your boat.

The low GHC supply voltage, check what voltage value is set for it in the menu. Might just be the voltage value is set to high.

As zboss said, you can recalibrate and adjust in dealer mode, manual tells you how to get there. Might just need to adjust the rudder gain, counter gain, all explained in the manual.....good luck.
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Old 28-08-2015, 17:27   #7
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Re: Garmin Autopilot Problems - any ideas?

I've seen the low GHC message on my Garmin, but it seemed to be an anomaly and otherwise performs very reliably even the auto pilot function, staying very close to designated route headings over lengthy routes.
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Old 30-08-2015, 07:26   #8
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Re: Garmin Autopilot Problems - any ideas?

the guy who installed it has to make it work flawlessly under french law he has an absolute obligation to do so as he is a pro and you're not...( for an AP i suggest NKE)
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