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Old 22-06-2015, 16:23   #1
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Hydraulic Autopilot Bleeding

Hi All:

I have a problem with my WH Autopilot model P-3D. There is air in the system. The hoses in the system run thru multiple valleys and mountains in order to fit it in my lazaret without it taking up the entire space. I have so much air in the system that it won't work. I spent four hours bleeding it and got it to work partially but lost that effect when I tried to get more air out.

I read the instructions and that didn't work. I have called Will Hamm and he was helpful as usual. He told me that the best way to bleed the system is to interrupt the hose between the pump and the lock valve and to keep the hose ends immersed in oil and then to run the pump backwards and forwards and every which way. I would then use the bleed nipples at the hydraulic ram to get rid of the last bits of air.

I had an idea that instead of disconnecting the hoses between the pump and the bleed valve I would install a pair of bleed nipples between the lock valve and the pump separated by a 1/4 turn valve. This would allow me to hook up clear hose to the bleed nipples. The end of the clear hose would then be immersed in a cup of oil so that bubbles could come out but no air could enter. I figured that a closed 1/4 turn valve would be needed to force any air to come thru the clear hose instead of circulating thru the system. Does this make sense? Is a diagram needed?

I know I have a leak somewhere but the only way I can think to find it is to get the system operating and then to clean all the hoses and look for any oil leaks.
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Old 23-06-2015, 08:10   #2
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Re: Hydraulic Autopilot Bleeding

I would think if you have lost that much oil it wouldn't be difficult to find the leak. However what you are proposing should work, although I would put the tubing on the bleed valves at the actuator, so long as you have a large enough fluid vessel and the leak isn't very large.
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Old 01-07-2015, 18:02   #3
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Re: Hydraulic Autopilot Bleeding

How accessible are the lines? If they are readily accessible then before spending the money on oil just to lose it on purpose check all the lines at any chafing points, 90 degree turns, and all fittings ( make sure to try and wiggle the fittings to check for play) if nothing obvious presents itself and you have access to an air compressor, a spay bottle, and liquid soap try this, attach lines from the compressor to the bleed nipples( put it on its lowest setting to avoid undue wear on the seals), mix the liquid soap and water in the spray bottle and spray down the lines making sure to saturate the lines with it as the air escapes through any hole in the line it will cause the soap to bubble up revealing its location to the naked eye I hope this helps 😃


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Old 02-07-2015, 03:34   #4
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Re: Hydraulic Autopilot Bleeding

From W-H ➥ Installation | WH Autopilots, Inc.

Filling and Bleeding the Hydraulic System

Install two plastic hoses on the two bleed tees (barbed fittings), located on each end of the hydraulic cylinder. Place the hose ends into a small clean pail of one or two quart size. Fill the container about half full of thin hydraulic oil.

Use any hydraulic oil, which meets MIL-H-5606 specifications. These oils are thinner than automatic transmission fluid and most other commonly used hydraulic oil. Type “A” automatic transmission fluid can be used but will slightly increase your hand steering resistance.

Open both bleed tees by turning the nut 1 turn counter clockwise and pulling the nipple out to the open position. Turn the bypass valve to the AP ON position. (Pull the Tee handle up.) Move the steering wheel back and forth from one extreme to the other, adding oil to the pail and reservoir as it runs out. Continue moving the rudder from one extreme to the other until no more air bubbles appear. Do not allow air to be sucked into the cylinder from the pail or reservoir. Now center the rudder with the steering wheel and close one of the bleed valves (leave one open).

Run the autopilot in standby mode by holding down one dodge button. Push the dodge button that seems to drain the reservoir the most rapidly. Add oil to the reservoir as needed. Now open the bypass valve (push the tee handle down to put the system in the manual steering mode).

Continue to run the motor until solid oil (no air) comes out of the bleed hose. Again close the bypass valve (tee handle pulled up) and repeat the above procedure closing the open bleed tee and opening the other one. If the pump will not suck oil from the reservoir (this may happen with extra long lines) then oil must be fed directly into one of the main lines on the pump.

