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Mexico Mike 21-06-2007 01:08

Autopilot doctor in the house?
Maneua from Tahiti,
Good old Robertson SL200DL has begun to have episodes of suddenly only steering one way. To port, specifically.
After a passage something unknown happens and everything works OK, then it goes out again on the next passage.
This one has a self contained hydrolic drive that someone told me is called an Octopus. What would make it get stuck, and then unstuck? Low fluid? Crud in the fluid?
Nobody works on these anymore I guess, company was bought out by Simrad, and they don't support the old Robertson stuff.
It's been a real trouper for years, and was top of the line in it's time, so I'd hate to have to replace it. Oh yeah, don't really wan't to spend the money, either...
Ideas, suggestions, anything?


s/y Arabella
stuck in Papeete

seafox 21-06-2007 01:12

throw it in the bin and steer the boat. My auto helm packed it in a couple of years ago and I steer myself now. Stuff doesn't last forever.

Alan Wheeler 21-06-2007 02:28

The Octopus is the pump. They are built in Canada. It has nothign to do with the Robertson part of the pilot. I doubt that the pump is the problem, unless the pilot is commanding the pump to work and the pump is rotating but no pumping. There is nothing to them inside. They are very simple and infact, you wonder why they cost so much. The pumps are reversing motors. They run either way, which means the oil flows either way to move the ram either way. So if the pump is faulty, the first thing to check is the Armature brushes. That's about the only wearing part that can be fixed on them, and the only thing I can think of that would make the pump intermitent. Any other problem I would suspect is in the Pilot. They are a little ruff around the edges now. There is a lot more finess in the modern piltos. However, they were a good pilot in their day. Ruggedly built. So you may want to dismantle and check all connections and solder joints look good. If I were you, I woudl be lookign at a new Pilot. A new pilot will still work on the Octopus pump just fine. The pumps are still made by the way.

DeepFrz 21-06-2007 08:13

Mike, like Wheels says, the most likely problem is the motor driving the pump. It would be worthwhile dismantling the motor and cleaning it and changing the brushes if required. Also, most problems with autopilots are in the wiring. Carefully check all wiring while you are refurbing the unit. A little time and effort could save you lots of bucks.

If the hydraulic ram is leaking oil then the seals need replacing.

Edit: An interesting troubleshooting guide here.

Good luck.

Octopus Precision Products: Innovators In Automatic Pilot Drive Systems

Mexico Mike 21-06-2007 16:10

Mauruuru, mahalo, merci, gracias, and thanks. That explains why there is no info on the linear drive unit in the Robertson owner's manual.
The control unit does not show an error code (it is supposed to be self-diagnosing) so that's what made me think the problem was in the drive unit. Mine doesn't have the plastic fluid reservoir, though, maybe because it's old.
To fix the autopilot, all I have done is set the control unit for pwr steer and move the rudder from full over to full over. This seems to free up whatever was stuck. BTW, it is a AP200DL Sail unit, not whatever I called it in the first post. I think it just got tired of the quartering seas during the trip across- will check out the brushes on the motor. Thanks again for the helpful replys


S/V Elusive 21-06-2007 17:12

Might wanna also check out the area where you've installed your fluxgate compass. Any new metal around that area? Something that might be shifted there during passages? And like suggested above, where ever you have wires connected - check for corroded connections ... take them OFF; clean them. For me - intermittant usually means a corroded connection.

Good Luck.

Strygaldwir 21-06-2007 20:26

Check for corosion on the leads leading to the control unit.

Alan Wheeler 21-06-2007 22:53

Arrrr, hard over to hard over free's it?? OK, take a look at the non-return valves. These will be fitted in the helm pump, or inline to the helm pump. Most usual is that it is a block fitted on the back of the helm pump. They are a simple ball bearing a spring. Ensure the spring is not broken, or a small piece of debree is not allowing the ball to close.
The lack of resevoir is fine. The resevoir is actually the helm pump in this situation. Ensure you have the oil topped up correctly and that you are using the correct oil. IT IS NOT TRANSMISSION OIL. That is most important. Use the correct oil, which is usually a 10W hydraulic oil.

Boko~maru 22-06-2007 06:34

Wheels, why shouldn't I use Automatic Transmission (Dextron III)Fluid? I have a full Hydrualic System . Two Capiliano helms and an autohelm ST 7000 autopilot. Teleflex-morse says that I can use Dextron III. I am not trying to argue, I just want educate myself & this site seems to have more practical knowlage than any place else. Thanks

Mexico Mike 23-06-2007 14:57

confused now
I think you might think I have hydraulic steering, Alan? It's mechanical, except for the autopilot which uses the self-contained hydraulic linear drive, which may or may not be an Octopus, but is similar to their products.
Here's a pic of the beastie. Can't find anyplace to add fluid, but the little fitting on top, when you unscrew the black plastic cap, looks something like a zerk fitting. Otherwise it means taking the top off, I are a couple of pics

DeepFrz 23-06-2007 17:27

Mike, I noticed in the octopus manual they recommend changing the fluid every three years.

NoTies 23-06-2007 17:58

Is the pump actually turning when it's not operating the ram? If not I would eyeball the relays first. I've PMed you an email address for good technical support.

Alan Wheeler 23-06-2007 21:47


Wheels, why shouldn't I use Automatic Transmission (Dextron III)Fluid?
Sorry BoKo~Maru, OK, so maybe I will rephrase that statement.
Use the oil that is stated by the manufacturer to use. Teleflex used to use a special oil, I didn't realise they have changed that. But NOT ALL hydraulic systems use ATF. Some will specificaly say NOT TO USE ATF. The reason for this is that it depends on the type of seals used. Some react to ATF and will swell up and sieze the system.

Mexico Mike.. OK so that's a little different than what I was expecting to see. I can suggest idea's, but they are just ideas. Follow Pete's advice and see what the experts from the manufacturer have to say.

Mexico Mike 24-06-2007 20:50

Thanks again, will let you know what shakes down.


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