Octopus FAQs

Constant Running Pumps

I have a commercial vessel which requires a constant running pump for steering - what's my best solution?

You will require the CRA series of pumps please contact Octopus Technical Support for your particular application. The CRA series is designed for continuous use. The Autopilot Electronics will have to be purchased separately through a Marine Electronics Distributor.

Linear Drives

There's a small kink on the hose near one of the linear drive hose connector due to the way it was packaged. Should I worry about it?

    It is possible to “Pop” out the kink by squeezing the sides of the hose. If this does not help then it is advised to replace the hose. The system will need to be bled after changing the hoses.

    Linear Drive bleeding procedure:

    If there is air in the system then the oil level will rise and fall and that can overflow the reservoir. When properly bled the small reservoir capacity is sufficient and oil level should stay relatively stable since the cylinder volume is balanced. If you see the oil level rising, then please implement the following bleed procedure:

    1. Disconnect the rod end from the tiller arm.
    2. Open the two brass screws.
    3. Energise the bypass valve coil. Connect to power supply or directly to 12V battery source. (Assuming this is a 12V linear drive).
    4. Slowly pull the rod end out fully until it stops at end of stroke.
    5. Push the rod end in fully until it stops at full retraction.
    6. Monitor oil level and top up as required as oil level drops.
    7. Repeat steps 4 & 5 several more times until oil level in reservoir remains stable.
    8. Close brass screws.
    9. Reconnect rod end to tiller arm.
    10. Top up fluid level between 50%-75% of max capacity
    11. Reconnect bypass solenoid valve to course computer
    12. Test system in normal operation.
    My cylinder leaks around the shaft. Can I repair this?
    Yes, there are seal kits with instructions available to reseal the cylinder using basic tools. Before you purchase the seal kit make sure there is no scoring of the piston rod or the bore of the cylinder. If the scoring on the piston rod is very slight then you can polish it out with crocus cloth or very fine emery cloth.
    Can I rotate the pump rubber mounting rings for a vertical bulkhead installation to keep the fluid tank upright?

    Rubber foot mount can be rotated on motor body to keep reservoir upright when mounting on a vertical wall.

    I lose steering on my sailboat during a following sea what is wrong?

    Your sailboat may have a large “barn door rudder” which will be affected by the waves rushing against the rudder. Your drive unit is probably too small for your boat and you will need to upgrade to a larger drive. Please confirm your existing Autopilot Electronics are compatible with larger drive units.

    Can I rotate the hose elbows on the linear drive so they point to the left of the unit if my installation requires it?

      Yes. 90 degree elbow fitting orientation can be adjusted but these are NPT fittings so thread sealant may need to be reapplied. If you just need to screw in a bit more to get the correct orientation you will not need to reapply thread sealant.

      Are there service parts available for the Octopus linear drives?

      There are cylinder seal kits, reversing pump seal kits, rubber motor mounts, motor brush kits (2007) and older with the stamped metal end frames, 7&12″ piston rods, by-pass valve seal kits and hose assemblies. Please contact the factory for details.

      I have a 40 ft sailboat that does 8-10 knots and would like to install an Autopilot, what drive do I use?

      You can use a Hydraulic Linear Drive made by Octopus (Part #: OCTAF1212LAR12 or OCTAF1212LAM12). The LAR is a remote mounted pump and the LAM has the pump mounted on the cylinder. The Autopilot Electronics will have to be purchased separately through a Marine Electronics Distributor.

      Type RS Sailboat Drives

      Experiencing steering wheel resistance (Type RS Drive)

      Typically the RS drive has very low back drive resistance. Please check the following:

      • Ensure the cable is not binding and is not bent too tightly (less then 90 degree) as this could create additional sliding friction within the cable.
      • Ensure you are not trying to steer manually when AP is in standby mode. Clutch would be engaged and any manual steering input would try to back drive the motor/gear box assembly.
      • Ensure clutch “dog teeth” have disengaged fully after the AP has been turned off. If you are underway, you may need to jog the helm back and forth just enough to unload the clutch and allow the “dog teeth” to separate.
      I have limited space in the transom of my sail boat and I wish to install an Autopilot. What do I require?

      You will require either a Type-RS Mechanical Drive Unit or, a Hydraulic Linear Actuator (depending on the size of your application). The Hydraulic actuator comes in two versions; the LAM has the pump mounted on the cylinder, which is very compact or, the LAR which has the pump mounted remotely mounted. The Autopilot Electronics will have to be purchased separately through a Marine Electronics Distributor.