Now, with the autopilot turned off (electrically with the rotary mode switch), close the bypass valve (tee handle pulled up), close both bleed tees. Try moving the steering wheel with about 40 or 50 lb. of force. Watch the rod in the cylinder. It should not move more than 1/8”. If it moves further, there is still air in the cylinder and the above procedures must be repeated, or continue to step 8. If there is still a problem with air in the system, try the following: Remove the linkage from RAT, (rudder angle transmitter) and center the RAT arm (align the red marks).

Now move the rudder to its extreme position in one direction (using the steering wheel.) And repeat procedure #3 above. Now close that bleed valve and open the other one and repeat the procedure again. Move the rudder to the other extreme position and repeat the procedure. Close the bypass valve (tee handle pulled up), place the autopilot in STANDBY MODE and make sure both bleed tees are closed. Press the port and then the starboard dodge buttons. Check to see that the rudder will move the boat to port when the red, left side dodge button is pressed.
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Old 03-07-2015, 06:11   #5
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Re: Hydraulic Autopilot Bleeding

thanks Little Otter. The lines are actually full and don't seem to leak because I can't find any oil leaks. I might just empty out the lines and do as you propose.

@ Gord tried the easy route. It didn't work, but thanks.
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Old 03-07-2015, 09:26   #6
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Re: Hydraulic Autopilot Bleeding

Anytime before you empty the lines you may want to check the fittings the bleed nipples are in if they don't seal right it'll let air in no matter what.


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Old 28-08-2015, 22:31   #7
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Re: Hydraulic Autopilot Bleeding

Quote:
Originally Posted by GordMay View Post
From W-H ➥ Installation | WH Autopilots, Inc.

Filling and Bleeding the Hydraulic System

Install two plastic hoses on the two bleed tees (barbed fittings), located on each end of the hydraulic cylinder. Place the hose ends into a small clean pail of one or two quart size. Fill the container about half full of thin hydraulic oil.

Use any hydraulic oil, which meets MIL-H-5606 specifications. These oils are thinner than automatic transmission fluid and most other commonly used hydraulic oil. Type “A” automatic transmission fluid can be used but will slightly increase your hand steering resistance.

Open both bleed tees by turning the nut 1 turn counter clockwise and pulling the nipple out to the open position. Turn the bypass valve to the AP ON position. (Pull the Tee handle up.) Move the steering wheel back and forth from one extreme to the other, adding oil to the pail and reservoir as it runs out. Continue moving the rudder from one extreme to the other until no more air bubbles appear. Do not allow air to be sucked into the cylinder from the pail or reservoir. Now center the rudder with the steering wheel and close one of the bleed valves (leave one open).

Run the autopilot in standby mode by holding down one dodge button. Push the dodge button that seems to drain the reservoir the most rapidly. Add oil to the reservoir as needed. Now open the bypass valve (push the tee handle down to put the system in the manual steering mode).

Continue to run the motor until solid oil (no air) comes out of the bleed hose. Again close the bypass valve (tee handle pulled up) and repeat the above procedure closing the open bleed tee and opening the other one. If the pump will not suck oil from the reservoir (this may happen with extra long lines) then oil must be fed directly into one of the main lines on the pump.

Now, with the autopilot turned off (electrically with the rotary mode switch), close the bypass valve (tee handle pulled up), close both bleed tees. Try moving the steering wheel with about 40 or 50 lb. of force. Watch the rod in the cylinder. It should not move more than 1/8”. If it moves further, there is still air in the cylinder and the above procedures must be repeated, or continue to step 8. If there is still a problem with air in the system, try the following: Remove the linkage from RAT, (rudder angle transmitter) and center the RAT arm (align the red marks).

Now move the rudder to its extreme position in one direction (using the steering wheel.) And repeat procedure #3 above. Now close that bleed valve and open the other one and repeat the procedure again. Move the rudder to the other extreme position and repeat the procedure. Close the bypass valve (tee handle pulled up), place the autopilot in STANDBY MODE and make sure both bleed tees are closed. Press the port and then the starboard dodge buttons. Check to see that the rudder will move the boat to port when the red, left side dodge button is pressed.

