What you are experiencing sounds very similar to the beginnings of the failure we experienced on Aloha in 2018. We were getting some noise initially from the racks, and it was more difficult to steer in one direction. Eventually, the noise and steering got worse, and then the steering jammed completely as the racks shed enough teeth to jam everything.
I’m amazed that Amel would stop supporting parts for the steering system on the SM, as more and more boats are likely to have this problem as they age. We were able to obtain new racks, pinion, and steering cables from Amel a little more than a year ago. The conversion to hydraulic steering does not make a lot of sense to me. I’d check back with Amel again, and see if you get the same story. With that said, both the racks and steering cables are provided to Amel by Ultraflex of Italy. The steering cables are marked Ultraflex M61 FT25 498. The cables which came out of our boat were M41 FT23. My theory is that Amel switched from a 23’ cable length to a 25’ cable length somewhere in the production run after our boat was built. While the racks are also from Ultraflex, they are not labeled, and I don’t have a part number. I’ll keep looking for the original documentation they came with, and see and I can get a number. I would think Amel could at least provide the part number for you. We replaced the pinion/steering shaft as well, and I’m assuming this part was machined by Amel, but that is just a guess. While it would be best to replace the pinion with the racks, ours showed very little wear, and could have been reused.
We concluded that the rack failure was ultimately caused by excessive friction in one steering cable. When we had the cables on the dock, one cable moved easily by hand, and the other was almost impossible to move. We cut the bad cable apart, and it appeared the internal lubrication in the cable had gotten hard over time, and eventually created a lot of internal friction. Why one cable, but not the other is anyone’s guess.
If you need to do some sailing prior to getting this repaired, I suggest you rig your emergency tiller, and make sure it’s all working as advertised. The emergency tiller works very well on this boat, but I’d prefer never to use it again. We are also going to add a linear drive prior to leaving Hawaii next year, as having one would of allowed us to continue to steer with the autopilot. I have 2 different methods of adding the linear drive to the older SM quadrant, and have not decided which one I’ll use yet.
Good luck on the steering problems, and I can provide you with some more info on taking it apart if you contact me at flyboyscd at gmail dot com.
Aloha SM 72
Ko Olina, Hawaii
Steering to port is harder than steering to starboard on my SM. I cleaned the rudder, checked for loose steering cables, and they seem to be OK. I do sometimes hear a quiet metallic clunk when the autopilot makes small steering adjustments, in addition to the normal noise from the rack and pinion system. I read the articles in this forum, especially what happened to Aloha, and the files section for pictures. Finally I decided I should replace the steering cables and the rack and pinion system to be on the safe side.
Here is the problem. Amel do not have the parts anymore. They do not intend to make them anymore. I asked for the specifications but instead was told they might make something to convert my system to hydraulics, when they have time.
I would prefer to replace the worn (I assume) rack and pinion system. I never opened it up, since I read it is difficult in the forum, and I was hoping that I could replace the parts at the same time. I am not keen in changing to hydraulics, I am not sure what that would entail.
Does anyone have the specifications for the rack and pinion system, and the steering cables? Do you know if Amel actually made them or subcontracted the work to another company?
I have the Rotary drive unit connected with a chain to the sprocket behind the steering wheel. I replaced the autopilot with the Raymarine evolution 400 package 3 years ago. I do not have a second autopilot. I have a spare rotary drive unit (would this work with hydraulic steering?).
Super Maramu #151
Currently in Denia, Spain.