Rudder Bushing Considerations
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Rudder Bushing Considerations

Click for Enlarged Image The rudder bushings on the P26 are plastic collars about 1-1/2 inches long. They fit over the aluminum rudder shaft and into the fiberglass rudder tube on the boat. This means the rudder shaft is supported only at it's ends. A lot of boats (some C&Cs for example) have the rudder shaft supported for it's entire length. I think longer rudder bushings could be fashioned that would provide better support for the shaft and less wear. At least two other P26 owners have done just that. They have had new bearings machined from delrin at local machine shops for a cost comparable to new bushings from D&R Marine (less then $100). The custom machined bearings were 3-4 inches long and required some additional work to fit them into the rudder tube. They have worked very well.

Hear are what some other P26 owners have done (in their own words).

From Dave Ward [ ] - May 30, 1998 . . .

I did a slightly different form of graphite/epoxy repair. I took my rudder in to a machinist that does boat stuff after hours. He made me two delrin bushings and an injection collar, which I'll get to later. He made the bushings slightly oversized for the tube and I ran back and forth until they finally fit. The top one fit after the first turning (sometimes you get lucky). It took several trips for the bottom one. Outside the tube the bushings had a little wobble when placed over the shaft. He said this would disappear when shoved in the tube (and it did).

Had about 1/8 - 1/16 inch wear groove where lower bushing had been. Applied a little boat wax to inside of collar (although I don't think I really needed it. Put injection collar over this and filled with West System with colloidal filler and enough graphite filler to turn it black (per Gourgeon Brothers instructions). Shot it thru hole in collar and waited. Next day collar separated from shaft like good bar BQ off the bone. Wet sanded with 220 and 600 until couldn't feel any seams with my eyes closed. Put lithium grease on shaft and shoved it up. Fit was extremely tight. So tight that we took advantage of traveling lift to lower the boat onto shaft. Starting to loosen up now with a little break-in.

I think this beats the D &R route. All of this cost me $60, including collar and repeated trips to turn bushings and polishing of shaft. This is only practical for locals, but any machine shop should be able to do this. The problem with D&R is that they have bushings that are made for a rudder tube that is the same spec as a new boat. The lower and upper openings in my tube were no longer the same size due to differential wear. I think Rich will make Bushings for $40. You can then take them to your local machine shop.

Archer Engineering (773) 247-3501, Ask for Rich. He does work on stuff from other places, because he had a large mast from a boat in Florida in his warehouse when I was there. Good luck all.

Dave Ward P26OD 1978 #43

From Bill Kloepping [ ] - July, 1998 . . .

Thanks for the forward from Dave Ward. I haven't contacted him yet but it convinced me to have new bushings fabricated.

I didn't give the rudder shaft a real good cleaning before measuring so some of the numbers were a few thousands different as I checked different angles around it (that, or it's a bit out of round...). The nominal values I came up with for the rudder shaft are:
Above the top bearing: 2.350"
Top bearing worn area: 2.344"
Middle area of shaft: 2.350"
1" Above lower bearing (somewhat worn!): 2.343"
Lower bearing worn area: varied between 2.270" to 2.290"

I don't know if the worn areas are a lot or not, but we sure could feel the play when we sailed. I also measured the rudder tube and noted that the bottom tube has flat sections at every 90 degrees but the top of the tube has no obvious flat areas (though it was not as uniformly 'round' as the bottom of the tube). My nominal measurements on the tube diameters were:
Top of Tube:
varied between 2.625" to 2.635" (kind of an oval pattern)
Bottom of Tube flat areas: 2.550"
Bottom of Tube curved areas: 2.640"

I found a plastics company in Dallas that had 3" Delrin round stock and bought a 1 ft. piece (minimum sale) for a bit less than $35. They pointed me to a machine shop who "did excellent work, fast and inexpensively". True to their words, they whipped out 4 bushings and 4 washers (more on this later) in under 3 hours for $90. I was worried that a real long bushing might result in too much friction and make for harder steering so I went with 3" long bushings (twice the original length) and ended up buying a short piece of Delrin they had laying around ($10) to make the 4th bushing out of (I figured I'd rather pay a few dollars more for a pair of extra bushings than have a block of unused Delrin laying around - that and they wanted $25 to fab each bushing if I only did 2 and only $17 each if I did 4...). The bushings look real good - they made the top bushing and the bottom bushing different OD's, etc. so they would mate to the rudder tube dimensions better!

