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Installing a Lowrance Outboard (Auto) Pilot - COMPLETE

Todd in NY

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I'm finally getting around to installing a Lowrance cable steer autopilot in my 1988 Crestliner Sabre. The boat is 22ft long, the main motor is a 1989 Evinrude 150, and the kicker motor is a 1991 Evinrude 15. The boat does not have hydraulic steering, which is why I bought the cable steer pack. I'll use my Lowrance HDS-9 Gen 3 touch to control the autopilot. I also bought a new 19ft Teleflex steering cable. I have no idea how old or new the steering cable is in my boat. It turns the boat good, but I wanted to use a new cable with my new autopilot.


It's a work in progress, SLOW progress. I'm working on it little by little, as I find the time. I just figured I would document the installation on this forum. I've never installed an autopilot before, but I have replaced a helm and steering cable on a previous boat about 8 years ago.


Be patient as I slowly progress through this project. I'm doing the work without any help, and I'm in no hurry to finish it, as I have other chores and responsibilities.


Last night I started just before dark. I had to remove the steering wheel first. I chose to install the "auto-standby" button. I wanted it easily accessible on my helm. The problem is, I needed to drill a 7/8" hole in my plastic helm, but all I had was a 13/16" spade bit. The other problem is, the plastic helm that the gauges are mounted on is 34 years old, it's brittle, and it's irreplaceable if I break it. So I took my time with the drilling. Then I had to use a round file to make the hole big enough for the button to slide into the hole. This took longer than I anticipated, but I finally got it installed.


Let me say this before I get started... nothing is as simple as it should be








It still doesn't fit yet



Finally finished the first "simple" task



It's well past dark outside, so I'll stop for the night.

Edited by Todd in NY
Installation complete
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Tonight I decided to remove my old steering cable and helm. The helm is probably the original factory installed helm, it's an old Morse unit. But it worked just fine.




Needless to say, removing the helm was much harder than I anticipated. I should've known better. I had to disassemble the helm in order to coax the cable out of it. But I eventually got both the helm and the steering cable removed. The old steering cable slides easily through it's jacket with light hand pressure, so it's still good enough to use on another boat.


I'll clean this tube before I install the new cable



The old helm



The new helm came with a new mounting plate (the black one), so I switched that out tonight.




I was planning to install the new helm tonight, but I need to remove some wood to make the access hole bigger on the cuddy cabin wall. The new helm is too long to fit in the same space that the old helm occupied. So that's all for tonight.

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The steering cable did not arrive today, but I installed the new helm, all of the accessories such as the NAC 1 and Point 1, all cables and wires.


There is an access "panel" inside the cuddy cabin, that gives access to the helm wiring. I had to make that hole bigger for the new helm to fit through the hole. I used a jigsaw to make the cut, after drilling two 1/2" holes as pilot holes.




But first, I had to unscrew the fuse block under the helm.




Here is the new cutout. The cover will still hide the hole. That's the new helm in position.




Next up is to route the cable for the Point 1 through the hardtop. I have a piece of 1" blue plastic electrical conduit that I bought almost 15 years ago. I forgot why I bought it, but it's been real handy for routing transducer cables and wiring through the boats that I've worked on. I used it again today for the Point 1 cable. It is smooth inside, so cords slide through it with no resistance.








I'll use the blue conduit to install the steering cable, which should be here tomorrow.


Next task was installing the wires and cables.






The Point 1 on the hardtop






Finished for now


Edited by Todd in NY
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Knowing the steering cable was listed as "out for delivery" on a UPS truck, I put the blue plastic conduit in place under the gunwale. I also put the steering wheel on, and put the plastic tube on the bottom of the helm. The conduit was completely hidden before I fed the steering cable through it.




I noticed the sharp edges around the splashwell hole when I removed the old steering cable, so I put some car door edge trim around the hole.










I used a 1" diameter brush to clean out the tilt tube. I pushed the brush through handle-first, wiped the brush with a clean rag, and repeated 2 more times. It worked like a champ. The hookouts are for size comparison.




