24" Flybridge hydrologic steering conversion

MSgonewild

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Apr 11, 2020
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Hi All, any advice on how to convert rack and pinion steering to hydraulic. Not sure where to start interms of material but im confident in my mechanical abilities to rKe on this task. Any advice or links would be appreciated
 

ShadowX

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Its pretty straight forward. Uflex has a good page below that shows the different parts. Seastar also have their own systems, but personally, I prefer the Uflex due the better design. They are built like tanks and use oversized hydraulic orb fittings.

With an outboard motor, you can get a kit that comes with all the parts you need. However, for inboard engines, it doesn't seem to have a kit unless you get the power assisted steering system. If you have a sterndrive, they have a different cylinder. You may need the power assist version, so its best to check with someone with a similar boat and engine configuration.

The link below has links to different helms available and a selection guide to determine what is best for you. It seems like you select the cylinder that works with your application and there are three helm types available. You can select light, normal, medium, or heavy for the steering feeling. Basically, with a lighter steering reaction, its easier to steer, but it require more turns. With a heavier reaction, it turns faster with less turns, but it takes more effort. You are basically selection a pump flow rate.



Basically you need a kit that has the steering pump, the cylinders that match your engine type (or you can buy parts separately). You need a set of high pressure hoses that goes from your helm all the way to the cylinders. The length is determined by the distance from your helm to the engine area. You have to figure out what works best for you, but you can use approximately the same length as your cable drive that you currently have. You also need a hydraulic purge kit along with bottles of steering hydraulic fluid.

Before you take anything apart in your current system, make sure you have all the right parts and dry fit everything to make sure the fittings match your hoses and so on. Once you verify everything is good, you can remove your steering wheel, cables and other hardware. You can then mount the new helm, cylinder and run the lines. Make sure you cap and tape the ends of the lines before you run it through the hull so you don't get debris inside. Hook it all up, fill up the helm with fluid. Put in the filler bottle upside down and crank the wheels. Don't let the fluid run out or you get air inside the system.

At this point, you have to go through and purge all the air out. There are lots of videos online so no point in going into details. All you do is turn wheel back and forth until the bubbles are gone. There are some hoses that you can buy to connect the to the purge ports to help remove air from the cylinders. Just search for "hydraulic steering bleed kit" on Amazon.

I haven't done it on a sterndrive or inboard engine. I done several on outboard engines and its easy. For outboards, the biggest thing to watch out is removing and install the cylinder. Some boats have cramped transom space and it requires lifting the engine to remove and install the cylinders. Since you're using an inboard, that shouldn't affect you.

If you plan to add an autopilot pump in the future, all you need is a hose kit by Octopus (OC17SUK42).

1626006307323.png


There are lots of videos online.
 
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Windy Bay

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I am in agreement that the uflex system worked best for me. I have a volvo penta dp-a drive with power assist (power steering pump). I got a balanced cylinder, which means that the helm will have the same # of turns from straight ahead to full port or full starboard. depending which outdrive would depend on which cylinder you need. the 280 volvo penta is a bit more challenging. I think it was capt. c. delaney (member) had a write up on his 280. My steering cylinder came with compression fittings, and I found an older seastar helm with compression fittings. I will most likely get flammed for this but I used 3/8 soft copper hvac for my lines. let me know which drive you have and I might be of more help
 
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ShadowX

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I am in agreement that the uflex system worked best for me. I have a volvo penta dp-a drive with power assist (power steering pump). I got a balanced cylinder, which means that the helm will have the same # of turns from straight ahead to full port or full starboard. depending which outdrive would depend on which cylinder you need. the 280 volvo penta is a bit more challenging. I think it was capt. c. delaney (member) had a write up on his 280. My steering cylinder came with compression fittings, and I found an older seastar helm with compression fittings. I will most likely get flammed for this but I used 3/8 soft copper hvac for my lines. let me know which drive you have and I might be of more help

Just keep an eye on the hydraulic fluid color from time to time. If it starts turning green, it means you are getting corrosion in the lines. You can get galvanic corrosion due to the dissimilar metal contact between the copper and the stainless steel parts. It is also common to get a small amount of moisture trapped in the fluid and when it turns color, its time to flush out the fluid and replace it.

