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S&S Swan General - Stiff steering Swan 40
26 August 2018 - 15:32
Join Date: 14 May 2017
Posts: 66

Stiff steering Swan 40

Hi everyone,

After a very nice summer and 4 weeks on board we finally had to go back and go to work again. The boat performed very well. Almost everything worked fine except the steering. It is not perfect but functionally ok. Very little play etc. Except that the steering is getting stiffer and stiffer during the summer. Last spring I cleaned and kind of lubricated the steering bearings/bushings in de pedestral, the cables and the sheaves with WD-40 and grease. After that it needed a few days to work in and the steering went very smooth then. Now it seems that at specific points the WD-40 has dried out or something. Or maybe the bushings expanded a little? I would be very happy to find out the exact place where the steering is stiff. The pedestral, the sheaves or the cables? My idea was to release the cables but I did not find the place to do that. I might have to remove the tank first to get access. There is very little space there. Maybe someone can give me some advice on this. This would be very welcome.

Kind regards,
Jolling Lodema, Becca (Swan 40, #22)

27 August 2018 - 07:19
Join Date: 05 August 2010
Posts: 162

Dear Jolling,

as I read your post, I noticed that you used WD40 and grease first, but in the end suspect the WD40 to have dried out. Yes, I would expect that too.

As far as I know, and my personal experience would support this, WD40 is a degreaser/solvent, but not a lubricant, even though people all over the place use it as such. It is easy to use to degrease cables (or the many components of winches), but after the quick drying off all those parts need the appropriate lubricant (which I suggest would be grease for the cables). Some moving parts on the boat, like the push/pull cables for the engine control, cannot take any lubricant at all or they will swell and block, so be careful with the bearings. And do not rely on WD40 to lubricate.

Best regards,
Martin (looking forward to seeing our overhauled hull later this week)

27 August 2018 - 09:09
Join Date: 30 January 2007
Posts: 461

I totally agree with Martin and I like to stress the fact that WD40 or similar products should be used with caution.  They contain strong solvents and they are great for unblocking seized components but they are themselves corrosive and should never left to act on metals longer than the strictly necessary time.

An important addition regards electrical parts: I would discourage using such solvents on electrical contacts.  You may find that they temporarily solve the problem but they will ruin the coating of proper marine contacts and the problem will come back soon; it is strongly advised to use a specific product for electrical contacts.

Daniel, 411/004

27 August 2018 - 09:56
Join Date: 02 January 2008
Posts: 1547

Dear Jolling

Your idea to disconnect the steering cables is a very good one, then it can be determined if it is the rudder or the other components which are stiff. The rudder can go stiff if there is heavy fouling between its upper edge and the hull. Take care to antifoul this inaccessible area.
The steering cables are disconnected at the quadrant, which is located between the foot ends of the quarter berths. There is probably a cover hiding the quadrant and the cables where they run below the cockpit floor. The tank is further forward.
It would also be good to remove the compass and its base for inspecting the chain, sprocket, and brake.
Kind regards

28 August 2018 - 07:51
Join Date: 14 May 2017
Posts: 66

Hi everyone,

Thnx for your very welcome information so far. I conclude not to use WD 40 for lubrcating purposes anymore. I think for the sehaves sewing-machine oil might do the thing. I will start with this next weekend. If it works fine. If not i will try to relase the steering cable to find where the system is not running freely. Point is that the acces of the quadrant where the cable is connected might be not easy. Very little space there. And  yes Lars I already removed the compass and the plate to get access to the sprocket and chains. There everythings looks fine. Except I am not totally sure if the axes is running freely in the bearing/bushing.

After weekend I can tell you more. So far so good! Thnx!

Jolling Lodema, Swan 40 S&S #22

24 September 2018 - 16:41
Join Date: 14 May 2017
Posts: 66


So far so good. I have managed to improve the steering by lubricating the system with sewing machine oil. Not yet perfect but good improvement. I decided not to disconnect the steering-cables until winter when the boat is out of the water. I don 't want to take too much risk. Even more because the seoson is not yet passed. Last weekend a good result at the clubregatta. Second place! And in a few weeks the last regatta of the year the "Nacht and Ontij" race. Tnx so far!

26 October 2018 - 13:07
Join Date: 23 October 2012
Posts: 20

The truth of Lars statement about follow was brought home to me this spring.  While scraping and cleaning the bottom of my Swan 40 noticed the rudder was hard to move. Running a putty knife between the front of the rudder and the back of the skeg freed it up.  At one point barnacles jammed in worse and it was even harder to move without going topside and turning the wheel, but once it all got cleaned out it was easy to move the rudder from side to side by hand.  

31 October 2018 - 14:34
Join Date: 02 February 2007
Posts: 202

Hello everyone.

May I suggest an additional thing to be done, which I experienced with surprising success.

Unbolt the wheel, take off the compass, undo the chain and take the wheel axle out.

You also need to take the wheel brake out.

Then push the two plastic bearings from the inside out.

Then, sand the aluminium support of these bearings untill they are completely clean as the probably have suffered some corrosion, which did reduce their diameter and compresses the bearings.

Put everything back with some grease so as to try and avoid water ingress.

Let me say I was really surprised to feel the wheel "on roller bearings..."!

And it still works fine after many years.

Kind regards (and sorry if my technical english is not to refined!)

Philippe. Soeur Anne 41/022.

09 December 2018 - 07:49
Join Date: 14 May 2017
Posts: 66

Hi Philippe,


Thank you for youir advise! My boat is on the hard now, so I can work on it easily. I will follow your advise!



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