Seastar hydraulic steering

SkunkBoat

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#1
I am new to hydraulic steering. My old outboard boats had cables and the other boats I operated were inboards with power steering. So I have no experience to go by...

I just did the procedure for purging the fluid.
Dark red fluid came out, assuming it was trans fluid.
Put in seastar brand fluid.

Something I notice is that, holding the wheel at 12 o'clock, when I turn the wheel in short back & forth movements, it returns to a different spot, like 2 or 3 o'clock.
I was hoping that bleeding the system would correct this.

Anybody have this experience and was it the helm itself?
 

seasick

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#2
SkunkBoat said:
I am new to hydraulic steering. My old outboard boats had cables and the other boats I operated were inboards with power steering. So I have no experience to go by...

I just did the procedure for purging the fluid.
Dark red fluid came out, assuming it was trans fluid.
Put in seastar brand fluid.

Something I notice is that, holding the wheel at 12 o'clock, when I turn the wheel in short back & forth movements, it returns to a different spot, like 2 or 3 o'clock.
I was hoping that bleeding the system would correct this.

Anybody have this experience and was it the helm itself?
Did you follow the seastar recommended bleeding proceedure?
If not do so and see what happens. You need two people to properly bleed the system.
 

SkunkBoat

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#3
yes, did the procedure. Oh by the way, found a brand new Seastar Filler tube in a drawer that the PO left....didn't have to shell out out $27 at West Marine!!!!

I was checking out my neighbor's steering. He explained that there is an overpressure valve that will cause the wheel to not return to the same position every time.
This is "normal" to some extent.

His sort of feels the same but he has I/O. If my steering was just like that I would be happy

I think I'll try to find some less expensive hydraulic oil and purge again, get out all of the trans fluid and really try to make sure there is absolutely no air.

One trick I heard is to use a 2 liter bottle filled instead of having to switch the filler tube mid-way onto another Qt bottle.
Need to have long clear drain tubes into bottles too.
 

Greyduk

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#4
Hey Skunk, Look at a place called Aircraft Spruce at Phillips or Aeroshell aircraft hydraulic fluid. It meets the specifications called for by sea star. I purged my system a couple of weeks ago and it worked great. I used the Philips brand. It was $34 a gallon shipped to me and came in quart cans. It made a huge difference when I purge the system. I had a big air bubble in the system and the oil was probably original to the 1999 boat.
 

SkunkBoat

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#5
Greyduk said:
Hey Skunk, Look at a place called Aircraft Spruce at Phillips or Aeroshell aircraft hydraulic fluid. It meets the specifications called for by sea star. I purged my system a couple of weeks ago and it worked great. I used the Philips brand. It was $34 a gallon shipped to me and came in quart cans. It made a huge difference when I purge the system. I had a big air bubble in the system and the oil was probably original to the 1999 boat.
Thanks. I assume you're the same Greyduk on the V20 site? Congrats on selling the V21. Did you buy a Grady?
 

Greyduk

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#6
Yes I am the same one. I bought a 1999 223. It seems as though you and I are traveling some of the same paths. I really like the looks of your 265. I wish that I could justify having one of those. I really like the design. I look forward to keeping up with you on this forum.
 

SkunkBoat

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#7
Greyduk said:
Yes I am the same one. I bought a 1999 223. It seems as though you and I are traveling some of the same paths. I really like the looks of your 265. I wish that I could justify having one of those. I really like the design. I look forward to keeping up with you on this forum.
HEHEHEHE...I wish I could justify having her.....
 

Halfhitch

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#10
Hey skunk...you don't need to switch bottles of fluid during the bleeding. Just use a quart jug and cut the bottom out so the guy turning the wheel can add as needed. When you think you have all the air out, turn the wheel to full lock either port or starboard and force the wheel to continue. If the air is out it will come up hard. Continue turning hard. it probably takes 80 to 100 lbs of lift on one side of the wheel to make it move and it will feel bumpy as each piston in the pump goes over center. There is a relief valve inside that opens at a given pressure. If that's happening it's a sign your helm pump is healthy. Go back to the opposite stop and do it again. While applying high pressure it will also help you find loose fittings or bad seals.




I bought this gallon at our local Cessna repair shop for $34.
 

No Bail

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#11
I found the red color assisted in noticing any leaks in the system. However, the installer of my auto pilot acted as if I was nuts to use anything other than Sea Stars fluid. I think they like selling the higher priced fluid.

You can buy a simple system that uses a pressurized container so one person can bleed the system. You just need the proper hoses to capture the fluid on the stern. It is so much easier to have 2 people do it, even with the pressure system.

Randy
 

seasick

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#12
The idea behind two people is for one to turn the wheel and the other to fight the movement of the ram rod at the motor. It may take several repetitions of the bleeding process to work air pockets out of the system. Assuming that the fluid that is coming out is clean and at some point in the process you will be bleeding new fluid, it is OK to catch the fluid and reuse it. Having a hose on the bleeder and a jar to capture the fluid is helpful The point is that the system may need 2 or 3 bottles or more worth of fluid to bleed completely depending on how low it was and how much air is in it and how long the lines are, but you don't need to toss out all the bled fluid.
 

