Simrad Robertson Autopilot Control Head Fixes and Failures
The Simrad Robertson AP20, AP22, AP25, and AP26 Autopilot heads are among the most popular on the market, though they are not without flaws. We get asked to repair several of these every week, here are some of the biggest problems we find with them, followed by what we can do to mitigate and repair them.
Water intrusion due to a faulty keypad or faulty Simnet/Robnet2 connectors
LCD is Burnt, has Dark Spots, or Lines in the Display
Unit will not power on
We have found that the Simrad Autopilot keypad design is fundamentally flawed. The design utilizes small plastic posts to hold the keypad in-place from the inside of the control head. This small posts, over time and after these buttons have been pushes, mashed, smashed and poked hundreds of times, become very brittle. They break, and the keypad develops gaps where it is no longer acting as a seal to prevent water intrusion. You can see what I am talking about in the picture below. You can see a broken pin circled in red.
In order to prevent this we apply adhesive, and a bead of silicone all the way around the keypad to ensure there is a mechanical seal between the keypad and the inside of the display cover. We do this for every single Simrad AP20,22,25, & 26 that comes in the door, regardless of what it comes in for. We charge an hour of labor for this service, which is $125. This ensures that the head gets several more years of life out of it, and we have never had one of our keypad seals fail.
The second most common point of failure for these control heads is the LCD. It either gets dark spots with age, or is missing lines or segments. For dark spots and burnt LCDs, we simply replace the LCD on the unit with a new, to spec, replacement LCD. We typically charge around $500 + an hour of labor ($125) for this. I know this price seems pretty steep, but considering these heads regularly fetch $1000+ on eBay, and a complete new autopilot setup is comfortably $2000 (before installation cost) we believe this repair is justifiable and well worth it. Contact us by email or phone to talk to us about replacing your AP LCD today.
The missing Pixels, Lines and Segments is harder to treat. We have found that changing the LCD does not solve this problem, and this problem is more likely to due to bad video drivers or a corrupt component somewhere on the circuit board. Unfortunately at this point in time we do not have a solution for this. We may however be able to offer a replacement head, or replacement system if you find that you absolutely cannot live with the missing lines/segments.
Unit Will Not Power On
Sometimes our Simrad Autopilot Heads dont want to turn on. This can be caused by several different issues. Water Intrusion is a likely culprit, especially given the poor keypad design (see problem number 1). Water enters the unit, corrodes components on the PCB and eventually one day you turn the unit off, never to turn it back on ever again. Sometimes a thorough cleaning is all that is necessary to solve this, other times the unit needs to be replaced.
Alternatively, your AP20/22/25/26 may not be turning on because the power button has failed. This is usually an easy fix as we just have to replace the button. Sometimes when one button is replaced, other buttons need to be replaced subsequently, but with some patience and care, it is not an impossible job to complete.
We have also seen the Junction Box be the point of failure. Whether it is not getting adequate voltage, has a cable knocked loose, or has a bad Power PCB, it is not uncommon for the Junction Box to fail.
The last cause we have observed, for an AP20, AP22, AP25, or AP26 to not turn on is a bit more complicated. We have had units come in, where you hit the power button on the control head, and seemingly nothing happens. However, sometimes, although the head itself does not power on, the Junction Box may be powering. This is an issue we have not been able to come up with a solution for. We generally advise the customer that the unit needs to be replaced at this point.