About the washers - When we removed the rudder there were 2 washers above the top bushing (thrust washers?) and no washers below the bottom bushing. Is this correct? At least one of the washers was made from the same material that the bushing was made of (I wasn't sure about the other - it was real black and worn but it looked like the same material as well). I decided I'd better have the shop fab 4 washers (2 plus 2 spares to go with the spare bushings) just in case they are the same material (measurements on the better washer were 3" OD, 2.355" ID, 0.175 thick).

The engineer at the plastics company was pretty sure that the original bushings I had were made from polypropylene (via a burn test) and he questioned why I wanted to use Delrin (I showed him the stuff from you and Dave). I explained the configuration, weight, aluminum shaft, epoxy/graphite fix, etc. and we talked about some other materials as well - Nylon was a big NO as it absorbs water too much (and is harder to machine). A material called UHMW (also harder to machine) was nixed due to it's thermal expansion properties would cause the rudder play to vary with temperature (and it also was fairly soft and might 'cold flow' and deform under the weight of the rudder) and he finally convinced himself that Delrin was probably the best material he had on hand to do the job (other than using polypropylene which is slightly softer than Delrin). One thing he wasn't sure about was how Delrin would abrade/be abraded by the aluminum and epoxy/graphite patch vs. polypropylene abrasion.

I took Dave Ward's hint about oversizing the bushing and shaving it down to fit as needed. The machinist and I decided to go for 0.010 larger on the various bushing OD dimensions (too much/small - who knows...) and 0.005" smaller on the ID (2.345" instead of my 2.350" nominal shaft diameter). They suggested that I use a brake drum honing tool to remove material from the ID of the bushings - they say they've done it and it leaves a good surface (we'll see...) and is a lot easier than trying to set up a lathe to shave a thousandth or two off the ID. I might ought to have gotten closer to the ID - I'll let you know how that one works out.

The break drum honing tool works INCREDIBLY WELL!!! It's three small honing stones on gimbled/tilting arms that you hook to a drill. The stones spin in the tube, maintaining parallel cutting surfaces. Mine has 3" long, 220 grit stones and will fit tubes from 2" to 7". You can get them in various sizes (and different grit stones). Mine was perfect for the 3" long bushings. I was able to run it at a medium drill speed for 5 - 10 seconds to remove a few thousands of an inch so I was able to ream a bit, check the fit, ream some more, etc. without taking off too much material. After each ream I hit the surface with some 320 grit sandpaper and the resultant surface is pretty smooth and even (though not as smooth as it could be - I'll probably go at it with 400 grit before I do the final installation). I ended up with about .005" or so clearance (rough estimate) between shaft and bushing and it slips up and down the shaft real easily with no perceptible play - the longer bushings will make a big (positive) difference on the resultant play (one guy said he'd raced with lots looser bearings so I guess it's going pretty well). I'll probably have to do some final touch up reaming when we put the rudder back in due to squeezing the bushing into the rudder tube but I think it should work out real well.

I did have to sand down the OD of the bushings quite a lot - I used my small belt sander as it was quicker. An odd thing, however, the rudder tube constricts somewhat just beyond where the original bushings stopped - I reamed out the rudder tube a small bit (with the honing tool) to clean up the surface, etc. and I had to sand down the end of the new (longer) bushing a bit more than I thought I'd have to for it to fit - it took quite a bit of sand and check routine but they now slip in fairly well until the last 1/2" or so where it starts to get tight (hard to remove by hand if I push much further) - I figure I'll tap it the rest of the way with a hammer to get a good tight fit - I hope it doesn't cause me to have to ream out the ID much to account for the squeeze.

