Installing an autopilot

Installation of an autopilot is of course very different dependent on what type of steering system you have on your boat and what type of autopilot you have selected. What we like to show here is how you connect a reversing pump to a hydraulic steering system which is the most common case. For all other steering system and drive units please consult the manual.

Look at the picture at the right. It shows a manual hydraulic steering system with two tubes between the helms pump and the hydraulic ram. Connecting a reversing pump to such a system means that you have to insert T-fittings on these two tubes. The reversing pump should be connected in paralell with the helms pump. You don’t have to care about if B and A is connected to the right side of the ram unit, you simply switch the electrical cables to the pump if it’s wrong. You also have to connect a balancing line between the helms pump and the reversing pump. The helms pump will act as an oil reservoar for the reversing pump. There is an outlet for that on every helms pump at the bottom. If you have more then one helms pumps it’s to the lowest placed helms pump you should connect this line.

Before opening the hydraulic tubes you have to empty the system from oil. If you have expensive tubes with pressed fittings on both sides maybe you don’t want to cut these to insert T-fittings. Just disconnect them from the ram, connect them to the T-fittings and order some short tubes for connecting to the ram unit. Otherwise just cut the tubes where you want to connect the reversing pump and then use reusable fittings with the correct size in order to connect between the T-fittings and ram unit. When all the tubing is connected refill the system with hydraulic oil and bleed the system according to the manual of the hydraulic steering system. Applying current to the reversing pump and let it run in both directions for a few second before bleeding the rest of the system will make this easier. Please note however that you should never run the pump without oil inside. Make sure that the pump is full of oil by opening the balancing line at the R connection on the pump and let some oil out before connecting it again.

Another way to connect the pump is to simply connect it to the helms pump directly with special T-fittings, see picture at the left. This is a very simple way to do it if you have enough space below the steering position. You can reuse the two tubings you have. The new things you need comes in a complete kit together with the reversing pump. Fits almost all brands of hydraulic steerings.

The drawback with placing the pump close to the steering position is the noice. Even if our pumps are the most silent in the market, if you have a modern 4-stroke engine you may still here some noice from them if you travel at very low speed. Otherwise it’s no problem.

In either way you will need new tubes and fittings for the work. You can either order them from us as complete kits or you buy them from your closest hydraulic shop. All tubes and fittings should be capable of handling at least 100 bars of pressure, that is important. Even if the fittings used for water lines looks similar and are cheaper never use these, they can handle only 16 bars of pressure. The only exception of this is the balancing (reservoar) line that is not pressurized. Here you can use a cheaper type of tubes and fittings if you like.

Installation of the electronic part of the autopilot should be quite easy. We show here the AP47 system. You have to find a good place for the display unit preferably near the steering station for ease of use. Ones this is installed the only thing you need to do is connecting to 12 volt and plug in the compass and optionally the rudder feed-back unit. There are also two wires which you can connect to your GPS plotter if you have one for automatic waypoint steering.

Just some last words about the rudder feed-back unit if you need to install this. Before you install it take a good look in the manual how this should be done. It’s important that you install it in such a way that the autopilot can find out if the boat is steered towards starboard or port side. There is a P and S marking on the unit and you have to see to that when the boat is steered to starboard the small rod on the unit has to be over the S and when steered to port side over the P. Besides this you can install it in the way you like.