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Slightly Heavy Steering


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I wonder if anyone has any advice on the potential causes of heavy steering and any remedies. The steering has over the course of the last 2 years become slightly heavier than it was. It was never the lightest of steering, but has become heavier. The last time the pilot took the boat through Potter bridge I mentioned it to him and he said it was heavier than most. This weekend I dropped the steering cable off the rudder and the wheel was a lot lighter, so I am sure the probelm is with the rudder. Moving the rudder by hand seems to confirm this. There is a grease nipple at the top of the rudder bearing and I pump grease into this on a reguler basis, along with the prop bearings. Probably 3-4 times per year. There is no sign of grease or water leakage from the bearing. I am assuming that it is either this bearing, or whatever the bottom of the rudder sits in, that is causing the problem. The top of the rudder shaft has two bolts with a plate and double locking nuts, a bit similar to the stuffing box on the stern gland. I don't know whether the rudder is packed in the same way as the stern gland. I shall be lifting the boat Spring next year so hopefully I can give it a proper servicng then, but would appreciate any advice on what could be done now, or should be done when its out of the water.

Thanks

Keith

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Hi Keith

It sounds as though you may have a stern gland arrangement on the rudder, so it could conceivably be the packing. However, Tranquil Breeze, didn't have that arrangement, so I'm not too sure.

It could easily be wear in the pintle bush (the circular collar welded to the top of the skeg that the bottom of the rudder shaft sits in), but the only way of knowing os a lift out.

It's not just the cable becoming worn is it. or a kink in in the cable if it's been trapped by something?

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Hi Mark,

I disconnected the steering cable from the rudder and the cable moved freely enough and moving the rudder by had, confirms that the problem is with the rudder. I intend replacing the cable anyway next year as it is at least five years old, but could be considerably more. I suspect, but don't really know for sure that the top of the rudder has a similar arrangement to the stern gland, but obviousely am not keen on unbolting things whilst it is in the water.

Keith

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Mine has got large double locking nuts as well, as you can see in the photo.

When I stripped it down a few years ago (out of the water !), I found it had 6mm square section PTFE pushed spirally down between the shaft and outer. The lower nut was tightened down till the rudder action just started to get stiff, then backed off a smidgeon. Then the lock nut was tightened against it.

Mine does not have a grease nipple, as I understand that PTFE is inherently lubricated, so does not require grease as well.

There's no bottom bearing on it at all. The 1" round shaft below the balanced rudder blade just protrudes through a plain hole in the metal skeg running back under the propeller from the keel. As the vertical rudder shaft box is about 5" tall, I guess it's long enough to take all of the strain at just the top end.

I wonder if there's any chance something has snagged on your rudder blade, and wrapped around the vertical shaft between the hull and the blade ?

post-669-136713620305_thumb.jpg

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There are so many things that could cause it Keith, is the rudder into a skeg of free hung? As your boat rarely sees the hard it could be a swollen bottom bush in the rudder tube depending on what it is made of, could be old grease solidifying in the tube, if it’s on a skeg then it could be seizing in the bottom support, so many things other it could be but unless it’s the top bearing and that’s far enough above the waterline to strip and check AND you can be sure the rudder won’t drop off it’s almost certainly an out of water job.

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I have attached a picture of the top of the rudder, as well as a picture from when the boat was last out of the water.

The steering is not unusably heavy, but more than I would like, and it has been a gradual stiffening up, rather than suddenly happening overnight, so I don't think something has snagged the rudder.

post-120-136713620313_thumb.jpgpost-120-13671362033_thumb.jpg

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The top fitting looks like an old fashioned stern gland where you tighten the two nuts to compress the packing, try slackening them a bit but be prepared for a little water to come in when you do, at least it will confirm or rule out that end to some extent. The arrangement where the rudder sits in the skeg shoe looks like a possible candidate too.

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It does look very similar to the fitting I have on the stern gland, except that the stern gland doesn't have a grease nipple, but a screw down cap that you fill with grease and then just keep screwing down half a turn occasionly. I suspect I will probably leave it until it comes out of the water and then have both the stern and rudder repacked. I would hate to loosen it now and then create even a small leak that I am unable to cure. I hate messing with anything that connects through the hull below the waterline. The boat was last out Feb 2007 for 2 weeks and the hull is in dire need of a real deep clean and polish so the plan is to lift her for 3-4 weeks in the Spring. I intend to have all the seacocks serviced and anything thing else below the waterline then.

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Your skeg is a different arrangment to mine Keith, with the rudder shaft dropping though a hole i nthe skeg as Strowager described. It seems the most likely causes are either corrosion around this area, a foreign matter wrapped around, or the packing at the top of the shaft.

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I think binding of the bottom pivot is a distinct possibility Mark, it certainly seems to have more "contact area" than mine, which is just a rough hole in the 5mm thick top of a box section.

post-669-136713620586_thumb.jpg

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