The 3/8 standard annealed copper is designed for around 960 psi. Its right at the 1000 psi range for most lower end hoses. The reinforced high pressure hoses like the QKITOB-22 comes with two hoses for less than $125. It can withstand 1500 psi of pressure. The cost is relatively cheap, especially for boats.

I'm more worried that in the long term, the corrosion might cause pinhole leaks on the inside of the copper tube and that is not something you can repair in the ocean. If you look at the chart below, the copper is more anodic than the stainless steel, so its more active and tends to pit on the copper side instead of the stainless. The further apart the two metals are in the chart, the more likely it is to have corrosion between the dissimilar metals. In this situation, its not good because the pitting will weaken the copper tubing.

Another issue is that vibration over time would work harden the annealed copper resulting in a fracture. Its like someone bending a beer can tab over and over and eventually it just breaks off. All that engine noise in the long run can do that to copper tubing if its not supported properly.

Stainless tubes are much stronger and does not have issues with galvanic reaction. It is often used in airplanes or construction equipment, but not on boats. Boats are subjected to the worse corrosion environment due to the salt spray.

These are the two main reasons why the copper tubing is not suggested for boats to run hydraulic lines from a safety point of view. It looks like you have a nice setup other than the copper tubes.


QKITOB-22 kit from Ebay or Amazon.
1626047989377.png


1626048983118.png
 
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Windy Bay

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Interesting reply. I did a lot of research before going with copper. The old seastar helm can not pressurize the system above the copper. I am thinking that the copper will most likely out last me. I tied it down with tie wraps that are screwed down along the entire path. I will watch the fluid to see what happens. I am using airplane grade fluid dyed red.
 
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ShadowX

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Interesting reply. I did a lot of research before going with copper. The old seastar helm can not pressurize the system above the copper. I am thinking that the copper will most likely out last me. I tied it down with tie wraps that are screwed down along the entire path. I will watch the fluid to see what happens. I am using airplane grade fluid dyed red.

Red is a good color for detecting leaks, but it is harder to tell if there is any rusting. When you use clear fluids, it becomes more obvious.

This is my buddie's helm when we took it apart to rebuild. There was about half an inch of sludge on the bottom of the housing. Its insane how much sludge there was inside. The fluid only had a slight tinge of brown on it. If the fluid was red, we would never have known there was an issue with rust. He trailers the boat, so its not like the boat is in the ocean the whole time. Water must have gotten in through the vent cap over the years.

I never underestimate the power of corrosion, especially in locations that I can't inspect. The ocean is not very forgiving when you have a failure. On something critical like steering, I always caution on the safer side. When something does go wrong, the insurance company can deny the claim if they can find any excuse.

Before:
1626224707442.png


1626224877053.png


After:
1626224980294.png


1626224991621.png
 
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Windy Bay

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Just keep an eye on the hydraulic fluid color from time to time. If it starts turning green, it means you are getting corrosion in the lines. You can get galvanic corrosion due to the dissimilar metal contact between the copper and the stainless steel parts. It is also common to get a small amount of moisture trapped in the fluid and when it turns color, its time to flush out the fluid and replace it.

The 3/8 standard annealed copper is designed for around 960 psi. Its right at the 1000 psi range for most lower end hoses. The reinforced high pressure hoses like the QKITOB-22 comes with two hoses for less than $125. It can withstand 1500 psi of pressure. The cost is relatively cheap, especially for boats.

I'm more worried that in the long term, the corrosion might cause pinhole leaks on the inside of the copper tube and that is not something you can repair in the ocean. If you look at the chart below, the copper is more anodic than the stainless steel, so its more active and tends to pit on the copper side instead of the stainless. The further apart the two metals are in the chart, the more likely it is to have corrosion between the dissimilar metals. In this situation, its not good because the pitting will weaken the copper tubing.

