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I have done some research on this site and the inter web about auto pilot systems. I really want some real experienced advice so I wanted to ask the experts. I currently have a 20’ walk around boat with rack and pinion steering. Are there any companies that offer auto pilot for that style of steering? Do I just run a new cable and use cable steering auto pilot? Do I install hydraulic steering? I do like the features of the chart plotter and using ways point versus the auto pilot systems the just maintain a heading straight. I don’t mind spending some money if the product is worth it. My budget is approximately $3000. I don’t mind having the type of auto pilot that just maintains a straight heading for a year and then upgrading to a chart plotter auto pilot the following year. I find myself searching for crew members and believe the autopilot would help me setting lines and netting fish. Does anyone have any suggestions on the south shore of LO of auto pilot dealers? I thank you in advance If anyone has any suggestions or advice. By the way the autopilot is probably worth more than my boat, so it would be great to transfer it later down the road.

 

 

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It’s a tough call, most auto pilots aren’t for mechanical steering. I think octopus makes a unit that turns the wheel however does not provide the actual auto pilot functionality. I had this issue a couple of years ago with a old inboard (32 Silverton) I have, either go to hydraulic, which is a fortune, or figure something out. I ended up buying a used Raymarine Sportpilot. This doesn’t work great  however it does keep me straight on most days as long as I’m not trying to fight the waves or wind and was $600 instead of 3-4 thousand. 

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Being in the same situation i also did alot of checking around. Octopus does make a mechanical drive but it is for rotary steering not rack and pinion. The general consensus i have found is that hydraulic systems are the better way to go. They are for sure not cheap. You will have 1000 in the helm , hoses and cylinder. Then 2000 or more in the pilot and pump. This will go up if you need to have a Nema 2k to hook up to other units such as gps, radio etc... I personally chose to go with a Furuno navpilot 300 for its point and shoot remote. For sure they cost alot but it will be the best money you ever spent to make life easier on the water this is especially true if you fish alone or with people who cant steer a boat on choppy days. Best of luck to you in your seach. Tight lines and hot drags ☺

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I appreciate the input so far. I figured I was going to have to go to hydraulic steering. Ready or Knot thank you on the input about Furuno, I wasn’t even aware of that brand and will do my research about that company.


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to do it right you need hydraulic steering. but if you don't want to pay for it you can get one like I have. mine fits below the steering wheel. it isn't as good as one using the hydraulic steering system. it makes it harder to turn when your not trolling. also it is noisy and doesn't keep a straight line when trolling. but it does work good enough. mine is from raymarine. I have about 3000,00 invested in mine. but that was for the unit plus I added the positioning sensor to mine foe better control. then I had calumet marine do the installation for me. the thing is I kinda like not going in a straight line while trolling. good luck with a new autopilot. you'll like having it for trolling.

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Maybe my research is incorrect but I can buy everything off amazon. This is what I am looking at. 500$ for hydraulic steering system, $1000 for Lowrance outboard Pilot Pack and $1100 for Lowrance HDS 7 Live. That’s $2600. Am I missing something in the package???? Any feedback about Lowrance?


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27 minutes ago, Yankee Troller said:

Si-Tex makes an Autopilot for cable steering. 

Do you have any experience with the Si-tex autopilot drive? Would it be able to turn the wheel while the engine is off? I run a kicker and wouldn't have the main (I/O) running.

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9 minutes ago, Chas0218 said:

Do you have any experience with the Si-tex autopilot drive? Would it be able to turn the wheel while the engine is off? I run a kicker and wouldn't have the main (I/O) running.

 

I'm not sure about that.

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Maybe my research is incorrect but I can buy everything off amazon. This is what I am looking at. 500$ for hydraulic steering system, $1000 for Lowrance outboard Pilot Pack and $1100 for Lowrance HDS 7 Live. That’s $2600. Am I missing something in the package???? Any feedback about Lowrance?


