Hynautic steering does not work - SailNet Community

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Old 04-05-2013
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Hynautic steering does not work

The steering on my 1973 Gulfstar 36 trawler has gone out. From what I gather, this is a Hynautic hydraulic steering system. Unfortunately, although I had a lot of sailing experience before buying this boat last September, I am completely ignorant of hydraulic steering system.

So I hope that some of you may be able to offer some help. When I brought the boat over from the East coast of Florida to St. Marks (Northwest Florida) the steering was working fine. The previous owner told me that I needed to keep the reservoir filled with ATF and to keep it pumped up to about 40 psi. I did not take any ATF along on the trip over here, and when I got to my slip it was very low. It has sat in the slip since September, for various reasons, and last week I filled the reservoir and tried to pump up the pressure. It seems to not hold the pressure however, and the steering wheel has no effect on the rudder.

I do not expect any of you to solve the problem for me (although it would be nice!) but perhaps you can tell me where to start.

Thanks,
John
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Old 04-05-2013
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Re: Hynautic steering does not work

Check for a bleed screw
I don't know this system but that is probably why you can't hold pressure. I will bet there is air in the system.
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Old 04-05-2013
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Re: Hynautic steering does not work

From your description, it sounds like you have a pretty substantial leak in the system somewhere. Having to constantly top off your reservoir is not normal.

Check to see if you have a by-pass valve plumbed into the hydraulic run, and verify that it hasn't been inadvertently turned to allow the hydraulic fluid to bypass your steering ram(s.)

To do this right, you need to crawl around and look for the telltale ATF stains. Trace them back as far as you can to try and find their origin. If you are lucky, then it'll be as blutoyz said a loose bleed nipple. It you are a little less lucky, it could be a loose union at one of your connections.

Moving a little further down the complexity/expense scale:
- Abraded or failed hydraulic line/hose.
- Steering ram seals leaking (will require removal and overhaul.)
- Steering pump seals leaking (also a remove/repair job, but wouldn't explain the overall loss of fluid.)

After doing the inspection, the next step is to refill and bleed the system. Just like the brakes in your car, any air in the system will keep it from operating right. If you've ever bled the brakes on your car, you can do this one as well. The only difference is that the steering ram has bleed screws on both ends, so you turn the helm to one side and bleed the compressed end of the ram, then go hard the other way and bleed that end of the ram. You'll need to do this back and forth drill multiple times, so having a helper at the helm is a real time saver.
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Old 04-05-2013
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Re: Hynautic steering does not work

I am guessing you have a leak and the best place to start looking is aft in the steering compartment. Up should be able to see the ram attached to the tiller tie bar. Check all the fittings and look for oil in the bilge. 9 times out of 10 the leak will be here as this area tends to get wet and corrosion is an issue. The other places to look would be at each helm station. If the helm stations leak you normally see it sooner as it will leak out at your feet but not always. If you find no leaks then try to follow the copper tubing lines from the helm units to the rudders. look at where they pass through bulkheads as this is a problem area. It seems clear you have a leak so I would focus on that. It could be any number of fittings or the ram itself. You may have to bleed it after finding the leak this can be a a pain but we can talk about that after you find the leak

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Re: Hynautic steering does not work

Sorry...+1 on the leak
I didn't think to say there must be a leak somewhere
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Re: Hynautic steering does not work

Thanks for the tips. Good weather coming up this weekend, so I will go down there and search for the leak (I know there is one, because I have to constantly add ATF to the reservoir). The previous owner said he knew there was one, but could not locate it. So I will just have to search diligently, following the advice you all have given me.
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Re: Hynautic steering does not work

Good weather will make a tedious chore a little less annoying (but you're still probably gonna be contorting your body for hours -- lay on the beer now )

Clean as you go when you do your inspection. Hydro leaks only become apparent when the system is pressurized, so if you don't find the leak on your first look-see you may not be successful until after you refill, bleed and re-pressurize your steering.

I was a little confused about the PO's advice to pressurize the system to 40 psi. I'm not familiar with the hynautics line, but that just seems like wasted energy to my feeble mind. If the system is working as it should be, then your steering pump(s) are generating the pressure to actuate the ram -- adding external pressure into the system won't help, and could contribute to failure since the system is under constant pressure even when not in use.
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Re: Hynautic steering does not work

HyNautics has a system that requires this pressure. I think it is because the reservoir is normally mounted in the engine or steering compartment and they want pressure to keep the oil in the upper helms. Sort of makes sense and there are a bunch of these systems out there and for the most part seem to work well. It is just static energy and not used for steering I believe although I suppose it could make things easier. I 'll have to scratch my head on that one for a bit lol.
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Old 04-06-2013
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Re: Hynautic steering does not work

Thanks for all the good advice. I did bleed the system today, and it seems to be working again. Talked to the previous owner, who is very boat savvy, and he said that he spent a lot of time looking for the leak and could not find it. So apparently that is not going to be solved quickly. But the steering is working now, and I'll just have to add fluid from time to time I suppose, and keep on searching for that doggoned leak.

John (OP)
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Old 04-06-2013
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Re: Hynautic steering does not work

Masking tape and paper towels are your friends .... wrap a piece of paper towel around every junction and connection in the system then monitor, the leak will show up quite readily.
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