The Autohelm ST7000, or autopilot, is one of the most hardworking and important pieces of equipment on a boat's bridge. To select automatic steering, all that is required is to steady the boat and push "Auto." There is more to sailing than this, of course, and the Autohelm ST7000 has many more features detailed in the owner's manual. The document also includes a troubleshooting checklist. Problems could include unwanted magnetic influences, LCD displays and corrosion on the cable terminals.
Things You'll Need
- Silicone lubricant
Check to see if any magnetic influences have been introduced near the unit's fluxgate compass if the autopilot is operating correctly but there is unsatisfactory steering performance. Magnetic influences can include anchors, chains, tools and radio equipment. Ensure that all fuses are intact and breakers properly set. Replace fuses and reset breakers as necessary. Check that all screws and connections on the unit are secure and free of corrosion.
Inspect the rudder reference transducer linkage if the vessel tends to wander. Ensure that the linkage is secure with no free play.
Disconnect the main circuit breaker to the autopilot if the mechanical drive actuators fail to disengage when "Standby" is selected. The drive unit of the T7000 is designed to disengage when the power is disconnected. This leaves the steering system free for manual control. In an emergency situation, the actuator clutch can be overridden by turning the steering wheel hard.
Adjust the LCD control unit display if there is difficulty in reading the screen. Press "Display" and "Track" at the same time. Push the up/down arrows to increase or decrease the contrast level. Continue to adjust until the desired contrast level is reached. Push "Display" and "Track" together to store the selected contrast level. Increasing the contrast level is best for units that are viewed from below. Decrease the contrast level for best viewing from above.
Check that all the interconnecting cable terminals are secure and free of corrosion. Make sure that the external waterproof sockets are securely capped when not in use. Spray the sockets with a silicone lubricant to protect them from corrosion.
Verify that the rudder angle and heading displays on the control unit are correct if the autopilot switches on but does not operate correctly.
Tips & Warnings
- Hand steering is not possible when "Auto" is selected. The "Standby" button must be pressed to disengage the autopilot drive.
- Ensure that all members of the crew are familiar with the procedures to engage and disengage the autopilot.
- Photo Credit boat steering wheel image by EW CHEE GUAN from Fotolia.com