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I run the lowrance and love it not sure on your price for hydraulic steering but on my 135 Honda I was recommended by my dealer to go with sea star system instead of baystar and the price on hydraulics was double your 500 The improvement of the hydraulic upgrade alone was fantastic compared to cable steer


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Dirtyhooker, do you mind if I ask what dealer you went to? I would really like to talk to a knowledgeable dealer that can suggest the correct hydraulic steering. My experience is from doing research online. Hydro drive was the name brand I found for hydraulic steering. I am sure there is better brands.


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My dealer was Hooked on the Bay in Northeast Md but I do believe Seastar the company that builds both their and Baystar lines has a tech support line to help you find the correct system for your boat and Motor size and hp


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2 hours ago, Chas0218 said:

Do you have any experience with the Si-tex autopilot drive? Would it be able to turn the wheel while the engine is off? I run a kicker and wouldn't have the main (I/O) running.

 

no I don't think any steering wheel auto pilot unit will turn without hydraulic steering. I just use my big engine to troll with use trolling bags to get my speed down.

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magill :   I'm assuming your steering an outboard & not an I/O. If that is the case there are several good options for the cable steer you have with out going the extra expense of hydraulic. As mentioned above Si-tex makes a good basic system utilizing an octopus R wheel drive, your rack & pinion cable will have to be replaced with a rotary style cable to work with the new helm. The Lowrance/Simrad system utilizes the same octopus helm as the Si-tex. If you do decide to go with hydraulic steering stay with the Seastar line over the  Baystar or other after market brands for compatability with add ons later. 

 

And Chas  It depends on the system . The octopus is capable of driving some i/o's without the engine running.

 

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I take it you have a kicker motor for trolling. it might cost a little more money. why not get auto pilot for your kicker motor. then that would solve your problem. the reason I went without a kicker is my brother bought the auto pilot for my mercruiser. it didnt cost me anything. at the time I didnt have the money to buy a kicker motor.

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I has researched this to death and settled on a Garmin package.  Started with a Chartplotter and radar on an I/O then decided to add autopilot.  Talk to the Garmin rep directly to match up the parts you need.  Need an Octopus drive for the I/O without hydraulic steering and you can drive it off the chartplotter.  Garmin recommended the Reactor 40 for trolling.  I traded the boat for an inboard last year and moved all the electronics over this past winter.  Swapped the Octiopus drive for a hydraulic pump and kept everything else.  Did the install myself both times.  If you aren't handy, you might not want to tackle this one.

Garmin also makes an autopilot specifically for a kicker. That is new this year.  Hope this helps.

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Lowrance makes both a mechanical drive and hydraulic system. The mechanical for rack and pinion is a bit more expensive. Both need a HDS gen 2 or later system. The hook and elite and some others wont work. The HDS Carbon and Live will work. The Hds Carbon 7 can be bought for $800 on line now. I have good luck with a hydraulic outboard pilot and a HDS gen 2 touch for about 3 years now.

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If you just want something for the kicker, get the Lowrance hydraulic outboard pilot and just buy a hydraulic cylinder instead of the complete hydraulic steering system. Put the cylinder in the steering tube of your kicker and hook up the lowrance outboard pilot to it without an actual steering wheel (pump).
Should work well.

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No kicker. I decided with a sea star hydraulic steering system (Thanks Hank) , Lowrance Autopilot, Lowrance HDS 7 Live. Until I can go bigger. Thanks to all for the help.


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I had a Raymarine Sportpilot on my boat for 3 years. Last year I converted to hydraulic. It really wasn’t that expensive. With a $3000 budget you should have no problem at all covering the cost of converting over and installing hydraulic autopilot. 

 

I had had a whole thread with pictures of my conversion. Best thing I ever did to the boat. Let me see if I can find the thread. 

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Posted (edited)

here is my thread.   Maybe there will be some info in there that helps you out. 

 

Definitely use appropriate hydraulic rated thread sealant on all the fittings. And don’t overtighten any of the ORB fittings. Especially into the back of the helm or hydraulic pump. 

 

Bleeding the system took me 10min. Lots of easy tricks to get that part done. 

 

 

Edited by jigstick

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