Gordon has it right but I will add one item that helped us. I also have a WH autopilot and found the following helpful

1. I unbolted the ram from the hull so I could access the RAM easier and hold it in my lap while sitting down in the cockpit locker. This allowed me to easily see better and hold the small hoses in the bucket. Hydraulic hoses were still hooked up.

2. You must MUST keep plenty of fluid in the reservoir. it was such a hassle to stop every few minutes to refill and due to poor access I had to use a syringe.

3. It took me at first about 2 hours with help from friends passing me fluid and filling the reservoir. But the second time I attempted it it took me about 45 minutes.

BEWARE of over tightening the reservoir bleed screws. One of them had some crevice corrosion and snapped off. Luckily after I already completed the bleeding. They want big $$$$ to replace the whole lower section as I cannot just buy a bolt. soft hands here are benefit don't crank it really tight

I hope this helps a little bit. PM me if you have any questions with what I wrote.

Good Luck

Chuck
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Nuka Hiva, Marquesas
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Old 28-12-2019, 01:59   #8
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Re: Hydraulic Autopilot Bleeding

Reviving this thread. We still have the Hynautic ram, reservoir and Pacific Scientific Ram from the WH installation, but are using it with a Raymarine EV400 Autopilot.

We are looking to bleed the system and will follow these instructions. But we have also broken off the ON/OFF handle and need a replacement valve. Does anyone know the make model of the valve - be a pain to try to retro fit a different brand.

Cheers

Al
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Old 28-12-2019, 22:10   #9
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Re: Hydraulic Autopilot Bleeding

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigAl.NZ View Post
Reviving this thread. We still have the Hynautic ram, reservoir and Pacific Scientific Ram from the WH installation, but are using it with a Raymarine EV400 Autopilot.

We are looking to bleed the system and will follow these instructions. But we have also broken off the ON/OFF handle and need a replacement valve. Does anyone know the make model of the valve - be a pain to try to retro fit a different brand.

Cheers

Al


What do you mean the on and off handle? You mean the lever that either engages the fluid flow or bypasses it and recirculates the fluid?

Since I wrote the post from Nuka Hiva I lost a ram seal a year later while in the Tuamotus. I ended up bringing a new ram back and installing it in Tahiti. In speaking with a good friend who is very familiar with Hydraulic AP units he just shook his head and said "No wonder it takes you hours to bleed the system you are doing it all wrong" But that's what WH said!

I tried this method that David suggested and it took me less than 10 minutes and was perfect. With the Ram hooked up in my lap fill the reservoir and pressurize it to 30lbs. Push the Ram all the way in one direction. Open the bleed valve on the Ram (that corresponds to the side opposite the way the ram is pushed) until the pressure drops to about 3-4 lbs then Stop. Refill the reservoir and pressure it. Repeat until no more bubbles appear. Then push the ram all the way in the other direction and do the same. Voila it worked!!

The key is never let the pressure in the reservoir drop to zero as it may introduce air which is what you are trying to remove.

Just a FYI & hope that helps you
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Old 28-12-2019, 23:52   #10
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Re: Hydraulic Autopilot Bleeding

Quote:
Originally Posted by chouliha View Post
What do you mean the on and off handle? You mean the lever that either engages the fluid flow or bypasses it and recirculates the fluid?
Yes - on our boat it is labelled OFF/ON (as in AP Off/On - but it is a bypass valve).

Quote:
Originally Posted by chouliha View Post
I tried this method that David suggested and it took me less than 10 minutes and was perfect. With the Ram hooked up in my lap fill the reservoir and pressurize it to 30lbs. Push the Ram all the way in one direction. Open the bleed valve on the Ram (that corresponds to the side opposite the way the ram is pushed) until the pressure drops to about 3-4 lbs then Stop. Refill the reservoir and pressure it. Repeat until no more bubbles appear. Then push the ram all the way in the other direction and do the same. Voila it worked!!

The key is never let the pressure in the reservoir drop to zero as it may introduce air which is what you are trying to remove.
This method sounds straight forward, I will give it a try. It sounds like you are still using this Autopilot, albeit that you have replaced the ram?