      Reversing Piston Pumps

      What are the pipe thread sizes in the pump manifold where the hoses attach?

      #5 ORB.

      My Octopus 1212-pump leaks fluid between the pump and the motor. What should I do?

      There is a lip seal between the pump and the motor which needs to be replaced. We have special tools for replacing that seal so it is recommended that you ship the unit to us for repair. Please contact Octopus Technical Support for details.

      Which Hydraulic Fluid to use in pumps?

      Octopus Hydraulic Fluid: https://octopusdrives.com/products/hydraulic-steering-fluid/

      We use Chevron Havoline MD-3 Automatic Transmission fluid in our products but there are many equivalent ATF fluids that are acceptable. You can look for fluids that formulated to meet: DEXRON-III H, MERCON, and Allison C-4.

      My rudder is slow to respond. How can I correct this?

      The output of the Octopus pumps is adjustable by loosening the 2 allen screws that attach the pump to the motor. There are graduations on the end frame of the motor (+ or -) so you can rotate the motor for more fluid or less fluid. The norm for an inboard cylinder is 15sec. HO-HO. This is the advantage of Octopus reversing pumps you can customize your steering system.

      My boat has SeaStar steering and will not stay on course. What should I do?

      Check the system for air by turning the wheel one way then the other. It should come to a solid stop,if it wants to keep slipping then there is air in the system. Try to push the cylinder by hand one way then the other, there should be 0 movement at the piston rod. The type H has a Octopus reversing pump and the bleeding procedures are in the instructions supplied with the system or, see the Manual Download section for a new copy.

      For the OCTAF1212BP12, can the reservoir bottle be mounted a few feet above the pump and connected with a hose?

      We don’t have a remote reservoir option but perhaps you could rig something up by attaching an extension to the reservoir cap. We do ship the unit with a plastic cap which is then replaced with a metal cap which vented.

      Garmin Reactor 40 autopilot system compatibility with the Octopus OCTAF1212 pump

        Garmin setup requires max amperage for the pump/drive and the clutch voltage. The pump flow rate is factory set to maximum. During the Garmin Sea Wizard tests, the auto-tune system may indicate that it fails with an “Autopilot Drive Overload” message.

        Understanding the OCTAF1212’s current draw involves its direct correlation with load-induced pressure and adjustable displacement settings. Assuming a load-induced pressure of 200 psi and factory-set flow, the current is around 8 amps. While 19 amps may result in a relatively high 800 psi, it’s deemed an appropriate maximum value for setting the current limit on the Garmin controller.

        Clutch voltage is inconsequential in this application, given the pump’s simple, reversing nature without a clutch or bypass manifold. Pump flow rate depends on the desired High Output to High Output (HO to HO) time. For a 10.2 cubic inch cylinder, a flow of 1 liter per minute yields a 10-second HO to HO time. The OCTAF1212 pump, nominally at 1.2 liters per minute, can flow up to 1.6 lpm at max displacement, suggesting potential benefits in dialing down the flow.

        It’s advised to set the max amperage in the Garmin controller to around 19 to 20 amps. A 7-amp setting is too low and likely triggers an overload message in your system.

        Please note: the shadow drive feature will not be functional.

        Type R Mechanical Remote Drives

        For customers looking for a helm drive or a remote drive

        Type S/T Dashboard Drives: Our Helm replacement option for either Tilt or Straight shaft rotary Helms. This is a very simple installation option with the only limitations being the 10” of space required behind the dash.
        Type R Mechanical Remote Drives: Our Type R remote mount Drive system, mainly used when space is limited behind the dash. The unit comes as a kit with the Drive, 6Ft Steering Cable and Attachment Kit. 9ft cable also available for twin engine SYS-A applications.

        Another benefit of these drives is that the Rudder Feedback module can be mounted directly onto the Drive Unit eliminating the need to try and mount on the power assist steering cylinder assembly, see different options listed below*:

        PID Description
        OC15SUK27A Rudder Feed Back Potentiometer Module – Comnav and Si-Tex Kit
        OC15SUK27B Rudder Feed Back Potentiometer Module – Raymarine Kit
        OC15SUK27D Rudder Feed Back Potentiometer Module – Coursemaster
        OC15SUK27E Rudder Feed Back Potentiometer Module – Garmin, Furuno, TMQ and Simrad
        OC15SUK83 Simrad Resistance to Frequency Conversion Kit – Required for Simrad NAC3, AC12 and AC42

        *Needs to be purchased separately.

