Question: I have a Neco autopilot in my (1973) Swan 44. Last year, the pilot control head stopped working and does not seem fixable. I spoke with a Simrad representative who said it was possible to replace the ‘brain’ and leave the drive in place. My drive seems to work fine and is chain driven. Should I use the old drive with the new brain?
Answer: I would recommend against using the old Neco drive. I made exactly that mistake myself. Further:
- Despite the fact that it works now and is a good piece of kit, your Neco drive is an absolute minimum of 10 years old, and probably closer to 20. A piece of heavily loaded gear that old is living on borrowed time.
- If it gives trouble it will be difficult to get it fixed. I had two of these drives (one spare) and made several attempts to have them fixed when they started giving trouble. They either came back from the repair shop still non-functional, or failed in a few hours.
- Many of these Neco rotary drives are linked into the steering cables, not attached directly to the rudder or quadrant. If yours is like that, it means that if a cable breaks, you have lost everything; whereas an hydraulic ram connected to the quadrant, or better still, to its own arm attached directly to the rudder post, will steer for you even with a broken cable or other failure in the manual steering system.