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Replacing rudder bearings

Rival 38
Posted: 26 Jun 2016 - By: Ian & Jackie Byrne

We have recently replaced our rudder bearings on our Rival 38.  

We have done a blog entry with photos (June 2016) whilst in Sopromar Boat Yard, Lagos.  Here are some technical points which may help anyone undertaking this task.

1. The base of the keel was 245mm off the floor.  The base of the rudder was 590mm off the floor.  This meant that the top of the rudder shaft was still around 30mm up the rudder tube when the rudder was on the floor.  The rudder could then be removed by tilting the rudder and it came out easily.  It's not as heavy as I thought it would be, can be lifted by one person although easier to handle with two people.
2. The bottom bearing was about 40mm up the rudder tube, I assume to facilitate the removal of the rudder.  As we had previously had the bearings replaced I am not sure if this is the way it had been done originally as I paid someone to do the bearings in the UK so wasn't involved.  If the boat was higher and the rudder shaft cleared the rudder tube vertically then the bearing could be placed at the bottom I assume, but the base of the keel would have to be circa 300mm off the floor.
3. I tried to remove the white metal bearings in 3 ways - first I tried to tap them out using a drift, I made a wooden disc to the size of the rudder tube and used this but the bearings didn't move.  I made a puller with threaded rod and large washers and moved it about 20mm but then stripped the threads on the bar.  I finally removed the top and bottom bearing by very carefully using a hacksaw blade, this took a while and what I used to get the cut going was a thin piece of wood as a guide to hold the blade against.  It needed 2 cuts in each bearing.
4. As white metal needs some form of lubrication and I believe our bottom bearing failed because it was too tight and basically once the original grease had worn away new grease wasn't making its way far enough down the tube to replace it so it silted up and started to bind. I can only assume that the previous bearing had some play in it and the lack of grease wouldn't have mattered.
5. I chose not to go down the white metal bearing route again and replaced the bearing with Maritex which is a plastic composite.  We took the dimensions from the Rival 38 drawings, I verified them with a Vernier Calliper, the internal dimension fitted the shaft perfectly but the external dimension for the rudder tube was too large and I spent a pleasant couple of hours sanding the bearings to fit, probably reduced them by 0.5mm.
6. We used the epoxy recommended by H4 Marine (Maritex supplier) which was Araldite 2011 which was a slow cure epoxy.  Neil at H4 was very knowledgeable and a great help, I chose to make the bearings 1 inch longer so we had 3 inch instead of 2 inch to increase the bearing surface area.
7. Neil recommended to fit both bearings and then fit the rudder whilst the epoxy was still wet. In practice this didn't work as we just pushed the bearings out.  We then decided to refit the bearings and let the epoxy go off for 24 hours.  We then added a bead of epoxy around the base of the bottom bearing to provide some protection while installing the rudder.
8. Fitting the rudder was then relatively straight forward but make sure you remember to have the stuffing box assembled because once the rudder is back in position you won't get the fittings back on, a mistake we very nearly made!
9. The rudder shoe fitting was bedded on Sikaflex 291i and the bronze bolts were also sealed using Sikaflex.
10. We have a very, very slight movement in the rudder which is due to slight wear in the bronze shoe.  I elected not to bother with this as we didn't want it too tight to bind.  We are very pleased with the result and now realise our rudder has been too stiff since we had the bearings replaced in the UK, we have got the feel back, and our wind vane and auto pilot work much better.


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