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scraph 03-26-2011 06:38 PM

SmartPilot X-5 Wheel Drive Unit "Upgrades"?
I'm guessing there are a handful of other engineers on this site, at least. I'm about to get my hands on the Raymarine X-5 SmartPilot Wheel autopilot setup. I read post after post of the problems with these units (which I'm assuming is similar to restaurant reviews ... you only hear from those disatisfied). I understand that they aren't the strongest devices on the planet ... and below-deck autopilot, blah, blah, blah. Has anyone, if only for the sake of challenge, tore into these drive units with component upgrades in mind? Whenever I hear "weak units" in any instance I begin to look for my own solutions. I hear about "cheap plastics parts" always failing in these ... has no one fabricated their own components out of stronger materials?

I have no desire to hear grunting about below-decks autopilots or cries of "it's not worth it" because to some, myself included, tackling engineering problems are worth their own weight. Let me hear what any of you, if any, have accomplished in this vein.

RyanProvidian 05-26-2011 05:29 AM

I'm installing one in my C&C 34 now. I will let you know how it gos?

SVPrairieRose 05-26-2011 09:56 AM

I would love to see metal gearing in the drive unit as I have done one warranty swap out after less than a year of service. The opportunity is there but it would as you suspect be pricey to re-engineer with proper gearing.

JSailer 05-26-2011 10:57 AM

I installed the X-5 on my O'Day 30 over a year ago and it has performed perfectly. Several overnight trips and hundreds of miles in the ocean in various conditions.
The installation was very simple and easy.
The only thing I have not been doing is to rinse off the drive unit fresh water after use (guilty...) so the drive was a bit noisy after not being used for a few weeks but now that I have been rinsing it, it is not a problem anymore.

Oops.. Just realized after writing this that you were asking more about upgrade ideas...
Sorry, none here so far.

cghubbell 05-26-2011 01:18 PM

It sounds like something that could be done if you were a machinist, or had access to one easily. At that point you could probably keep the CNC files and duplicate them as an "upgrade kit" which would make a killing!

I think that any part you can see in plastic could be swapped out for some form of metal, but no doubt the gears are highly unique and proprietary in dimension and would need to be duplicated with CNC. That could be expensive if you weren't doing the work yourself.

I love the simplicity of the X5, and love the idea of having something a bit more rebust. Not sure why they don't offer it, as it would still be WAY below the cost of having a below-decks AP installed.

Cptken 05-26-2011 01:56 PM

I think all the important pieces on the X5 are at least as robust if not more so than on the 4000 series it replaced. The outer wheel shell which a is basically just a cover seems flimsy, thus the reports of poorly built. We must have 40 of the units in our YC, have heard no complaints of breakage. The one feature that I do not like is the response resets to 5 (max) every time it powers up, easy enough to reset, just seems like an unnecessary step.

tdw 05-26-2011 05:55 PM

I cannot help re upgrading the unit but its obvious that the X5 is fine for light - medium use but is not likely to be up to the task for heavy duty work on a daily basis. I'd be very interested to hear further reports from PrairieRose.

Cptken ... I'm not looking at the manual but if I remember rightly you can adjust the response reset auto number to reset to the number of your choosing. Its in the setup menu.

Faster 05-26-2011 06:08 PM


Originally Posted by tdw (Post 734493)
Cptken ... I'm not looking at the manual but if I remember rightly you can adjust the response reset auto number to reset to the number of your choosing. Its in the setup menu.

I think you can set those parameters "permanently" in User Cal....

tdw 05-26-2011 07:03 PM


Originally Posted by Faster (Post 734503)
I think you can set those parameters "permanently" in User Cal....

just had a look at the manual on line .. page 49 of the Installation Setup manual. It is in Section 4.3 User Calibration.

Skipper26 07-08-2011 08:57 PM

in my limited experience (3 trips, about 100 miles sailing alltogether) the drive unit is not a problem at all on my 26 ft boat. The problem is the course computer. My course computer likes to take a siesta whenever it gets a little warmer. It will simply "go to sleep" without warning. Very annoying.

So, I am considering an upgrade, I have two old CPU cooling fans, will make a couple holes in the box and make them blow air in and out.

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