Another issue is that vibration over time would work harden the annealed copper resulting in a fracture. Its like someone bending a beer can tab over and over and eventually it just breaks off. All that engine noise in the long run can do that to copper tubing if its not supported properly.

Stainless tubes are much stronger and does not have issues with galvanic reaction. It is often used in airplanes or construction equipment, but not on boats. Boats are subjected to the worse corrosion environment due to the salt spray.

These are the two main reasons why the copper tubing is not suggested for boats to run hydraulic lines from a safety point of view. It looks like you have a nice setup other than the copper tubes.


QKITOB-22 kit from Ebay or Amazon.
View attachment 1298072

View attachment 1298098
so I have studied the information and I am not opposed to pre made hoses. What I am running into is the fittings on the cylinder and on the helm are compression fittings. The pre made hoses that I find are ORB fittings. changing the helm fittings are no problem, but the fittings on the cylinder seem to be the ones they want you to use. It says on the cylinder not to tighten or change the position of the bleed/connection fittings. also I am sure that I can find ORB fittings for my auto pilot. any suggestions on how to work around all of the fitting problems would be great
 
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ShadowX

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so I have studied the information and I am not opposed to pre made hoses. What I am running into is the fittings on the cylinder and on the helm are compression fittings. The pre made hoses that I find are ORB fittings. changing the helm fittings are no problem, but the fittings on the cylinder seem to be the ones they want you to use. It says on the cylinder not to tighten or change the position of the bleed/connection fittings. also I am sure that I can find ORB fittings for my auto pilot. any suggestions on how to work around all of the fitting problems would be great

I think you have a misunderstanding of the issue with the orb vs NPT (national pipe thread) fittings. The orb is only on the connection from the fitting to the helm or the hydraulic pump. On the side that connects to the hose, they all use 3/8" compression fittings.

In the example below from the Octopus kit, the red arrow shows the orb fitting, the green arrow shows the NPT fitting and the blue arrow is the connection side to the hoses. In the two adapters below, the blue side are the same 3/8" compression fittings. The only difference is on the opposite side that goes into your helm. You can also see the Octopus kit with the 3 foot cables all have the same 3/8" compression connectors on their cables too. This kit includes both versions of the adapters since people may have a NPT or an ORB helm, but the hoses are the same for either situation.

1627776646236.png

Here is an example of a helm with an ORB fitting. The ORB side is the red arrow and the blue side is the 3/8" compression fitting for the cable. The ORB fittings always have a black o-ring on it. In fact the word ORB is "O-ring Boss Male Rigid". The ORB fittings are great because you can position the hose or adapters at any angle. On a normal NPT thread, it depends on where the threads are seated properly.

1627776020289.png


Below are examples of typical hydraulic pumps. They all have an ORB or NPT threaded hole that requires an adapter to be installed for the 3/8" compression fitting. You don't even need to deal with that end since the mating end to the hose is a compression fitting.


1627777351576.png


1627777370003.png



Basically your hoses would be the same no matter if you have a helm with an orb fitting or NPT fitting. If you look up any Seastar or Uflex hose sets, they are all have 3/8" compression connectors. The hoses are interchangeable between the two different brands. On your autopilot pump, the hose should also be 3/8" compression already. All you do is remove the old hose and replace it with the new hose.


This is another example of a typical hydraulic hose. It has a 3/8" compression female connector on both ends.
1627776522073.png


If you are still not sure, take some pictures of the helm and autopilot pump. I am sure you will see an adapter on the helm and the pump similar to what is shown above.
 
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Windy Bay

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so with the exception of the helm pump, the rest of the system is brand new. auto pilot pump just arrived, cylinder i have had for a while but is new. the helm pump is something I acquired and rebuilt. It is a navico type 2 pump with a couple of different 1/4 npt with either tubing compression fitting or a metric type fitting. the u flex cylinder has a compression fitting. I have T's with compression fittings.