Halfhitch

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#13
seasick said:
The idea behind two people is for one to turn the wheel and the other to fight the movement of the ram rod at the motor. It may take several repetitions of the bleeding process to work air pockets out of the system. Assuming that the fluid that is coming out is clean and at some point in the process you will be bleeding new fluid, it is OK to catch the fluid and reuse it. Having a hose on the bleeder and a jar to capture the fluid is helpful The point is that the system may need 2 or 3 bottles or more worth of fluid to bleed completely depending on how low it was and how much air is in it and how long the lines are, but you don't need to toss out all the bled fluid.
I agree, two people makes the job go better for sure. Also, it is recommended to turn the wheel no slower than the rate of 2 seconds per revolution. If you hesitantly "creep" the wheel, it may not clear the air from the high spots in the lines. The captured, drained fluid is definitely reusable unless it is milky, indicating moisture in suspension. I have a funnel system that will hold coffee filters and I filter my drained fluid through two layers.
 

Halfhitch

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#16
No Bail said:
Seasick, first I've heard of putting counter pressure on the ram. I'll have to Google that topic a bit.

Randy
If you are doing the job by yourself use a nylon ratchet strap from the anti-ventilation plate over to your trailer (or to a stern tie-down eye if on the water) to hold the steering ram at full stop while you go to the wheel to turn it in the opposite direction.
 

SkunkBoat

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#17
I'm going to re-visit this once I get some warm days. I noticed a wet spot on the back of the helm. It might just be the front shaft seal but I'm going to order a full o-ring/gasket kit for the helm.
Available on Amazon for about $40. Seastar HS5176 Helm Seal Kit & Seastar HA5438 Filler Tube & Seal Pick Tool

Saw this video which explains it pretty clearly...nothing I can't handle.
service seastar helm video

I have never been happy with the steering on this beast. I want to get everything squared away with the helm because I'm looking at adding autopilot and if I can't steer straight, it won't either....
 
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Ozz043

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#18
I too get a small weeping on the back of the helm, the pump fittings basically. It seems to be on warm days and it’s on the bleed pipe and not the pressure pipes. To locate I soaked oil up with tissues and came back the next day....

I’ve recently repurged my lines due to autopilot install and I did not follow the Seastar procedure.....I merely connected it all up, hung a bottle connected to the fill point ( same as pictured earlier this thread ) then just turned the helm back and forth full lock 4 or 5 times....bingo all done and I was quite surprised to be honest
 

seasick

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#19
I too get a small weeping on the back of the helm, the pump fittings basically. It seems to be on warm days and it’s on the bleed pipe and not the pressure pipes. To locate I soaked oil up with tissues and came back the next day....

I’ve recently repurged my lines due to autopilot install and I did not follow the Seastar procedure.....I merely connected it all up, hung a bottle connected to the fill point ( same as pictured earlier this thread ) then just turned the helm back and forth full lock 4 or 5 times....bingo all done and I was quite surprised to be honest
Sometimes if you fill the unit a bit too full, it will overflow during warm temps. I have had that occur a few times. I just wipe up the oil and eventually the oil reaches a happy level with enough room for expansion.
 
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Halfhitch

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#20
I'm going to re-visit this once I get some warm days. I noticed a wet spot on the back of the helm. It might just be the front shaft seal but I'm going to order a full o-ring/gasket kit for the helm.
Available on Amazon for about $40. Seastar HS5176 Helm Seal Kit & Seastar HA5438 Filler Tube & Seal Pick Tool

Saw this video which explains it pretty clearly...nothing I can't handle.
service seastar helm video

I have never been happy with the steering on this beast. I want to get everything squared away with the helm because I'm looking at adding autopilot and if I can't steer straight, it won't either....

That video was scary. Rebuilding the helm needs to be done in a much cleaner work environment and far less haphazardly. The lack of cleanliness in that guys method was astounding!
In my opinion, the best way to deal with a questionable helm is to send it to this guy. http://www.charlesaperry.com/fluid-tech.html I have used his service several times. He is a small outfit. Has been a representative of Seastar for a long time and does excellent work and you can talk to the guy that is doing the work. You don't have to buy any O-ring kits wondering if you will have everything you need. The little check balls and springs are easy to lose or damage. The video left a lot out of a complete rebuild. Fluid technologies charges 40 bucks to do a bench test to see if your helm does indeed need a rebuild performance wise. He calls you with his findings and if it is performing to spec., and you feel that due to age of the soft parts you want it rebuilt anyway then he will. At that point your only out 40 bucks and you know your helm is performing correctly. If you have work done then the 40 bucks for the test comes off the bill. After the rebuild he does another performance test to make sure it meets Seastar specification. The best money I have spent for professional work on my boats.

In your first post you mentioned that when you rattle the wheel back and forth firmly that the wheel migrates from original position while the motor stays centered. That is normal for hydraulic steering...to a point. If it is deemed excessive the first thing I would check is the steering cylinder. It has a single piston with two sets of seals. If, like you mentioned the fluid being red, the previous owner may have used ATF and it could have helped with the poor performance. If when you tilt your engine all the way up and cock it over just slightly off center and your engine goes to full lock on its own in 30 minutes then that cylinder piston has a lot of leak-by. That is easy to replace yourself or you can throw it in the box with the helm and send it along to Fluid Technologies. He will check the bore for wear/scratches and hone it out if necessary if it is not worn beyond spec, reseal it and bench test it.

Just mentioned all this so you know your options.
 
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