I followed your graphite/epoxy procedure (using the new bushings), with mixed results. The top bearing (the least worn) turned out real nice (everyone was quite impressed). The lower bearing, however, had a lot of gaps in the epoxy and was not as nice. I plan to touch it up with more epoxy tomorrow. I haven't done the final sanding on it yet (tomorrow...). Just as you noted in your procedure, I thought I'd epoxy'd the bushings to the shaft for good at first but with a bit of light hammering on the sides and top they broke loose and I was able to slide them off (with not too much effort). I did, however, pull a bozo on my top bushing while pulling it off (after it broke free) - I chipped off a large hunk of the lip (for no particular reason other than not paying attention to what I was doing...). I am quite thankful that I'd had the spare bushings made - I'll be using the spare top bushing for the final installation.

Everything felt very tight but I'm pretty sure the steering will be fairly easy and smooth (yeah!). I did a quick check on the retaining collar and it seemed to be on pretty good with no excessive up/down slop but I'll have to check it again before we splash the boat.

Even though I probably could have purchased original bushings from D&R (as my shaft seems to match what you reported they quoted on the specs) I feel like I did the right thing by having the longer bushings machined - it wasn't that much more expensive and I think I got the job done faster than if I'd ordered new ones and having the extra (double) load bearing surface appeals to my engineering sense (or senselessness, depending on what I'm doing at the time...). The graphite/epoxy technique worked real well and I'm very pleased with how everything worked out.

The entire job only took 3 days from rudder removal to replacement (and I made sure that I only worked on it during the hottest part of the afternoons). If I hadn't been so rushed due to the bottom job I probably would have taken a bit more time but as it is I feel like I got the job done well anyway. I'm very pleased with everything - I would never have attempted anything like this had it not been for your excellently written procedures (I probably would have paid someone hundreds/thousands of dollars for a new rudder with all the trimmings...). This has been a very good experience for me and has given me the courage to attempt more modifications on my own - like installing the new instruments, roller furling, lazy jacks, etc. - though I'm not sure there will be enough 100 degree days this summer to get it all done...


From Phil Griffin [ ] - April 19, 1999 . . .
This is a brief write up of my rudder repair done by a machinist.
-Remove rudder and take to a friendly machinist.
-Order two new bushings from D&R marine, Assonet, MA and have them sent to your machinist.
-Cut off the original rudder post where it comes out of the top of the rudder.
-Insert a stainless steel shaft into the inside diameter of the original aluminum pipe. This stainless is especially made for the marine environment. Approximate cost for this part is about $100.00.
-Drill two holes through the rudder, the original aluminum pipe and the new stainless rudder shaft. Fasten two bolts, nuts, and washers to hold the new shaft in place. [3/8" bolts I think]
-Place two stainless collars on the new shaft to line up with the position of the new plastic bushings.
-Place original fitting for tiller at the top of the new shaft.
Submitted by Phil Griffin
1972 P-26 Hull #93
Here is some info on P26 rudder bushings from Kevin Barnett

I'm in the process of hunting down parts & pieces - managed to snag a set of bushings from Shumway Marine for the larger (2.375) diameter shaft (like Dan mentions on his web page) but I still need a couple of bearing rings aka spacers aka thrust washers. Talked to Rudy at D&R, real nice guy, but he swore up and down that Pearson never made rudders with shafts that diameter and faxed me the engineering drawing for "Rudder Bushing & Bearing Ring" for P-26, P-26W, P-26 O/D & P-30. For those Pearson historians out there, here's the exciting rev history:

A partially visible note at the bottom says "15% glass filled polypropylene". What's with that? I thought they were Delrin. Maybe that's the material for the bearing ring.
Rudder Shaft Repair
An Alternative Repair Method
Photo of Another P26 Rudder Shaft
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