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Old 07-04-2016, 12:49   #1
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How often do you have to calibrate your hydraulic steering??

I have read on this forum of the rudders on a hydraulic system getting out of alignment and needing alignment. I didn't think much of it. Then I just read a blog of a cat crossing the Pacific that had many problems with alignment (every 15 mins), blown lines, disabled rudders etc..

This made me wonder how often do you need to realign the rudders? What causes this and are there tips and tricks to minimize this? Is one product better than others?

I have seen tie rods, but I think that was on mechanical systems.

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Old 07-04-2016, 15:40   #2
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Re: How often do you have to calibrate your hydraulic steering??

When I'm in the Bahamas and clean the bottom I'll take a look at the rudders. If they are out of alignment I'll yank on one a couple of times, that usually does the trick.
When I'm in NE Florida and it's winter, they can just stay out of alignment for a while.
Probably not good advice for a Canadian (Brrr!).
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Old 07-04-2016, 15:41   #3
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Re: How often do you have to calibrate your hydraulic steering??

If the rudders are going out of alignment that often there's a hydraulic leak somewhere. It could be internal, the piston seals on the cylinders failing, or an external leak.


My rudders stay aligned pretty much permanently.
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Old 07-04-2016, 16:03   #4
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Re: How often do you have to calibrate your hydraulic steering??

The blog I read did talk of leaks a lot. One of the cylinders had an internal leak. Sounds like the issue
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Old 07-04-2016, 18:00   #5
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Re: How often do you have to calibrate your hydraulic steering??

Quote:
Originally Posted by FSMike View Post
When I'm in the Bahamas and clean the bottom I'll take a look at the rudders. If they are out of alignment I'll yank on one a couple of times, that usually does the trick.
When I'm in NE Florida and it's winter, they can just stay out of alignment for a while.
Probably not good advice for a Canadian (Brrr!).

Mike, there should be marks on the rudder quadrants showing the alignment, though they may have worn of by now!


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Old 08-04-2016, 00:10   #6
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Re: How often do you have to calibrate your hydraulic steering??

FWIW I daysailed on a ~1995 Catana ~48' that had this problem. The owner made up a tie rod out of tubing so the rudders were always aligned. I could be wrong but IIRC the rod was mostly under deck but exposed a bit above deck as well. I don't recall any drastic surgery on the boat to do this, perhaps there were a couple holes, (for the rod), into a stern wet locker that drained overboard. It was a long time ago so I don't remember the details of the set up but it looked simple enough that I was confident I could think up something similar, on that boat anyway. I guess the owner thought it was easier to deal with the problem that way than chasing down the cause of frequent misalignment. Ever since then I've been a little leary of hydraulic steering. OTOH I did do a subsequent ocean crossing (on a different boat) with hydraulic steering. It worked fine, but the owner did realign it once or twice in that ~3000 miles. It was a simple 5 or 10 minute procedure from inside the sugar scoop engine hatches.
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Old 08-04-2016, 05:45   #7
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Re: How often do you have to calibrate your hydraulic steering??

My experience on this may apply.

I have hydraulic on my outboard center console and I know that in the winter, things expand/contract at different rates and the seals are not as effective. In warm weather it is fine. Early spring, I typically have to bleed the system again.

I have replaced seals (PITA). It does help to spray some lube on the actuator rod before winter layup. You don't want any corrosion to sneak in and damage the cylinder seals.
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Old 08-04-2016, 08:31   #8
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Re: How often do you have to calibrate your hydraulic steering??

By alignment of rudders in a hydraulically steered catamaran, I presume you're talking about the rudders both steering in tandem accurately? Are they not linked by a cable or rod? I would be very suspicious if the alignment is entirely done using the hydraulics - my experience even with a system with no leaks has been that there is always some "slip" in a system especially if there are relief valves involved. I am really not a hydraulic expert, but I'd be interested in knowing about this. I've had quite a few boats with hydraulic steering, and I've always found that you can't rely on the wheel ever coming back to the same place dead centre.
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Old 08-04-2016, 09:49   #9
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Re: How often do you have to calibrate your hydraulic steering??

The maker of Solaris catamarans informed me that he connects his hydraulic rudder units in series instead of in parallel and that does away with the rudders going out of alignment.
For what it's worth.
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Old 08-04-2016, 11:32   #10
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Re: How often do you have to calibrate your hydraulic steering??

Haven't noticed any problems. The system just keeps working as expected.
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Old 08-04-2016, 14:33   #11
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Re: How often do you have to calibrate your hydraulic steering??

Quote:
Originally Posted by catman View Post
The maker of Solaris catamarans informed me that he connects his hydraulic rudder units in series instead of in parallel and that does away with the rudders going out of alignment.
For what it's worth.
Catman
I don't think you could do it any other way. I mean physically, you could connect rudders in parallel, but it wouldn't work at all.
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Old 08-04-2016, 14:38   #12
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Re: How often do you have to calibrate your hydraulic steering??

Quote:
Originally Posted by IRG View Post
By alignment of rudders in a hydraulically steered catamaran, I presume you're talking about the rudders both steering in tandem accurately? Are they not linked by a cable or rod? I would be very suspicious if the alignment is entirely done using the hydraulics - my experience even with a system with no leaks has been that there is always some "slip" in a system especially if there are relief valves involved. I am really not a hydraulic expert, but I'd be interested in knowing about this. I've had quite a few boats with hydraulic steering, and I've always found that you can't rely on the wheel ever coming back to the same place dead centre.
Some "slip" in the helm pumps wouldn't be unusual, but "slip" in the cylinders shouldn't happen. Hydraulically linked rudders aren't all that unusual, and when a system is in good condition they work quite well.
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Old 08-04-2016, 18:43   #13
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Re: How often do you have to calibrate your hydraulic steering??

Quote:
Originally Posted by catman View Post
The maker of Solaris catamarans informed me that he connects his hydraulic rudder units in series instead of in parallel and that does away with the rudders going out of alignment.
For what it's worth.
Catman
That's interesting. I could have sworn that Solaris had been out of business for years. What's their contact info?
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Old 08-04-2016, 18:49   #14
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Re: How often do you have to calibrate your hydraulic steering??

Quote:
Originally Posted by smj View Post
Mike, there should be marks on the rudder quadrants showing the alignment, though they may have worn of by now!


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Hi smj,
That's true enough. I had to drop the rudders (new prop shafts and dripless stuffing boxes) about August 2014, and didn't really pay close attention to markings. She rarely gets out of alignment so I don't worry about it too much.
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Old 08-04-2016, 18:50   #15
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Re: How often do you have to calibrate your hydraulic steering??

Malcolm Taylor lived in Brentwood Bay, BC, for about ten years.
I met him and we became good friends.
He moved to Florida to try and start up his business again but that did not work out so well.
He now lives in DeBuque, Iowa and his 46' catamaran is still here.
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