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Old 29-11-2015, 07:49   #1
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Question for the Pros: When to Replace Rudder Bearings?

As the title says, when should the rudder bearings be replaced? How much play is too much?

I have no steering issues, but over the summer I have noticed some groaning coming from the rudder post area when sailing, more so on a starboard tack. I looked at the steering quadrant while it was doing this and noticed some movement. Well now that the boat is hualed for the winter I was able to inspect just how much the rudder is moving. When grabbing the bottom of the rudder, I get about .25" of movement at the very end (it's about a 6 foot deep rudder). It is significantly less at the bottom bearing. I have to grab a second person so I can watch at the top bearing to see how much that's moving as well, but I feel it's the top bearing that has the play.

Also, I see no way of lubricating the top bearing, but I did spray some down the best I could with not much change.

If I find my dial indicator, I can rig up a way of measuring the total float at the bottom bearing of that info would help.

Thanks in advance!

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Old 02-12-2015, 17:42   #2
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re: Question for the Pros: When to Replace Rudder Bearings?

You can inject thickened epoxy,west systems with graphite and colloidal silica, and essentially "pour a new bearing" in those areas that (1) allow access, (2) have the most visual looseness.
West Systems has a publication that you also can purchase, that will explain the process.
If you decide to try this I also have some pointers, as I've done this process and it's not really hard to do.
Worked well for my loose Rudder Beaings.
1/4" is getting to be to much.


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Old 03-12-2015, 00:56   #3
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re: Question for the Pros: When to Replace Rudder Bearings?

I have a Jeanneau (same oner company as Beneteau) so I suspect our bearinga re the same. 1/4" is too much and since you have it on the hard - you can drop the rudder. This isn't all that hard, although it does require a person to help.

I dropped mine last spring and replaced the bearings, not because they were worn, but because I'm going on a RTW and I wanted to replace the delrin bearings with self-aligning roller bearings.

The new bearings cost around $600 here (probably less elsewhere) and were custom made for the boat.

All in all - dropping the rudder, mounting new bearings, remounting the rudder and adjusting the steering chains and cables took around 2 days.

One good thing about doing it is that you can sleep comfortably since you've had the opportunity to inspect you rudder stock for excessive wea
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Old 03-12-2015, 01:03   #4
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re: Question for the Pros: When to Replace Rudder Bearings?

Carsten is correct. 1/4" is certainly too much. Do not allow that to continue. Drop the rudder, remove and replace the bearings. Kicking the can down the road is never a benefit on a boat.
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Old 11-12-2015, 15:08   #5
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Re: Question for the Pros: When to Replace Rudder Bearings?

Thanks for the guidance. Just to be clear, the 1/4" of movement was measured at the lowest part of the rudder, 6 feet below the bottom bearing.

I was able to get a hand to move the rudder to see the movement at the top bearing. It looks like the movement is there. There is not much play at the bottom bearing. My current plan is to replace the top bearing first and see if that solves the problem. This doesn't require me having to have the yard re-lift the boat. If there is still too much movement, I'll do the bottom bearing.

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Old 12-12-2015, 01:33   #6
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Re: Question for the Pros: When to Replace Rudder Bearings?

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Originally Posted by CaptNemoO2 View Post
Thanks for the guidance. Just to be clear, the 1/4" of movement was measured at the lowest part of the rudder, 6 feet below the bottom bearing.

I was able to get a hand to move the rudder to see the movement at the top bearing. It looks like the movement is there. There is not much play at the bottom bearing. My current plan is to replace the top bearing first and see if that solves the problem. This doesn't require me having to have the yard re-lift the boat. If there is still too much movement, I'll do the bottom bearing.

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If your rudder arrangement is anything like mine (jeanneau) then you will not be able to remove the top bearing without dropping the rudder at least to the level of the bearing. You will have to remove the rudder quadrant, drop the rudder (and then you might just as well drop it completely and change both bearings - the bearings are not a major cost) and take out the bearing. You should note that getting the bearing out with the rudder stock still in, will be quite an undertaking. Drop the rudder comepletely, then use a wooden stick (broomstick) and a hammer to gently tap the upper bearing out.
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Old 12-12-2015, 03:59   #7
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Re: Question for the Pros: When to Replace Rudder Bearings?