I was even contemplating one of the newer ram units as the local agent seemed to think the modern AP is trying to be more accurate than the ram is capable of, but I am not sure about that.

The reason I am suspicious of air, is that although the system functions OK, occasionally the wheel will oscillate back and forwards for a few seconds when under the command of the AP.

Thanks again

Al
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Old 29-12-2019, 01:04   #11
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Re: Hydraulic Autopilot Bleeding

Quote:
Originally Posted by BigAl.NZ View Post
Yes - on our boat it is labelled OFF/ON (as in AP Off/On - but it is a bypass valve).



This method sounds straight forward, I will give it a try. It sounds like you are still using this Autopilot, albeit that you have replaced the ram?

I was even contemplating one of the newer ram units as the local agent seemed to think the modern AP is trying to be more accurate than the ram is capable of, but I am not sure about that.

The reason I am suspicious of air, is that although the system functions OK, occasionally the wheel will oscillate back and forwards for a few seconds when under the command of the AP.

Thanks again

Al
Before you buy a new ram call the Uflex company in Florida. I think they supplied all the Rams for WH. They provide me the best customer service I have ever had in 50 years of yachting. I can provide a contact if needed.

The ram is dependent on the pump. If you are using one of the WH hydraulic pumps ........ Geeze its a 1/4 hp pump and is used on massive fishing boats that fish off of Washington State in all kinds of weather.

Good luck

Chuck
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Old 29-12-2019, 01:38   #12
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Re: Hydraulic Autopilot Bleeding

Quote:
Originally Posted by chouliha View Post
Before you buy a new ram call the Uflex company in Florida. I think they supplied all the Rams for WH. They provide me the best customer service I have ever had in 50 years of yachting. I can provide a contact if needed.

The ram is dependent on the pump. If you are using one of the WH hydraulic pumps ........ Geeze its a 1/4 hp pump and is used on massive fishing boats that fish off of Washington State in all kinds of weather.

Good luck

Chuck
Lol yes those pumps do look solid!! I think our RAM is ok. How would I know if the RAM is the issue?
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Old 29-12-2019, 12:06   #13
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Hydraulic Autopilot Bleeding

Try timing the throw side to side while at the dock. I am interested in why your contact think it’s the ram? Can you expand a bit more?

Also you never answered my ? on the valve??

I recently did a sea trail on a cat that under AP the wheel would oscillate back and forth maybe 3-4 “. It was determined that it was a setup issue and it was the ray marine brain was the issue.
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Old 29-12-2019, 12:54   #14
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Re: Hydraulic Autopilot Bleeding

If you have the Hynautic reservalve (reservoir + valves) then you don't need to do the trick with two hoses into an oil container because the reservalve does that already.

what you need to do is bypass the ram. if it has bleeding valves then you can attach a piece of hose between them, then open the valves so that oil flows around the piston.

now open the two valves on the reservalve. Now you can circulate the oil by turning the steering wheel or making the AP pump run. Whenever air bubbles arrive at the reservoir, they bubble up and only oil goes into the outgoing hose. Just keep circulating until no more bubbles show up.

About the reservoir: keep oil level up. If space is tight, put a 3/8" clear vinyl hose in there leading out and up to a funnel. If the reservoir is the highest point in the system, you don't need to pressurize it. When pressure falls away, you do -not- get air in the lines as long as the oil is up at level.
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Old 29-12-2019, 13:15   #15
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Re: Hydraulic Autopilot Bleeding

Within my hydraulic system, air in the lines/ram results in the AP pump not being able to get a quick and clean response from the rudder, so in set-up, the rudder test is failed. On mine it reports "Rudder to Slow." There are two steps to solution: First, have the ram connections on top of the ram, so you can fill the ram itself with oil before attaching the hoses. Trapping air in the ram where it can't get out guarantees failure. Second, with the reservoir kept full at our Jedi Knight suggests, turn the wheel full over to full over until that pumps the air in the hoses out into the reservoir. It's replaced by oil, and you're good to go.
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