Autohelm ST4000 Plus problems - SailNet Community

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  #1  
Old 04-25-2011
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Autohelm ST4000 Plus problems

[Did the best I could with other threads on AH 4000 and don't see answers to my issues - thus this post]. My setup is an 'Autohelm ST4000 Plus' on a bank of 4 AH instruments - depth, speed, wind, and the autopilot. It's a wheel lock system. The lock seems to work fine, and from other posts I don't believe the instruments are interconnected, as the light only works on one of them and doesn't affect the others, but that's just background context. When I bought the boat a year ago the autopilot worked on a sea trial.

In priority order the issues are:
1. Can't steer via autopilot even with the engine running. It now veers all over the place (well, I can't wait long enough to find out what it might EVENTUALLY do). Initially it had a course that was way off. I tried the calibration procedure on SF Bay and did 6 slow circles under 2kts, but it never registered any result. When I stopped calibrating it defaulted to zero deviation. I entered the correct compass course at some point, but it just gets confused. Any idea what could be wrong? or what further research I need to do to pinpoint the issue?
2. Never could autopilot steer when under sail power for very long because I'd get a "low battery" warning and/or a flashing AH4000 message. As far as I can tell the batteries were NOT low. If I started the engine I USED to be able to use autopilot for hours. (which is most useful singlehanded)

3. The compass course is off and won't respond to deviation input. This is low priority because I know where I'm going and have GPS and compass, so I don't need this.

What I need is for the autopilot to work again at least under engine power, and hold a straight course when I set it (even if it's displaying the wrong compass reading), and then be able to vary that course by 1 or 10* on request. I don't need the tacking 90* feature.

I know there is a lot newer/better technology out there, but I'd much prefer to invest my budget in sails and speed, rather than have to upgrade this device.

Thanks for your insight.
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Old 04-26-2011
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First, carefully check all your connections. Next, with the autopilot on, check the voltage at the control head.

Next check the fluxgate. Use an Ohm meter on low scale. Readings can be off +/1 one ohm

Red to Green
4 ohms
Measurement is taken between the two colors


Red to Yellow
4 ohms

Green to Yellow
8 ohms

Screen to Blue
8 ohms

All other combinations
Open Circuit
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Old 04-27-2011
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"Low battery" could be just that, a low battery. My VHF kept displaying low battery even after putting the charger on it over night it would still read "low battery" and the charger would read "CHARGED". I took the word of the VHF and replaced my 5 year old batteries and now the radio works fine.
Speaking of the CHARGER, guess what? There is something in that unit that totally screws with the fluxgate and puts the compass way off course and it affects the compass from almost anywhere on the boat, I have to take it off the boat and now I will have to go out and re-calibrate the fluxgate.
Oh yea, I have the RayMarine ST4000 MKII+ and it still works fine so I don't want to replace mine either. Have you tried locking the clutch lever into place, the one on the steering wheel disc? That will engage, dis-engage the the autoplilot lock. If that is not the problem search around your boat for some electrical appliance or cable that might be affecting the compass. The ST4000+ was and still is a solid product and you would be better off if you could trouble shoot the problem and keep it.
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Old 04-28-2011
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I have the same autopilot since many years and same problems today I am supposed to work on it this WE so will let you know
But for sure Low bat is Low bat The fact that you keep engine running means nothing If the battery is dead/ dead it will act as a buffer
Try connecting autopilot to start battery and see if there is a difference ?
Check all your wires In some case Low battery could also mean "Not receiving enough juice "
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Old 04-28-2011
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The low battery error message can also be caused by problems in the control head and be unrelated to the battery condition.
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Old 05-15-2011
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So mine was really acting
From low battery to no data I believe I got every message possible!

I bought a spray can of electronic cleaning stuff at Radio shack, unplugged and cleaned every coonector, at the head, the drive and the battery Even some of the glass fuse had condensation inside

Looks like it is working well now !
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Old 05-31-2011
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I got the "low battery" reading as well. I had the Raymarine repair guy on my boat. He took all sorts of readings checked my connections and called Raymarine. They said the unit has issues and could be sent in for repair but they could not guarentee they still even had parts. They offered a reconditioned one or a new model at a discount. I'm waiting for prices.

This unit and issue has come up on a nimber of blogs I've read. Ths consensus is to replace it. The new unit comes in two parts and is supposed to be better built since they did not try to cram all the necessary stuff into that 1 small box.
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Old 06-06-2011
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Timely Question

My ST4000+ Autopilot Control is also giving me "Low Battery" on the Head Unit Display and not driving the Motor to the Wheel Mount.

Here are my symptoms:

1) Unit On in "STANDBY" mode never reads "Low Battery"
2) When Engaging "AUTO" mode, "Low Battery" comes on in 15 to 30 seconds after the "AUTO" mode is switched on.
3) Pressing "STANDBY", While "Low Battery" is showing, clears the "Low Battery" message and puts "STANDBY" back on display.
4) In the short time after I push "AUTO" and then +10 several times to change heading, drive motor does not spin. Tested motor with 9V and it spins well.
5) Pulled off connecteor to head unit from both drive and power, inspected, and then reinstalled. Minimal corrosion seen.

Did not test voltage to unit from battery because VOM wasn't working (dead battery).

Unit worked well last year and then quit about halfway through season.

I will look at the resistance measurements given by CaptainDan 99 next, but I am frustrated that I can't get this thing working. IF I have to replace the head, can I do so without a new flux gate and wheel drive?

Thanks.

DrB
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Old 06-06-2011
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Low Battery?

Since you are getting the "low Battery" only in "AUTO" I suggest getting your meter working and testing the voltage at the control head when in auto. I believe that it will not show Low Voltage until the voltage gets well below 12 volts.

I may be able to help with a repair or replacement head if needed and yes, if you replace the head, you can use your present drive and fluxgate if they are OK.

You may also want to check the amp draw on your motor.
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Old 06-18-2011
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DrB,
I am having the same exact problem as you, the thing worked in January for the seatrail so I believe the unit is probably ok but who knows. I have undone all connections, lubed everything with wd-40 and insures the connections were tight. I've replicated the problem sitting at dock connected to shore power, while motoring, and on batteries. Will go over connections once again and clean spade connections with with a chemical cleaner. Keeping my fingers crossed..
MJ
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