        Mechanical Drive clutch adjustment procedure

        The following procedure effectively solves most clutch slipping issues. In case the following steps do not resolve the problem, please contact us, and we will connect you with our Engineering and Product Support.

        • Remove the small round rubber grommet plug adjacent to the Rudder Feedback unit.
        • There are 3 adjustment screws which can be accesses through this small 3/8″ inch hole.
        • Rotate the drive to align each screw with the hole and use a large #3 Phillips screw driver to turn the screw in 1/4 turn (images 2&3) To help achieve the screw alignment, it may be easier to remove the RFB sensor /rubber grommet so the drive can be rotated manually using a screw driver as a lever.
        • Align and tighten the next two screws 1/4 turn.
        • If the RFB was removed, set the rudder at straight ahead and then reinstall the RFB sensor with the two red dots on the gear aligned.

        Pictures for reference:

        I have a Mechanical Drive. When I go from Auto to Manual steering, the motor or solenoid seems to be locked and I need to push the steering wheel back and forth to release the wheel. Why is this?

        This is actually a built-in Safety Feature of the drive.  This feature is included in case the Autopilot is switched to manual mode by mistake creating a dangerous manoeuvre while under sail on a sailboat or violent movement of the steering wheel on a Power Boat due to propeller action or a trim issue.

        The drive unit while under consistent load from the boats steering system in one direction or no movement, will maintain the clutched engaged when the Autopilot is switched to manual mode.  This helps to stop uncontrolled boat swing, violent steering wheel movement and potentially dangerous manoeuvres. 
        Manual release procedure.
        The wheel or tiller is required to be moved slightly to disengage the drive. A small joggle action (turning the wheel from side to side) will release the clutch and allow manual control.

        IMPORTANT: Under normal use the helmsperson should always be ready to take manual control of the yacht when the Autopilot is returned to manual mode.

        I have an I/O (Sterndrive) engine with power-assist steering on the engine. I want to add an Autopilot system. What do I need?

        You will require an Octopus MDR drive unit, a cable as required, and an Octopus connection kit# OC15SUK12B for Mercruiser and Volvo 1994 and newer or an OC15SUK12C for 1993 and older. If you have cable steering to the power steering cylinder and it is NFB rack steering then you will need to change it to a Type-S or Type-T rotary system. The Autopilot Electronics will have to be purchased separately through a Marine Electronics Distributor.

        Type S Dashboard Drives

        I have a dash mounted wheel steering system in my boat and I want to install an Auto pilot, what do I need?

        You will require an Octopus Type-S or Type-T system, depending on whether your steering wheel has tilt capability or not.If your present cable is a Teleflex 62 series or a 72 series we have cable adapters to adapt your cable to the Octopus drive. The Autopilot Electronics will have to be purchased separately through a Marine Electronics Distributor.

        Autopilot Compatibility

        What Autopilot systems do Octopus Drives work with?

        Octopus works with all popular Autopilot systems, as long as the Autopilots have a clutch/ solenoid output. You can choose any autopilot that fits your budget. Garmin, Raymarine, Simrad are popular choices among our valued customers. 10 Amp Max output is okay for Mechanical Drives. 20 Amp is recommended for Hydraulic Linear Drives.


        I set up everything correctly, but my drive unit is not working.

        Run direct power (12V or 24 depending on the boat’s wiring) to check steering. Reverse polarity to reverse steering.

        If you have a Mechanical Drive, please supply separate power to the Clutch/Solenoid leads to ensure clutch is engaged.  

        If the unit steers as it should, please refer to the autopilot/course computer troubleshooting guide. If not, please reach out to our Product Support team.


        Performing repairs on old units that are out of warranty

        We provide a 2-year warranty for Pleasure Marine Applications and 1-year warranty for Commercial Applications. We have repair/rebuild accessories available for purchase. Part IDs for the available accessories are listed on the owner’s manuals. For models that are more than 8 years old, we do not stock any inventory.

        If your drive system is more than 8 years old, please consider the following:

        • Repairing an old unit (older than 8 years) requires parts that we very likely do not stock anymore.
        • Even if we could repair the unit, the cost of the parts, service charge and shipping will be the same as getting a new unit (we have checked with production and confirmed this).
        • It will take us at least a few weeks during peak season to repair and send the unit back.
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