I would also like to hear from the Pros.
Is 1/4" or 6.25 ml really too much at the end of 6 ft or more than 1.8 mtrs of rudder?
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Old 12-12-2015, 05:25   #8
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Re: Question for the Pros: When to Replace Rudder Bearings?

6 mm is to much in my opinion, some little play is desirable, if you move the wheel hard over side to side until the quadrant reach the stop and you hear a Clonk with the quadrant swinging in the bearing then the bearings are toasted ....
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Old 12-12-2015, 07:00   #9
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Re: Question for the Pros: When to Replace Rudder Bearings?

looking really closely at your pics - you're going to have do remove the quadrant and drop the rudder - no way you'll be to pull the top bearing without dropping the rudder.

you might as well face it - replace both bearing, otherwise you'll just be doing this again next year.

It really isn't hard. dig a hole under the rudder, drop it, replace the bearings, and the hard part is getting the rudder back up into the top bearing.

I know money is money , but bearings are not that expensive. Loosing your rudder somewhere at sea is a major catasthrophe
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Old 12-12-2015, 08:59   #10
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Re: Question for the Pros: When to Replace Rudder Bearings?

I am well aware of what has to be done to remove the bearings. The steering quadrant and everything else is already removed. Only took about 45 minutes to do by myself (with no help, there's always people asking to go out sailing, but they all seem to disappear when I need a hand working on the boat, funny how that is!). I'm not really asking how to replace them, though I will not turn down tips to make life easier.

The reason behind only doing the top bearing first is its easier. If there is still a lot of play, I will do the bottom one. To do the top bearing, I only need to dig a 1.5 foot hole (if the yard lets me) to get the top bearing out. I need enough to get the stock lower than the bearing. To do the bottom bearing, there is no way I'm going to be allowed to dig a 4.5 to 5 foot deep hole to get the whole rudder out. So the yard has to lift me up to do that, and they buried me in. Plus I have to remove my backstays and all the wiring that runs up to the Questus radar mount to get high enough in the travel lift. Oh and I'll probably need a new ladder too! And I'm already one of the tallest boats in the yard, I'm not too crazy about being several feet higher.

My real question is what is the radial float that is permissible in the rudder bearings? Doing some approximating, since I did not measure super accurately I get the following:

Bottom of rudder Movement: ±.125" lateral movement from center
Distance from bottom of rudder to bottom bearing: ~6' = 72"
Distance from bottom bearing to top bearing: ~2.5' = 30"

Assumption 1: Top bearing is loose, bottom is good .050" radial float at top bearing (.100" diametrical).
Assumption 2: Bottom bearing is loose, top is good .035" radial float at bottom bearing (.070" diametrical).

Obviously the assumptions above are an over simplification of the problem at hand. Reality is its a combination of both assumptions. Also assume the rudder stock is infinitely rigid (no deflection), I'm not that strong! But when observing the movement at the bottom bearing, there is definitely not that much float in the bottom bearing.

With all that said, I'm not opposed to changing the bottom bearing if I need to. I follow the mantra "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" Also, at the moment, I've been way too busy working (haven't taken a vacation day in over 5 years), so I'm not even a coastal cruiser! I'm day sailing, with an occasional weekend. If its that bad, I don't go out! I'm not at the "catastrophic phase" yet. When, and if, I get to a point in life where I can go cruising, I plan to do a major overhaul of critical items (rigging, keel bolts, friends, engine, etc)

Oh, and if I come off about grouchy today, my apologies. I realized I accidentally bought gluten free waffels after I bit into them, and they suck! Breakfast is the most important meal after all.
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Old 12-12-2015, 09:40   #11
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Re: Question for the Pros: When to Replace Rudder Bearings?

Holy smoke!

I was concerned about your rudder bearings until I read about your gluten free waffle incident... Are you OK???

I hate to jump on the "do it right bandwagon" But I think Carsten is spot on here... I also see your point about the difficulty with the lift to get to the bottom bearing... I would probably be doing a mixture of both... replace the top, but upgrade to a self aligning roller... Put it all back together and see if you've eliminated most-if-not-all of the play... I can swing a 1000 lb 6' blade with one finger on the trailing edge... a goal to shoot for...

