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Old 02-06-2017, 07:44   #1
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Hard to turn helm

Suspect plastic bush has swollen on our rudder post making the helm tight and difficult to turn. Had the same problem a year ago in Greece and had a new bush made, being sure to explain the new bush must not be made from nylon. Sadly I cannot determine exactly what the new bush is made from and the language barrier in Greece may mean it did get made from some sort of nylon.

Now in Sri Lanka about to head to Thailand in a challenging SW monsoon with sub optimal helm. Sri Lanka is a dodgy place to be hauled out, would probably end up with additional boat damage so only a last resort.

So... does anyone know how to get a swollen nylon bush to let go of a rudder post? Currently wondering if there is a way to dry it out.

For info: steering set up is Whitlock binnacle with solid rod to quadrant, aluminum rudder post to spade rudder with plastic bushes top and bottom. Note - the bottom bush has not been replaced only the top one.

Foolishly, I did not properly protect the top bush from the harsh elements it would have been exposed to between Greece and Sri Lanka. So possibly the heat, rain and humidity has caused the problem to get worse.

In addition I know I can resolve this when I get to Thailand, but would have to hand steer the 1300 odd nautical miles as I wouldn't like to risk damaging the autohelm. Also like to know what other risks you all think i might encounter by leaving as is.
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Old 02-06-2017, 12:16   #2
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Re: Hard to turn helm

it is fairly easy to drop the rudder in the water,then remove the bearing.
you could then get it machined at a local machine shop to improve the tolerance.
just remove the quadrant and the locking bolt ,attach a weight to the rudder have someone in the water to wiggle it and it will drop out.
the bearings need turning 90 degrees in the housing then they slide out.

they should look something like the JP3 bearing in the photo
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Old 02-06-2017, 18:32   #3
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Re: Hard to turn helm

Thanks Atol, I wish mine did look like the JP3. Unfortunately its just a basic tube style bush pressed into the rudder tube. When it locked up in Greece I had to destroy it to get it out. Understandable tho it had been left exposed for 4 years up on the hard. Prior to that the helm worked perfectly with the same bush for years and many miles of sailing.

The current one has been in 1 year so a bit concerned that its tightening up already.
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Old 02-06-2017, 23:40   #4
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Re: Hard to turn helm

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Originally Posted by Berserker View Post
Thanks Atol, I wish mine did look like the JP3. Unfortunately its just a basic tube style bush pressed into the rudder tube. When it locked up in Greece I had to destroy it to get it out. Understandable tho it had been left exposed for 4 years up on the hard. Prior to that the helm worked perfectly with the same bush for years and many miles of sailing.

The current one has been in 1 year so a bit concerned that its tightening up already.
unfortunatly there is not much you can do with out removing the rudder shaft as the ID has increased on the bearing surface,so lubricants may not help.
you might try vinegar or acetic acid to dissolve any calcium,though if the tolerance is that tight not much is going to get down the shaft.

if it gets too tight pulling the rudder might be your only option,then you could make up some type of auger to shave off some of the bearing surface,or better remove the nylon and replace with vesconite bearings
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Old 03-06-2017, 08:31   #5
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Re: Hard to turn helm

off topic, but - what route did you take from Greece to Sri Lanka, Sir Berserker?
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Old 03-06-2017, 11:07   #6
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Re: Hard to turn helm

For the long term get the replacement made in bronze
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Old 03-06-2017, 20:50   #7
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Re: Hard to turn helm

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For the long term get the replacement made in bronze

That aluminum rudder post wouldn't like this solution.


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Old 04-06-2017, 14:06   #8
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Re: Hard to turn helm

Common problem, because of WD40 or similar product are use. Anywhere where plastic / teflon is used, don't use any lubricant or find out what can by used.
My problem was identical , lucky I was able to remove plastic, light sanding did the trick. No further expense .
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Old 04-06-2017, 18:49   #9
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Re: Hard to turn helm

You may want to consider a Gar Fil bearing - these are a fiber reinforced composite bearing with a PTFE tape line. They are good for rudder bearings if you specify water lubricated. The site is: www.ggbearings,com . The Thailand distributor is PBA Systems (Thailand) located in Bangkok. support@thpbagroup.net. Although I have not dealt with the Thai company, if you give them the dimensions, they can organise a bearing set for you I am sure.

Hope this gets you out of trouble.
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Old 09-06-2017, 01:13   #10
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Re: Hard to turn helm

Thanks all for your thoughts and useful information. I've now removed the bush and it didn't come easy. I started by drilling and tapping bolts into the plastic then tried to use a gear puller to get it out. I was so tight it didn't budge. I could hardly turn the gear puller thread with a long handled socket wrench. Eventually, with virtually no movement one of the bolts pulled out of the plastic. So it seemed the only option was destruction.

Before going down that path i found a company here in Galle that had material, machinery and expertise to make a new one.

After getting the bush out in bits i was ready to feel a nice free turning helm again. Sadly this was not quite the case. It is certainly substantially better but still tight. So it looks like the bottom bush is also not ideal.

My plan now is to get the top bush reinstalled so i can secure the rudder post using the tiller. Then i will remove the quadrant below deck, hoping the tiller is going to stop the rudder dropping down. Then I'm thinking of pouring some hydrocloric acid or caustic soda down into the bottom bearing to ensure there is no calcification build up causing the problem.

Interested to hear your opinions..
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Old 09-06-2017, 01:22   #11
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Re: Hard to turn helm

Hello Symphony, Fyi, we came down via Suez canal , Red sea and across the Indian Ocean.
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Old 14-06-2017, 01:29   #12
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Re: Hard to turn helm

Just found out hydrocloric acid reacts with aluminum so not an an option for cleaning our rudder.
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Old 14-06-2017, 01:46   #13
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Re: Hard to turn helm

You can look up the water absorbtion rates of the various materials used to make bearings, along with their wear rates, & lubricity. So that you might be able to make a better decision in terms of materials for the replacement bearings than what was used for the originals. And also so that you're much more on the same page when discussing things with the machinist. Some of it you can find on matweb.com others via wikipedia, or engineering references.


Though sometimes a sticky rudder shaft is just due to some monofilament that got jammed up in there. And may have even somewhat melted itself in place onto the shaft. Hate that!
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