Rudder Tube and Bushings

Pearson 26 - Rudder Tube and Bushings


I have read about the rudder bushings and shaft wear on Dan Pfeiffer's web site. I though I would check and see what condition the bushings were in. Well, I grabbed the end of the rudder and pulled. Sure enough, there was lots of play in the rudder. I knew I would have to drop the rudder and take a look.

Dropping the rudder was a pretty easy job. Remove the bolt that holds the tiller, then the bolt that runs through the rudder shaft and retaining collar and she will slip right out. With the rudder out, the top bushing was wore but intact. The bottom however was a different story. The bottom only had the lip of the bushing left, the inside was completely gone. The end of the rudder tube was rough and uneven. From looking at the diagram on Dan's site, there should have been a bushing at each end of the rudder tub and a thrust bearing (or collar) on top of the upper bushing. Well, what I had was one complete bushing, and either the last owner did not use the thrust washer or used it for a lower bushing. If they did use a lower bushing, there is no evidence that there was any bushing entering the rudder tube.

Now on a side note, as I was sanding, I discovered a patch that was made to the hull at the rudder tube. This patch looks like it is Bondo or something. It is not well attached and probably should be removed and redone. At the same time doing some repair of the rudder tube.

Below are two pictures of the rudder tube as viewed from the bottom of the boat. The quality of these pictures are poor because they were taken with my cell phone. If I had my camera with me they would have been a little better. Both images show the bottom of the boat where the rudder tube exits. The first picture shows the Bondo patch pretty good. It is coming loose at the edges and should probably come out to expose what was trying to be fixed. The second image gives you a better idea of the condition of the rudder tube. It has some gaps and unevenness around the edges and face of the tube. I think this should be fixed. I am thinking of some epoxy with some filler here to both fill the gaps and replace the Bondo patch. But first I am going to ask for some suggestions from Dan and the Pearson group. Hopefully they can point me in the right direction.

Rudder tube before repairs Rudder tube before repairs

Help arrived from a fellow in New Jersey, by the name of Bill Chapman, who had to make the same repair to his Pearson sailboat. He has been gracious enough to walk through this repair. I am grateful that he has volunteered his time to help me. I wish more Bill Chapman's lived in this world! Thanks Bill.

The pictures above show you what the current situation of the rudder tube as it exits the hull. What you don't see is a nipple that is supposed to extend below the hull. This nipple receives the lower bushing. My best guess is that the boat was pitched against a dock smashing the rudder to port and breaking the nipple off. Afterwards coming down and breaking the lip off where the rub rail attaches. The owner of the boat ground the rough breakage off and used bondo to fair the hull. Then only used a bushing on top and the thrust bushing on the bottom. To make this repair, the patch will have to be ground out as well as an area surrounding the rudder tube opening. But I am getting ahead of myself. Check out what happens below.

Buying new rudder bushings.

New rudder bushings from DR MarineFirst, knowing that I needed new bushings, I set out to order them. The new ones that I bought are pictured to the left. The were bought from D & R Marine. You can find them on the Internet at http://www.drmarine.com These guys sell two different sizes of bushing, Standard ID at 2.354" and Oversize ID at 2.380", (Both for 78 US Dollars) so I had to get an average measurement of the rudder shaft to get the correct ones. My rudder shaft averaged 2.780" so I bought the oversize bushings. There are a couple of differences between the old bushings and the new one. The old bushings look to be made of nylon, while these are made from delrin. The old bushings had a larger size outside diameter than the new ones. The new bushings has slop when inserted into the upper rudder shaft tube. The bottom has to be reformed so it does not matter. The top however may need to be injected with some epoxy filler. Finally, the old bushing was round on the outside and the new bushing has flats cut into it. I presume to keep it from spinning in the rudder tube, that would result in worn areas of the rudder tube.

Polished rudder shaftThe next thing I had to do was prepare the rudder shaft for the new bushings. The rudder shaft was in pretty rough shape. So I decided to give it a good cleaning, remove the scale and polish it up. What you see to the left is the nearly finished shaft. The rudder shaft is made from aluminum. Looking at it would make you think stainless steel. That is what Mothers Aluminum polish can do for you when used with a speed ball and lots of progressive sanding. Before polishing, the shaft was worked with some sandpaper starting at about 600 grit and finishing with 2000 grit with a few flavors in between.

Starting the repair on the boat hull.

Bondo ground away revealing damageTo start with the patch that was placed there by a previous owner had to be ground out and checked for damage. In the image to the left, you can see there is some damage to the fiberglass. This may have been compounded by the fact that the place was never sealed against water and that body filler will absorb water. Oh well it could have been much worse and the area still needs to be ground out. To get an idea of what it is supposed to look like, imagine the tube you see in this picture extending out from the hull about a 1/2 inch to 3/4 of an inch. Well you can see that it was snapped off up in there a little ways. Before proceeding, the tube was checked to see if it would move at all by climbing into the hull and trying to physically move the tube. Then it was sprayed with a pressure washer to see if it allowed any water into the hull. Neither happened so we can proceed.

