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Old 01-04-2011, 06:55   #1
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Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Denmark (Winter), Helsinki (Summer); Cruising the Baltic Sea this year!
Boat: Cutter-Rigged Moody 54
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Care and feeding of hydraulic autopilots

My present boat is my first with a hydraulic autopilot. The previous one had a wheel pilot. The difference of course is night and day.

Since it's my first ownership of such equipment I am clueless about what to do with it in the way of maintenance. There were no manuals among the reams of manuals I received with the boat, neither for the ram nor for the pump.

I believe that the pump is a Raymarine Type 3 reversible.

It has been working flawlessly for the last nearly two years but last weekend I suffered the first glitch with it.

I tried to set the pilot heading out into Southampton Water and it didn't work. I switched it off and tried again, and -- pop! The breaker for the electronics popped and the whole network went down. Reset the breaker, rebooted the network, and tried again. Again -- pop! And again. So I gave up and hand steered out of the Solent, not wanting to risk losing instruments in the tricky Needles Channel. Out in Christchurch Bay, I tried again, and it worked. Seemed a little sluggish, but worked and didn't pop the breaker.

The next days it seemed to work fine.

What's funny is that just the day before I left on that trip, I had been taking side panels off inside the laz in order to top up the Eberspaecher heating unit's header tank. I noticed the container for the autopilot hydraulic fluid for the very first time -- I had knocked it out of its holder. I looked inside and thought the fluid looked a little murky, and the level a little low. I couldn't find any information about what kind of fluid to put in it, so I put the container back in its holder and left it alone. Then the very next day, these problems.

Any tips? Did I do something, do you suppose? Or is the pump about to crap out on me?

What kind of hydraulic fluid do you use in yours -- ATF fluid like in most hydraulic things? Or something else?

Do you ever change it? Is there any other maintenance?

Cheers, Dockhead
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Old 01-04-2011, 07:43   #2
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Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Huntsville, AL
Boat: Freedom, Mull 30
Posts: 76
Re: Care and feeding of hydraulic autopilots

We really need a little more information about it. What model Raymarine pilot and manufacturer of the hydraulic system ( each manufacturer has fluid specifications). Type 3 pumps have removable brushes and thayt would be the first thing I would check and see how far the brushes are worn. Assuming that they are good, the next check would be to see how much voltage the motor is seeing when the pump is energized to move the helm hard over. Is it responding the same in both directions?
Check all electrical connections especially the grounds.
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