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Old 08-07-2020, 07:26   #1
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Replacing a W-H Autopilot

Hello all,
tl;dr: Has anyone attempted to replace an older AP "brainbox" and compass/rudder feedback unit while retaining the hydraulic drive components?

When we bought our boat, the autopilot was one of the things that was a bit of a head scratcher. The electronics were all fairly modern with a simrad "3G" radar and a NSS8 controller, modern tri-data etc.

The autopilot however, is one built by WH Autopilots and is decidedly vintage looking. It served us well for just over one season before turning on to a blank screen this past weekend. I will attempt some troubleshooting but documentation on this unit is sparse and support even sparser. I hear nothing but good things about them, and it did perform well while it worked, but I suspect we'll want to replace it before moving aboard full-time this spring. The hydraulics seem to be very stout and well founded, and we'd like to keep them if possible.

I know someone will come along and tell me the W-H is a great unit, and I'm sure it is, but the reality is that parts availability in a foreign port will be nil and I am decidedly of the solid state generation. It's much easier for me to diagnose a digital object than an analog one, and most of our electronics have already gone that route.

Curious to hear of other peoples' experiences.
Thank you
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Old 08-07-2020, 07:33   #2
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Re: Replacing a W-H Autopilot

We did exactly that. The hydraulic unit(s) (we have two) have a FET power controller, which connects to the electric motor. You remove that controller and the cable to the motor (2-conductor, 12V) connects directly to a B&G (Navico) pilot computer. You want the hi power computer (i.e. the NAC-3)
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Old 08-07-2020, 07:40   #3
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Re: Replacing a W-H Autopilot

I have done exactly that too. I had the brain box rebuilt by Wil Hamm (don't know if he's still around). In the end I gave up, installed a B&G AP and a Lecomble & Schmitt RV3 power pack from PYI. The L&S unit weighs less than one of the WH motor/pumps. No belts, simple wiring and plumbing. All in all, it's a far superior system. One major benefit is the wind angle steering. This is on a 48' cat with B&G H5000 electronics (upgraded from old Raymarine).


You might find a buyer for your WH parts either here on SSCA.


Cheers,
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Old 08-07-2020, 07:49   #4
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Re: Replacing a W-H Autopilot

Quote:
Originally Posted by s/v Jedi View Post
We did exactly that. The hydraulic unit(s) (we have two) have a FET power controller, which connects to the electric motor. You remove that controller and the cable to the motor (2-conductor, 12V) connects directly to a B&G (Navico) pilot computer. You want the hi power computer (i.e. the NAC-3)
Thanks! That is encouraging. Did you opt for a stand-alone autopilot control? The NSS8 is advertised as being capable of autopilot steering, and we have a remote display at the helm. The logic is down in the brainbox, so technically the plotter should be able to control it I'd think.

The other curiosity is all analog (Moor) wind instruments that don't feed back to the plotter, so no wind-aware steering yet... Another thing for the to-do list.
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Old 08-07-2020, 10:03   #5
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Re: Replacing a W-H Autopilot

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Originally Posted by CaptAirman View Post
Thanks! That is encouraging. Did you opt for a stand-alone autopilot control? The NSS8 is advertised as being capable of autopilot steering, and we have a remote display at the helm. The logic is down in the brainbox, so technically the plotter should be able to control it I'd think.

The other curiosity is all analog (Moor) wind instruments that don't feed back to the plotter, so no wind-aware steering yet... Another thing for the to-do list.
No, this is fully nmea2000 integrated. To control AP I have many ways:

- B&G Triton display + AP keypad (I have 2 sets of these)
- B&G Vulcan MFD
- iPad with iSailor, iPhone with iSailor

I do not have one of their AP control heads...
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Old 08-07-2020, 10:35   #6
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Re: Replacing a W-H Autopilot

Switch out to opencpn/openplotter then use pypilot as your AP. Works great w/your Simrad 3G and your other sensors will also work w/opencpn.

We replaced our vintage Wood-Freeman computer/electronics w/the pypilot. http://phoenixketch.blogspot.com/201...autopilot.html
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Old 08-07-2020, 11:25   #7
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Re: Replacing a W-H Autopilot

I had a dead B&G on my boat when I bought it. replaced the brain with another B&G (everything is B&G and I just decided to stay in the family to hopefully make things work together easier. Meh. Not important) New B&G requires a new compass so add that to the list. Kept the hydraulic (original over 20 years old) and it works fine.
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Old 08-07-2020, 12:24   #8
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Re: Replacing a W-H Autopilot

I just replaced my Wood Freeman motor/pump. (Which was huge) It was setup with Simrad brain and control heads. Few years ago changed gyro to digital when the old one sounded like it had a bad bearing.
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Old 08-07-2020, 15:05   #9
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Re: Replacing a W-H Autopilot

I don’t think any of those are W-H...
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Old 08-07-2020, 23:44   #10
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Re: Replacing a W-H Autopilot

PALAGIC auto pilot, electronic package,brain, with cordless remote, about $700, will interface with rotory,ram,hydralic, has , i forget x number of axis, gps, ect.,ect., good record, all potted, latest technology.
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Old 09-07-2020, 05:43   #11
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Re: Replacing a W-H Autopilot

Thanks for all the replies. I'll try and salvage the W-H this weekend, to get us through as much of a trip to block island next weekend as it can. I think based on what I see here the logical course is to fit the NAC3 part w/ accessories and slave it to the NSS8 plotter and my tablet for control.
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