I just returned from a single
handed trip to the Bahamas
MD). I have had problems with my 3 year old Raymarine
for the last 2 years and several times almost damaged the boat
because of it. I'm writing this to describe what I've finally done to fix the problem. Right up front, I'll state I AM a fan of Raymarine
autopilots. The EV-1 is my second autopilot and they are wonderful devices. However, I do consider the problem I'll describe below a design problem that they should own up to.
First, the problem. The autopilot clutch
disengages without warning. This usually happens when I'm in a following sea when the pilot is making more significant steering
changes to stay on course (when the boat
is yawing). The clutch
lever will tighten when the wheel
turns to starboard and will loosen when the wheel
turn to port. It will sometimes make several small turns back and forth (disengaging a little at a time) or one large turn to fully disengage. I have lost
on numerous occasions, sometimes jibing (I know, I should have had a jibe preventer rigged).
Another issue I've had is the wheel squeaking every time it changes direction. This has been very annoying and I've concluded is another symptom of the same (disengaging) problem.
During my trip, I called Raymarine and spoke with their expert, Lee. He was helpful and sent me photos. However, all his advice was related to cleanliness and belt tentioning of the wheel unit. As it turns out, that was not the problem.
I spent hours disassembling and adjusting the belt tension. I believed (and still believe) that the belt is too small in diameter. With the adjustment completely detentioned, the belt was too tight.
This last week, I removed the wheel pilot and brought it home. I completely disassembled the unit - removed the two eccentric wheels (one for the clutch lever and one for the belt tension adjustment), and the belt. It did not appear that anything was out of adjustment or broken. I called Lee again. I sent him a photo
showing the correct position of the nylon plate for the fully detentioned belt adjustment. After looking at my photo
, he called me back and I insisted that the belt was either too small or something needed lubrication. It was only after that that he suggested I remove the black rubber belts from the nylon eccentric wheels and apply some lubrication to the INSIDE of the belts.
After I did this, I took the unit back to the boat, installed it, and went for a sea trial. For the first time in two years, the unit does not squeak, it is much easier to manually engage, and it stays engaged with both small and large course changes.
My recommendation to Raymarine would be to remove the instructions about flushing
the unit with fresh water
after every use (do they really think anyone would do this?) and to add instructions to lubricate the outside of the nylon eccentrics/inside of the eccentric belts. Lee recommended using only a small amount of lubricant and to NOT lubricate either side of the large drive belt. I'd also recommend they give this advice to every one of their technical advisers.
Note: the attached photo shows the plate at the base of the nylon eccentric for belt adjustment against the pin of the housing. This is the correct position for minimum belt tension.