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Old 18 October 2013, 17:43   #1
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hydraulic steering issue

I'm having some issues with my hydraulic steering.

It's hard to explain, but it's not lost any fluid that I can tell - the level through the vent seems normal.

Driving along straight for a short while, turn to port and the wheel sometimes turns between 1/4 and a full turn without any movement of the engine, the wheel feel light and detached, eventually the weight returns and the engine moves. This always seems to be turning to port, and a turn to starboard first and then back to port never has this issue.
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Old 18 October 2013, 23:36   #2
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Does the motor move smoothly from lock to lock (when it does move)? Or is it a little jerky? Jerky motion usually means air got into the lines.

I'd suspect air in one line, with bleeding as a first course of action (about the cheapest course of action as well.)

Other than that, perhaps a sticky valve in the helm?

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Old 19 October 2013, 03:43   #3
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When it finally gets on the move it's as smooth as always.
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Old 19 October 2013, 06:35   #4
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What make and model helm do you have and how old is it?
There are different designs some more simple than others which may show faults differently.
A thorough bleed according to the manufacturers instructions should improve things for little cost and you will benefit from fresh fluid if the system is a few years old. If it is a 'valve' in the helm it might clear with a bleed. Inspect the whole system for even the slightest weep especially ram end seals and helm shaft seal.
It doesn't take much over a period of time and small amounts of air migrate to the highest point on one or even both sides of the system. Air can be sucked in and replace lost fluid so you might not notice a drop in level at the helm.

If a bleed doesn't solve it and if you are up to it, most manufacturers supply repair/service kits that only require general hand tools to fit although others can be APITA....
Any doubt though then pass it on to someone qualified to fix, it is a safety critical issue.
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Old 19 October 2013, 09:26   #5
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It's a sea star system, been on maybe 5 years.

I've been out today and notice it's only turning to port, very slowly and with no pressure that causes the problem.

If a turn is done with normal force it's fine.

Think the bleed will be done before the next trip out
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Old 19 October 2013, 10:09   #6
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some hyrodrolic steering units just need topping up every few years, with no apparent loss of oil, I recently topped mine up and it got rid of the same problem as you describe, and my level looked ok before filling but took another half cup of hydro oil, all working good now.
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Old 19 October 2013, 10:09   #7
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Check the seals on the ram-any oil round them?
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Old 19 October 2013, 13:53   #8
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Looked over the system and can't see any leaks, or signs of oil. May try a top up.
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Old 19 October 2013, 20:35   #9
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Just a tip to try after making sure you're topped up with fluid.

Turn hard to Port until the steering wheel stops, then turn it some more. You might need to use a bit of force to do this but all things being equal the safety valve inside the helm should open allowing all the pressure to bleed off which means that all of a sudden it will make a noise and the steering wheel will turn. Do this to Starboard as well, this will help to purge your helm of trapped air and make sure that your safety valves are working correctly.

It may just solve your problem too!
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Old 20 October 2013, 05:32   #10
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If all else fails and as a last resort before handing over to a qualified repairer, you could try the following on a Seastar helm:
"To remove dirt in check valves. Remove check valve plugs. These are the larger plugs on either side on the rear of the helm. Clean ball seats and balls and reassemble. NOTE: Be prepared to lose a certain amount of oil during this procedure. Have a small can available. Refill & purge the system when check valves have been reassembled."
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