Digging a 6' hole to drop a blade was one of the crappiest jobs I've ever done... Several pointers may help...

1. Do not do it next to a timber seawall in soft sand
2. If you ignore pointer one, tide charts are your friend
3. Pumping the hole in the above scenario will be fruitless folly
4. Weather is your friend... Performing above in a downpour complicates things dramatically...
5. DO NOT give up after countless hours and an inch to go... Repeating the exercise causes oneself to consider serious self harm...
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Old 12-12-2015, 10:05   #12
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Re: Question for the Pros: When to Replace Rudder Bearings?

If you have the same design boat, you need to read this thread from beginning to end:

The Blue Pearl Sinking

Get someone up in the lazarette to watch for ANY movement when you press hard on the rudder, not just the shaft in the bearings.
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Old 12-12-2015, 14:31   #13
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Re: Question for the Pros: When to Replace Rudder Bearings?

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Originally Posted by donradcliffe View Post
If you have the same design boat, you need to read this thread from beginning to end:

The Blue Pearl Sinking

Get someone up in the lazarette to watch for ANY movement when you press hard on the rudder, not just the shaft in the bearings.
Don,

I have seen that thread before. That design is not the same as mine. My rudder post is glassed to the hull with gussets to the sides, one going forward, and one glassed to a bulkhead, which is then glassed to the hull right where the backstays (I have two backstays, plus running backstays) attach to the hull.

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Old 12-12-2015, 19:08   #14
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Re: Question for the Pros: When to Replace Rudder Bearings?

Maybe its just your picture, but is the forward gusset separating from the hull?? I'd have a hard look at all the support structure for movement before I worked on the bearings. I had a First 456 where the top bearing holder was attached to the cockpit floor, and was visibly moving in a seaway. Cured that by removing the holder and rebolting it down with 5200--amazingly strong stuff!

The next step would be to slide a feeler gauge in the top bearing while wiggling the rudder. If you can't get an 0.005" gauge in anywhere around the shaft, new bearings aren't going to do much.

If you want to stop the groaning and think a 1/4" of play at the bottom of the rudder is acceptable (you will get mixed opinions on this, but I think it is liveable), drop the shaft down 6" coat the inside of the bearing with waterproof grease, and reassemble and put the major project off till next year's haulout. After all you are only daysailing around the Sound.
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Old 12-12-2015, 21:33   #15
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Re: Question for the Pros: When to Replace Rudder Bearings?

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Maybe its just your picture, but is the forward gusset separating from the hull?? I'd have a hard look at all the support structure for movement before I worked on the bearings. I had a First 456 where the top bearing holder was attached to the cockpit floor, and was visibly moving in a seaway. Cured that by removing the holder and rebolting it down with 5200--amazingly strong stuff!

The next step would be to slide a feeler gauge in the top bearing while wiggling the rudder. If you can't get an 0.005" gauge in anywhere around the shaft, new bearings aren't going to do much.

If you want to stop the groaning and think a 1/4" of play at the bottom of the rudder is acceptable (you will get mixed opinions on this, but I think it is liveable), drop the shaft down 6" coat the inside of the bearing with waterproof grease, and reassemble and put the major project off till next year's haulout. After all you are only daysailing around the Sound.
That's just dirt! But that did cross my mind, that the structure is moving. It does not look like it is, but at some point I plan on beefing that up if I decide to go cruising. My thought was adding something similar to your First 456, but being a third bushing above the quadrant attached to the cockpit floor. Are you saying your top bearing is being held on with bolts and 5200, or just 5200? If the latter, that's damn impressive.

I finally found my feeler gauges this morning. I must have accidentally dropped them in the hardware store, and they were nice enough to clean them up and put them in a new package for me. I was able to get an .008 gauge in. But that stopped most of the movement.

I spoke to the yard, they said no way to digging a hole. He's not against it, there's large rocks/boulders used as a base underneath the gravel. So he's got to lift me up. I also called the local dealer, he said Beneteau's price is $700 for the top, and $1250 for the bottom. Even he was shocked by that. The top I'm not worried about, that's easy to have made. But the bottom? Any body know of a source for metal (bronze?) bottom bushings?

I read up on the West Systems solution with the graphite/epoxy mix. That could be a possibility too. I would like to hear more about people's experience with that.

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