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Jimbo485 17-09-2012 20:23

ATF replaces hydraulic steering fluid in the 3rd world?
We just had an interesting trip across from Bora Bora. We were headed to Beveridge Reef but the autopilot died enroute. Took a day to troubleshoot the problem (a broken piece of plastic which joins the shaft of the electric motor to the hydraulic pump) and then another 24 hours of waiting while the fast setting 5200 did its job. During the troubleshooting, I had to drain the hydraulic oil twice. We had enough oil onboard to fill it the 3rd time when the repair was ready. But this also meant that we just drifted about without steering for 2 days during the whole process of troubleshooting and repairing.

Anyway, the repair only lasted 12 hours, the 5200 couldn't hold the plastic together and it broke again. Didn't want to risk draining the last of the oil again even though we could have recovered most of it, so we just hand steered for 3 days and came in through the pass to here, Aitutaki, in the Cook Islands.

A local wood carver has made a couple of replacements (wooden autopilot!) and I will pick up another two in aluminium today.

Now I also need to get 4 or 5 litres of hydraulic steering fluid for the next 800 miles until we hit civilization again. There is none on this little island. There is not even any petrol on the island until the next supply ship arrives in about 10 days.

However, I can get hold of automatic transmission fluid.

So my big question - thanks for the patience - is it ok to use ATF instead of the correct hydraulic steering fluid in a hydraulic steering system?

Thanks !

DeepFrz 17-09-2012 20:34

Re: ATF replaces hydraulic steering fluid in the 3rd world?
It should be no problem in that application. In fact I would even mix the hydraulic fluid that you have left with whatever top up you need of transmission fluid. They are close applications with differences in temp. and shear forces. In your autopilot they should work fine.

I would however purge the system when you reach a good place to purchase hydraulic fluid.

Acushla 17-09-2012 20:44

Re: ATF replaces hydraulic steering fluid in the 3rd world?
The quick answer is yes you can use ATF as a replacement fluid if this is all you can get. It is worth mixing a small amount of ATF and your normal hydraulic fluid in a glass jar and shaking it up then allow it to settle to see how it mixes before you make any changes. If it shows compatabilty after this test then go ahead.

If you have to do this change you will need to give the system a flush and change back to the normal fluid once back where the full range of lubricants is again available. The risk is with the internal seals that may not like the change.

ATF has a higher temperature rating and antifoaming additives which are not required on your hydraulic system anyway and its lubrication will be OK for the pump.

Good luck

Jimbo485 18-09-2012 02:15

Re: ATF replaces hydraulic steering fluid in the 3rd world?
Thanks very much for the advice, Acushla and DeepFrz, for the advice. Much appreciated!

boden36 18-09-2012 03:42

Re: ATF replaces hydraulic steering fluid in the 3rd world?
Our hydraulic steering (Hydrive) specifies dexron ATF as fluid.

Dulcesuenos 18-09-2012 03:56

Atf is hydraulic fluid. Has better corrosion inhibitors than reg yellow hydraulic fluid and is easier to spot a leak then the clear yellow stuff. Also costs lots cheaper.

Aloha_float 18-09-2012 18:11

I worked with an engineering firm for years and our hydraulic oil spec was ATF. We used it almost all of our hydraulic systems. It will be fine in your application.

belizesailor 18-09-2012 18:19

Re: ATF replaces hydraulic steering fluid in the 3rd world?
Different manufacturers have different fluid recommendations, but I've used ATF in a pinch on my system which has a Capilano helm pump and Teleflex rams with no problems.

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