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Old 11-27-2012
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Why is it so hard to find information about installing a Autopilot?

I am trying to figure out how to install a below deck autopilot on a Gulfstar 41. I go to the different manufactures and they each have an array of parts that need to be put together to install one. Rarely do I find a 'kit' to install. It seems one could spend a couple thousand dollars for a unit and then find you need to spend a couple more for the parts that didn't come with it. Buying a used one from ebay or such is absolutely ridiculous.

I realize that each boat is different and that a generic 'kit' might not be so easy. But, it sure seems that it is unnecessarily difficult to put together a package that one could compare to other manufactures to see if that is the price/configuration that one would want.

Am I seeing something wrong?

With all the pieces scattered out everywhere I can't figure out which brands are best, which ones will last longer, which ones have parts available, or won't be obsolete in 6 months as most electrical components are now days.

Installing a new unit on an old boat seems to be difficult. I guess those who buy a boat with an autopilot already installed are the lucky ones.
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Old 11-27-2012
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Re: Why is it so hard to find information about installing a Autopilot?

Quote:
Originally Posted by pyewackette View Post
I am trying to figure out how to install a below deck autopilot on a Gulfstar 41. I go to the different manufactures and they each have an array of parts that need to be put together to install one. Rarely do I find a 'kit' to install. It seems one could spend a couple thousand dollars for a unit and then find you need to spend a couple more for the parts that didn't come with it. Buying a used one from ebay or such is absolutely ridiculous.

I realize that each boat is different and that a generic 'kit' might not be so easy. But, it sure seems that it is unnecessarily difficult to put together a package that one could compare to other manufactures to see if that is the price/configuration that one would want.

Am I seeing something wrong?

With all the pieces scattered out everywhere I can't figure out which brands are best, which ones will last longer, which ones have parts available, or won't be obsolete in 6 months as most electrical components are now days.

Installing a new unit on an old boat seems to be difficult. I guess those who buy a boat with an autopilot already installed are the lucky ones.
First you must decide on the type of drive unit you can/will use
-Electric/Hydraulic (this depends on the steering system you have)
-Does your steering system have an attachment for a drive unit or do you need one that can be attached to the rudder shaft

There are AFAIK only a few companies who make electric drive units, for sailboats I think that electric drives is the best option (only exception is boats that have hydraulic steering already installed)

Jefa has wide variety of electric drive units Jefa Steering Systems
(Garmin use drive units from Jefa)

Raymarine has some types Drive Unit Selection

Most (if not all) drive units can be combined with autopilots of other makes.

The companies listed below supply complete packages with electric drive units
(some or all the cables may be extra)
Jefa Jefa Steering Systems
Garmin https://buy.garmin.com/shop/shop.do?cID=228&pID=68528
Raymarine Autopilots Main Menu


There might be more suppliers unknown to me

Another option is to combine product from different suppliers
I have a Coursemaster CM85i with CM841 Junction Box CM85i and will be installing a drive unit from Jefa.

The one piece that have to be custom made or adapted is the attachment of the drive unit to the rudder shaft (if that is what you need).
From a safety perspective it is preferred to have a separate tiller arm for the AP.

There are two options make a tiller arm from scratch or find a manufacturer that stock blanks that can be adapted.

This is what I have ordered for my project.


Here is another variant
Block to bolt on to the rudder shaft



Tiller arm that bolts on to the block


Here is a link to a post I made at another forum about my project Upgrading the autopilot with a new linear drive
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Old 11-27-2012
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Re: Why is it so hard to find information about installing a Autopilot?

Great information. Thanks. I guess I did leave out considerable information, but I just wanted to confirm your statement that certain different components can be integrated? Yes?

So, my steering is by cable and pulley. So, if I find a liner drive unit I can put it on. Then get the other components separate?

Also, can I mount the liner drive unit straight to the steering quadrant or do you have to have the rudder arm to shaft mechanism?
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Old 11-27-2012
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Re: Why is it so hard to find information about installing a Autopilot?

Quote:
Originally Posted by pyewackette View Post
Great information. Thanks. I guess I did leave out considerable information, but I just wanted to confirm your statement that certain different components can be integrated? Yes?

So, my steering is by cable and pulley. So, if I find a liner drive unit I can put it on. Then get the other components separate?
Take some pictures of the current setup and post here.

The autopilot system consists of the following components
-Autopilot unit (the brain)
-A compass
-A control head (operation panel)
-A rudder sensor(to give the "brain" info on rudder angle) Garmin has this integrated in the drive unit.
-A drive unit
The four first components are normally sold as a package - some packages also include the drive unit. Some kits also include some of the cabling (power cables is normally not part of the kit).

There are several types of drive units available (different makes and designs - just have a look at the different types Jefa make)

The autopilot unit have
-Two power cables (+/-) going to the drive unit, it changes direction by switching polarity
-A clutch output to operate the clutch on the drive unit
-Connection to control head, rudder sensor and compass

Depending on model it can also be integrated with chart plotter and wind instruments.

Quote:
Originally Posted by pyewackette View Post
Also, can I mount the liner drive unit straight to the steering quadrant or do you have to have the rudder arm to shaft mechanism?
Depending on the quadrant it might be possible to attach the linear drive to the quadrant (you might have to reinforce the quadrant as most are not designed for loads from a linear drive)
A separate rudder arm is consider the best option as you get a system interdependent of the steering.

If you have a look at my post Upgrading the autopilot with a new linear drive you can get some idea on how to measure for fit.

Also have a look at the jefa pages in my previous post.
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Old 11-27-2012
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Re: Why is it so hard to find information about installing a Autopilot?

It really needs to be somewhat of a custom installation. Most boats are very different in the area of the rudder post and quadrant. Having some past experience greatly helps. But getting everything from one manufacturers will prove difficult.

My system has a Simrad drive, Raymarine rudder angle sensor and a Garmin control head. Not sure of the manufacturer of the steering arm.
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Old 11-28-2012
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Re: Why is it so hard to find information about installing a Autopilot?

I believe I am going to start with the tiller arm. I have access to a machine shop and am going to try and manufacture one similar to the Jefa tiller arm knuterikt put up. Thanks. From there I will piece it together. The Jefa linear drive seems good, but the price is higher. Probably go with Raymarine.

Thanks for all your help. I will probably come back to this post again in the future to get more info.
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Re: Why is it so hard to find information about installing a Autopilot?

Quote:
Originally Posted by pyewackette View Post
I believe I am going to start with the tiller arm. I have access to a machine shop and am going to try and manufacture one similar to the Jefa tiller arm knuterikt put up. Thanks. From there I will piece it together. The Jefa linear drive seems good, but the price is higher. Probably go with Raymarine.

Thanks for all your help. I will probably come back to this post again in the future to get more info.
Wait with machining the hole for the linear drive in the tiller arm until you have selected the drive unit.

Have a look at packages. Both Raymarine and Garmin have packages that include linear drive - maybe you can get a off season price
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Old 11-29-2012
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Re: Why is it so hard to find information about installing a Autopilot?

interesting discussion. I'm at the beginning stages of a similar installation: new autopilot on old boat. In my case, I've chosen the WH Autopilot for installation in a Pearson 422. I'm fortunate that there is another 422 in the area with the same (older version) autopilot installed so I can learn a ton before starting.

The instruction manual that came with the WH is helpful in the abstract with dimensions, angles, etc. Understandably, it doesn't say much about specific positioning for the particular boat. Much is left in the hands of the installer (me).

BTW - the WH ships in 4 boxes and comes without the actual hydraulic lines. Just laying all the parts out on the work table and sorting them out was a daunting endeavor.
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