Damaged area ground out to be repaired.Next, the hull was ground around the rudder tube opening to about three inches. It gradually tapers down to where the tube had been broken off. The reason this is done is to give a large area for the repair to adhere hopefully resulting in a stronger bond. The rudder tube was sanded to make sure there is good adhesion for the base coat of epoxy.

Rudder tube plug.After the sanding a form was made from green floral foam. The foam was chucked into my Craftsman 109 lathe and turn down to fit the ID of the rudder tube. Afterwards the form was turned down to fit the new bushing. The purpose of this form is to place the bushing at the proper distance from the hull to form the new nipple that holds it.

After a little thought on the subject, I began to wonder if the short stub of a plug would work.  I mean, what was there to guarantee an alignment with the upper bushing.  After all the rudder shaft itself is not flexible.   My response to this question was to laminate up some poplar and turn it down on a lathe to the same diameter as the rudder shaft.  By placing the bushings, washer and retaining collar on this shaft, I would have a reasonable chance that the rudder will fit in afterward.  Many thanks to my friend Byron for turning this down for me on his lathe.  Mine is not large enough to handle such a big piece.

Determining the distance from the existing rudder tube is the next order of business.

Determining the length of the stub that needs built out.The lower bushing is slid on the rudder and then the rudder run up the tube. On the top the bushing, thrust washer and retaining collar are installed and the rudder allowed to rest on its own. I want about 1/4" clearance between the rudder and the bottom of the lower bushing. Here you see me taking a measurement so that I know how far down the nipple has to come to meet these specifications. The nipple has to come down 1-5/8". I will write this measurement down for reference. Now to take the rudder back out.

The repair surface is coated with epoxy.Here the repair area and the inside of the tube is given a coat of epoxy. This will be allowed to fully cure for twenty four hours, then will be cleaned and sanded to rough it up. This helps insure that our fiberglass will have a good base to stick to. (More to come.)

Cloth whetted out to start the repair.The next step in the process is to start forming the new rudder tube extension. This will be done by taking a piece of fiberglass cloth an inch longer than the circumference of the rudder tube and about eight inches long. The cloth weill be whetted for about two and one half inches of its depth. (As seen in the image to the left) and then when the epoxy has gone tacky will be placed inside the rudder tube and smoothed and worked into place. (Two pictures seen below.) So, what's next?? Tune back in and see! Till next time, happy casting, constructing, milling or whatever it is you like to do!'

The cloth in the tube.Another angle of the cloth in the tube.

Top of Rudder TubeAt this point, we are ready to put in the rudder tube plug.  The rudder plug will be clamped at the top to help make sure the top bushing is held centered into the rudder tube.  I am doing this because when the lower nipple project is finished I will want to fill the space between the new rudder bushing and the rudder tube with some thickened epoxy.  This will permit the tube to grip the bushing and allow the rudder shaft to spin inside it.

A close look at this picture will show you what I am talking about.  The top of the rudder tube has a lip at the depth of the bushing.  You will also notice that the tube is cracked at the bottom edge.  Rather than filling the tube with thickened epoxy, I may cut and lay some fiberglass cloth to build it up and use something like a brake hone or cylinder hone to smooth the diameter.  I will worry about that after the nipple is done.

Plug in place ready to epoxy.The plug is in place and ready to receive some epoxy.  The position of the bushing is held in place by the bits of wood and a hose clamp.  The plug was previously marked with the position of the bottom of the bushing.  The extra glass has been trimmed to meet the bottom of the bushing.  I have a few stragglers to nip off but you get the idea.

Epoxied and filletedHere the fiberglass has been whetted out and in the remainder of the epoxy, glass strands have been added to help create a fillet around the junction of the rudder tube and the hull.

Patches ready to go.Here are the four patches I cut to form the nipple of the rudder tube with.  I will need more but I am new at this and do not want to get too far ahead of myself.

Patches applied and a little more filetingHere the patches have been laid on and whetted out with epoxy.  I mixed some stuff with the remaining epoxy to fair out the fillet a little more.

Since my last post, I have finished the fiberglass layup on the rudder tube.  At this point I only need to apply some fairing compound and smooth everything up.  I will post some pictures of that when I get it done.  I have to order some fairing compound before I can start on that.  In the mean time here are a few pictures of the rudder tube.

View from portHere is a view of the repair looking from the Port side.

view from starboardHere is the repair looking from the starboard side

view from aftAnd finally a view looking from aft.