P1150642.JPG


P1150643.JPG


P1150644.JPG


P1150645.JPG


P1150646.JPG
 
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ShadowX

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so with the exception of the helm pump, the rest of the system is brand new. auto pilot pump just arrived, cylinder i have had for a while but is new. the helm pump is something I acquired and rebuilt. It is a navico type 2 pump with a couple of different 1/4 npt with either tubing compression fitting or a metric type fitting. the u flex cylinder has a compression fitting. I have T's with compression fittings.

View attachment 1304587

View attachment 1304588

View attachment 1304589

View attachment 1304590

View attachment 1304591


The return port for your hydraulic pump (red arrow) looks like its in the wrong spot. It should be on the lower portion. You may need to move the port to the bottom green arrow. Usually, you want it on the lower port to reduce any trapped air getting into the return lines.


1627778833727.png


This is the typical connection for the helm to the hydraulic pumps. You put in two "T" adapters in the right and left inlets (green arrows). One side goes to the cylinders in your engine. The other end goes to the hydraulic pumps. The return line is on the bottom middle (instead of the top as shown in yours). Your helm looks older and it looks like a NPT thread fitting and not an ORB. The picture below is one that uses an ORB since you can see the jam nut that locks the connector in place.

1627778959158.png


I suggest you buy the Octopus kit shown below if you didn't have the 30" hoses that connect from the helm to your hydraulic pump. You can shop around for a better deal, but the model number is shown. It comes with both the NPT and ORB fitting and the hoses you need for the pump. You will have all that you need to complete the setup.

Octopus OC17SUK42

The main reason for the kit is the hoses. You get three hoses and all the fittings you need. All you do is put in the two T fitting into your helm, move the return port connector to the bottom middle. It looks like you have a 000-15444-001 pump based on the pictures. It looks like it already came with the 1/4" NPT to 3/8" compression adapters based on the descriptions I found online. Per the information, the older pumps uses 7/16-20 UNF threads while the new ones are 1/4-18 NPT. It should already come with the correct adapters in the pump.


- Note that the pump body ports thread has changed from 7/16” 20 UNF in the old pump to a 1/4” 18 NPT thread in the new pump. New adaptor kits are supplied with the pump to fit the new threads.

Pump Adaptor Kits - Each new pump will be supplied with the following adapter kits:

- 3 x Adaptor Straight: 1/4” Male NPT x 3/8” SAE Male 45 degree Flare (North American Market)


I learned the hard way that its always better to have extra adapters than to be scrambling to look for the right ones when you realize that you are missing parts in the middle of the job. The clear hose in the return line is nice too. You can look at the condition/color of your fluids through that clear hose. The pump puts out so much vibrations that it would be best not to use any copper tubes. You are more likely to work harden the copper tubes and have it fracture over the years due to the vibrations. Reinforced high pressure hydraulic hoses is what you should be using.

1627779820663.png



BTW, that U-Flex cylinder you have is badass. I prefer U-Flex over SeaStar products anytime.
 
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Windy Bay

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Thanks for all the great information!!! I just wanted to make sure that the hoses had the correct fitting for the compression fittings that I had on the cylinder and helm. I have Lots of fittings. When I bought the cylinder I bought the 2nd pump kit. More t's and other fittings. You are right the helm does have 1/4 npt fitting, and I was aware that I needed to move the bottom plug to the top and the fitting there to the bottom. I found a pretty good deal on the hoses I need and it looks like hodges has the octopus kit. Thanks again for the assistance
 
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ShadowX

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Thanks for all the great information!!! I just wanted to make sure that the hoses had the correct fitting for the compression fittings that I had on the cylinder and helm. I have Lots of fittings. When I bought the cylinder I bought the 2nd pump kit. More t's and other fittings. You are right the helm does have 1/4 npt fitting, and I was aware that I needed to move the bottom plug to the top and the fitting there to the bottom. I found a pretty good deal on the hoses I need and it looks like hodges has the octopus kit. Thanks again for the assistance

That sounds good. It looks like you have everything under control. The autopilot would completely change the way you fish and make your life easier.

Good luck!
 
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