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S&S Swan Maintenance - Steering wheel shaft removal
04 January 2019 - 18:20
Join Date: 05 August 2010
Posts: 162

Steering wheel shaft removal

Dear all,

maybe someone can help me with advice regarding the removal of the steering wheel shaft.

Before I started, I did some forum research (namely threads 2099, 464 and 1484). So when I did not find a hole in the top side of the brake shoe, I was not surprised. I drilled the hole and turned the wheel – then I was surprised. As by magic, a threaded hole in the bronze sleeve appeared, but alas, just a hole. No screw that is supposed to hold the shaft. The shaft however does not move in either direction.
So I wonder once again if someone in the long history of the boat messed with the original design. Or whether I simply miss something that should be obvious.

Looking from the top, the bronze sleeve appears to be a single piece with two sprocket wheels and the brake part. The sprocket wheels can definitely not pass through the front bearing hole, so it must be possible to slide the shaft out of the sleeve to remove everything. However, I cannot see a set key (which there must be) so cannot remove this possible obstacle to sliding.

What am I missing?

Wishing you all a happy New Year and great sailing,


Seen from the top, compass removed

Seen from the front, bearing removed

Seen from aft, wheel removed

05 January 2019 - 10:00
Join Date: 02 January 2008
Posts: 1547

Dear Martin 

Good photos!
First it is suggested that you lift off the chains. and check if there is a set screw in the sprocket hubs. If not, it should be under the brake shoe.
Take out the brake shaft - there is a split pin at the end, needs to be removed - then the brake shoe can be pushed forward, and should disclose the screw
Happy New Year!


05 January 2019 - 15:10
Join Date: 05 August 2010
Posts: 162

Dear Lars,

thanks for the advice!

I will take off the chains in the next step. And I'll try to move the brake shoe forward even though I am pretty sure there is no screw; after all, I found the hole for the screw but empty. By the way, I cannot see any split pin in the brake adjuster from above, but neither does the picture Michael (of Vera) posted in thread 1484 show a hole for a pin, so maybe that generation of brake assemblies did not use them. Hopefully no parts will fall out when I remove the adjuster.

However, I wonder about the set key. In my imagination, there will be a key somewhere along the shaft, probably looking very much like the one that fits in the visible keyway on the wheel side, and I cannot see a groove on the front end that would allow a key to slide out of the sleeve. In fact, the pictures Michael posted in the same thread mentioned above show such a key in the brake sleeve. I wonder how the shaft could move forward with the key in place?

Best regards,

05 January 2019 - 18:00
Join Date: 02 January 2008
Posts: 1547


If there is no split pin at the end of the brake shaft, just unscrew it and pull out. Nothing else happens than the brake shoe becomes free to move on the drum.
There is a long key on the shaft for the sprockets and brake drum, it is in line with the aft end key for the wheel.  
The shaft has slightly larger diameter at its forward end, this is the round part visible in your second photo, and the long keyway starts aft of this shoulder.
Kind regards

05 January 2019 - 18:27
Join Date: 05 August 2010
Posts: 162

Dear Lars,

thanks for the clarification! That, of course, makes perfect sense.
I'll make sure to turn the keyway of the wheel key to the top ... just in case.

Best wishes,

07 January 2019 - 11:40
Join Date: 31 January 2007
Posts: 52

Dear Martin,

After you have lifted the chains off, the shaft and the sprockets come easily through the forward opening of the pedestal. Attached please find pictures of the assembly on Infant. There is a set screw locking the autopilot chain sprocket. The chains are in different order compared to Vellamo.

App the best,

Jyrki (Infant, 38/014)

08 January 2019 - 15:03
Join Date: 05 August 2010
Posts: 162

Dear Jyrki,

thank you very much for your advice and for the photos! The mystery goes on, though ... as the order of the chains is not the only thing that differs between the boats. I checked the pictures again, and my recollection confirms that the autopilot chain sits on a much bigger sprocket on Vellamo. In fact, the sprocket diameter does not allow it to pass via the bearing hole, so the only way it could have gotten in is by the shaft having been inserted.
In addition, whereas Infant clearly has two set screws, I could not find a single one on Vellamo, at least not with the chains in place; the one I expected under the brake shoe is missing. There is certainly none as clearly visible as on your boat.

How is the sprocket of the steering chain held in place on the wheel shaft? Simply by being sandwiched by its neighbours (bearing on the forward side, autopilot sprocket on the other)?
I wonder if the resolution lies in overcoming a lot of friction by lubrication, heat, a heavy hammer and brute force. As the pedestal is cast, I've so far not applied any unsoftened blows.


08 January 2019 - 16:16
Join Date: 02 January 2008
Posts: 1547

Dear Martin

With the front bearing removed you should be able to move the big sprocket a few mm forward on the shaft, until it touches the front wall. If also the small sprocket can be moved slightly, the set screw is in the brake drum. (Unless Loctite has been used)

With the front bearing removed the wheel shaft is hanging in the aft bearing only, and this may jam the shaft in place. If you lift the forward end slightly, the shaft should move forward a little, until the sprocket stops this.
Are my assumptions valid?

09 January 2019 - 09:14
Join Date: 30 January 2007
Posts: 461

Dear Martin,

just a possibility: another grub screw is indeed on the brake drum but not placed centrally under the hole you have made.  This would be consistent with the fact that originally there was no hole in the brake clamp and the accessibility of the screw can be achieved only by slightly sliding the clamp sideways.

Daniel, 411/004

15 January 2019 - 19:22
Join Date: 05 August 2010
Posts: 162

Progress ... but not (yet) success.

Thanks for your ideas, dear friends! After removing the chains I checked Daniel's suspicion that there might be a set screw. Well, if there is, it is still invisible. I can check all of the brake drum inside the shoe using a lamp and a mirror, and checking the drum through the slot in the show while revolving slowly. There is only a single hole for a screw, and that is the central one.

The sprockets sit tight on the shaft -- Lars, I could not move either sprocket individually. It might work using a screwdriver as a lever but I think it will damage the bronze.
I used a mallet on the threaded part that takes the wheel, and even then I could not manage to move the shaft more than maybe 8mm. That is enough to show that there is a keyway discernible in the hub of the Neco sprocket. My current assumption is that the sprockets are indeed extremely tight on the shaft, and more force will do the job. Eventually. I will also try oil and heat ...


Seen from the top, chains removed and brake moved forward

Evidence of a keyway

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