The steering cable arrived at 2pm. I uncoiled it inside the boat and fed the end with the plastic tube in through the splashwell hole. I guided it into the blue conduit and fed the cable all the way to the helm. Super easy, and no help was needed. Once I got the cable up to the helm, I pulled the conduit off the cable, removed the protective plastic sleeve, and began to feed the cable into the helm.








This is the mess of wires under the helm that I had to navigate the steering cable through. It looks worse than it was.




The steering cable is installed and secured inside the helm. Now it's time to install the other end inside the tilt tube.






Next will be turning on the autopilot and HDS-9 to see if it works...

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Let me say that the installation instructions that came with my autopilot were as bare bones as could be. It required a lot of guess work in some situations.


The next step was to commission the AP (autopilot). These instructions are only found on a YouTube video. My system was working. But my HDS-9 didn't recognize the autopilot (AP) or the NAC-1 computer. Everything was powered on. I watched several videos to try to figure out what was wrong. I also checked the Lowrance web site. That made things more confusing...


This is the wiring diagram that came with my AP.



This is the wiring diagram that Lowrance has on it's web site. There are NO similarities. So which one is correct?



Frustrated, I go back out to my boat to double check my wiring. I chose to use the wiring diagram that came with my AP.


That's when I noticed it. Can you see it? Of course you can't. Because none of the wiring diagrams mention the two "extra" caps that go on the ends of the NMEA 2000 hub. The printed diagram has a capital T next to them. The web site diagram shows them in red. That's it! The 2 "extra" caps, that aren't mentioned in the instructions, need to be attached to the ends of the NMEA 2000 hub.


So I added them and tried the commissioning sequence again. Now it works like a champ. I've never used any NMEA systems before, so I had no idea how those NMEA hubs need to be hooked up.




The dockside commissioning is complete.


That concludes this installation. Now I have to get the boat on rhe lake and run the AP through it's paces.


Thanks for following, and tight lines!

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I have installed 2 Raymarine  hydraulic AP's on outboards so I'm familiar with those caps/plugs. It tripped me up  on the first install as well. That one was a conversion from cable to hydraulic steering so new helm, steering cylinder, ect.


Hope it works well for you on the water, I'm sure you'll love it. Nothing like the freedom of setting lines or just hanging out in the back of the boat while the AP drives. Thanks for the write up.....good read.



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Thanks Brian! I have fished on a couple of boats that have autopilot, and I know it's a game changer, especially when there are only two people on the boat.


I wanted to keep this project on the easy side, so I never considered converting it to hydraulic steering. That sounds like a lot more work.

Edited by Todd in NY
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Nice, keep the updates coming. Totally different set-up but I had a minnkota terrova with ipilot on my old boat (16’) and it was amazing. I’ve been dreaming of an auto-pilot setup since so will be eager to see how this performs. 

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Thanks, @The force! The Lowrance outboard cable steer autopilot went up about $350 in the last 3 or 4 years, so I figured I needed to stop dragging my feet and buy one before they get any more expensive. I'm waiting for the wind and weather to cooperate on my days off so I put the AP through it's paces.


I have a Terrova on my 16ft row boat, and I love it! I took that boat to a whole new level. I did a writeup on that install in "this old boat" sub forum.

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I have installed 2 Raymarine  hydraulic AP's on outboards so I'm familiar with those caps/plugs. It tripped me up  on the first install as well. That one was a conversion from cable to hydraulic steering so new helm, steering cylinder, ect.
Hope it works well for you on the water, I'm sure you'll love it. Nothing like the freedom of setting lines or just hanging out in the back of the boat while the AP drives. Thanks for the write up.....good read.

Sent from my SM-G970U using Lake Ontario United mobile app

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  • 1 year later...
Posted (edited)

I'm installing one now, and my HDS9 Gen2 Touch doesn't show the autopilot in the settings. It does show it in the device list, so I know the system is almost working. Any idea on how to get my settings to show the autopilot in it so that I can commission the autopilot?


Presume it's a software update that I need to do, although I did update my software. Maybe it needs to go back to a previous version? 

Edited by Diversion
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