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Squeaky/sticky wheel turning to starboard - causing autopilot problem?

Dec 31, 2020
Catalina 30 Gig Harbor
Hello all, recent purchaser of a 1987 Catalina 30 Mk II, busy checking things out and learning the boat. One of my projects has been getting the Raymarine autopilot to work properly. Initially looked like a worn belt in the drive unit. Replaced, still skipping even when well tensioned. Took the drive unit apart, saw a few clutch and tensioner pieces looking a bit chewed up; bought and installed replacement parts, tensioned it up. Seemed to check out ok at the dock: hitting the plus and minus 10 degrees buttons moved the wheel nicely in both directions without fail.

But sea trial was a bust. Adjusts course pretty reliably to port, but struggles to starboard. Looking for possible suspects, I noticed that under power, the wheel is a fair bit harder to turn to starboard, and squeaks; moves normally to port. Not an issue at the dock.

The person from whom I bought the boat confirmed he had noticed this also, but said that it’s a not uncommon issue with Cat 30s. Can anyone confirm this? Any ideas on how to tackle it? I don’t think I can just overcome the resistance by tightening the belt tensioner even more; afraid I’d just wear the motor out prematurely. Any guidance much appreciated... thanks.
Jan 7, 2011
Oday 322 East Chicago, IN
I tore my wheel pilot drive all apart over the winter...I had a broken wire in the drive unit. But I also disassembled the gear box to clean and re-lubricate it.

it is a long video, but you may find parts helpful.

All better now...I was out in 30 knots recently and AP did a good job in challenging conditions.

But if the steering is messed up, fix that first!