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Seastar steering problem diagnosis help

Old 05-16-2020, 07:15 AM
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Default Seastar steering problem diagnosis help

So yesterday, while underway, I noticed that my boat would not track straight. It kept wanting to go to the stb. I then had to keep turning the steering wheel to the port to keep her straight. Not crazy, just every couple of seconds. I looked at the engine and I think I could see that it kept creeping to the port side (thus why the boat was turning to the stb). When we got home, I checked for air in the system and fluid levels. All good. I cannot see any leaks from any connections. When I tilted the engine up, it turned it a bit to the port, and when I came out this morning, it was all the way to the port extreme. I assume I have a bad seal. How do I know if it is in the helm or the cylinder? Any help/suggestions would be much appreciated.
Old 05-16-2020, 07:20 AM
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My twins just did the same thing. I bled the system again and added fluid and it's good again.
Old 05-16-2020, 07:25 AM
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Originally Posted by opps View Post
When we got home, I checked for air in the system and fluid levels. All good.
How did you "check for air in the system" ?
Seastar suggests that be done
by counting the number of turns of the wheel
from full over one direction, to full over the other direction.
Most systems should only be ~5 full turns.
The more turns in excess of that required,
the greater the amount of air in the system.
Old 05-16-2020, 07:32 AM
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I just went threw this with my seastar HC5345 hydraulic unit.
I had to keep turning the wheel slowly to keep the boat straight.
I tried bleeding and changing the seals, and that did not help, so I sent the unit off to 5 star marine and they said the inside was trashed from water intrusion and could not be rebuilt, so I bought a new cylinder for $450.00, and all is good.
I ran across a test to see if it is the helm or the cylinder. Get the motor straight and mark the steering wheel with tape. Wait for motor to lay over on it side, if the wheel turned, it is the helm pump, if it did not it is the cylinder.
I read this somewhere.
Old 05-16-2020, 07:34 AM
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I just hooked up the filler tube to the helm, filled it with fluid, turned the helm repeatedly from one side to the other. Didn’t see any air escaping. Could air suddenly enter a closed system it there weren’t a leak or a problem?
Old 05-16-2020, 07:42 AM
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Just checked. It’s about 6 1/4 turns from lock to lock. Put some tape on the steering wheel to see if it turns. I’m thinking it won’t.
Old 05-16-2020, 08:02 AM
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Originally Posted by opps View Post
I just hooked up the filler tube to the helm, filled it with fluid, turned the helm repeatedly from one side to the other. Didn’t see any air escaping. Could air suddenly enter a closed system it there weren’t a leak or a problem?
My system was closed for a few years and there was air in it when I bled it again. Maybe it was always in there and it took a while for all of the air bubbles to find each other and cause a problem.
Old 05-16-2020, 09:49 AM
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I'm not sure how you are determining no air is escaping, because the cap needs to be back on and tight before you turn the wheel. If you are turning the wheel with the helm cap off, then you are allowing air into the system. In my experience you need to fill the helm reservoir, cap it, turn the wheel all the way each direction, then repeat. Once you are satisfied the system is full let it sit for a while, maybe even overnight and check it again. Chances are air has risen to the helm from remote areas of the system. Refill, re-cap, turn the wheel both directions. If you notice slack or jerking sometime later then you have a seal which needs to be addressed. In my case, the leak at the end of my cylinder was so slow I had to put a dry paper towel below each end of the cylinder overnight or a weekend, as I recall. Finally, the leak was apparent. The repair took about 30 minutes, but not without a lot of preparation, because I was ready for bear after reading all of the nightmare stories about what to watch out for. Good luck with your SeaStar.
Old 05-16-2020, 09:59 AM
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Will helm keep turning when motor is hard over? Is this a single cylinder and what cylinder is it?
Old 05-16-2020, 10:05 AM
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Very good chance you have leaking seals in the helm unit. Funny that I saw this today, mine has been giving me the same problem for at least a year. Just replaced the helm unit two days ago, soooo much better. Will take it out for a test run next week.
Old 05-16-2020, 10:08 AM
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So I went and bled the system. Hooked a hose up the helm, filled it with fluid, turned engine all the way to stb and I opened up the stb bleeder. I heard no air escaping. While slowly turning the wheel counterclockwise the bleeder was tightened and the process repeated on the port side. Again, no air escaping and a good flow of fluid noticed. No air bubbles seen in the tube connected to the helm either. When I checked, it was still the same number of turns from lock to lock. Also, I marked the wheel as someone had suggested. While tilted up, the engine eventually migrated again to the end of the cylinder and the steering wheel never moved.
Old 05-16-2020, 10:10 AM
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No, the wheel will not keep turning once the end of the cylinder is reached.
Old 05-16-2020, 10:23 AM
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I had a similar issue and tried the same thing you are doing. A friend showed me how to fix MY issue. Using the bottle and hose in the "Vent/fill" keeping the bottle upside down, Turned it lock to lock about 20 times SLOWLY. Then LEAVING it for 20 min or so, and doing it again. To my surprise, a bubble came out. He repeated this about 3 times. Steering was better than when I bought the boat. Now I do the same when the issue returns. (maybe once a year or so) It does not take much air to mess with the system.
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Old 05-16-2020, 11:46 AM
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I can certainly give that a try. Thanks for the suggestion.
Old 05-16-2020, 02:05 PM
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Originally Posted by opps View Post
No, the wheel will not keep turning once the end of the cylinder is reached.
There should be a relief valve that you can overpower if you turn hard enough. Look up the manual for your helm pump & cylinder to see the correct procedure for bleeding and diagnosing issues. I've never found it to be less than a 2 person job doing a non-power fill/bleed.

You can have the problem you describe when there is an internal leak in the cylinder. No air will enter or fluid exit the system, but the motor will creep to one side or the other due to internal leakage.

If you do find water intrusion in the helm or cylinder, you will need to flush out the rest of the system to eliminate the contamination. And blow the lines out w/ low pressure air (wrap other end of lines in a rag and put in a 5 gal bucket or you'll have a real mess). It's pretty obvious if there is water since it does not mix w/ the hydraulic fluid.

The cost of rebuilding seems to be about the same as new for either end.
Old 05-16-2020, 03:32 PM
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My gut says that there in an internal leak in the cylinder. Not sure if it makes a difference, but with the engine tilted up, when leaned slightly to port, it will eventually swing all the way to port. When leaned slightly to stb, it will eventually creep all the way to stb.
Old 05-16-2020, 04:30 PM
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Is the steering smooth? When I turned the wheel the helm unit had a "clunking" feel, especially against the engine torque. Plus I had the same problem with it not holding pressure and the engine falling off to the side like yours. I was lucky I know a guy in the hydraulic business and he replace the seals for a good price. I had two spare helm units I could rebuild, so there was really no down time for replacement. Good luck.
Old 05-16-2020, 05:08 PM
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Sometimes it takes a while to bleed the system.


Last edited by Seon; 05-17-2020 at 06:11 AM.
Old 05-16-2020, 07:33 PM
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OPPS, there used to be, and may still be, a representative of SeaStar on THT, so I suggest you try to find out his identity and message him, or he may show on your thread at some point and give you advice. However, this thread has been active for sometime, so maybe he is no longer on THT. Have you tried to call SeaStar to get advice from their service department?

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