Monday, November 9, 2015

Dealing with the ORBS and trying to follow the rules

If installing autopilots was an occasional thing for me, this wouldn't be a big deal, just a minor pain in the ass. But I'm still not very happy about Teleflex's change to ORB (O Ring Boss) fittings. I don't really have a problem with the fittings themselves excluding the difficulty of getting them, and their price. It's the overall design approach that I'm struggling with. These fittings are perfect for the boat builder. Screw them in, twist them to where you want them, tighten the nut, and you're done. No pipe thread goo, or Teflon tape and Teleflex avers they will have lower warranty costs. This is very likely true. But what about me? I have needs too!


So here is the catch, what's good for the boat builder doesn't work well for me for a number of reasons. The first is the assumption is you can do all of the needed add on plumbing parts with just Teleflex fittings, and hose products, or so I'm told.

To install an autopilot a number of things have to happen. I have to tee the autopilot's pump into the existing system. If it's a Garmin autopilot the shadow drive brass gadget goes inline between the the helm pump, then after that a Tee is attached for the tie in. The return port also has to be reconfigured to accept a hose to the pump. Let me simplify this. I have to add a bunch of eclectic plumbing stuff to make this all work.

Above is the easy side of the plumbing. In a non-ORB helm pump I would have used a 1/4 NPT elbow to come out of the pump. I would have then screwed into that a Tee, and then into that any fittings needed to adapt to what ever hose fitting is being used.

What's important here is that I end up with a rigid configuration to attach the hoses to. In my world I have three types of hoses to deal with. The Teleflex hoses with either the 3/8th tube nut fitting or with compression fittings. There is also the Teleflex high pressure tubing, that's the black stuff you see I'm using, and on occasion seemingly 100 year old embrittled copper tubing.

So I'm using the recommend Teleflex approach, and following their rules. This is what I'm aggrieved about. See the red arrow? I'm using a short piece of their tubing to make the connection between the the helm pump to the Tee. This is not a very rigid setup. It's carrying the weight and stress from the two other hoses on a small piece of plastic pipe.  The good news is that I'm able in this case to secure the hoses so nothing moves, so this will work fine. But in many cases this would be difficult to do, and despite any protestations from the manufacturer I won't repeat this again unless I could secure the hoses to my satisfaction.

Here comes some more rule breaking. That brass cylinder is the Garmin shadow drive. It's supposed to be lower than the helm. That ain't happening here. It's even with the helm, close enough for gummit work. The reason for this is so you don't get air trapped in this device because it's a high spot. This will work just fine. Another broken rule is the Teflon tape. Sorry about that guys, I still think it's better than the goo any day of the week.

The two arrows are showing I have hung the hose to take the load off of the black plastic tubing connection.

Last but not least is the return line which is the grand daddy of all technical minutia rule breaking. The ORB fitting is steel and I'm advised by Teleflex it will rust and void the warranty. The Parker fitting I bought has a high quality plating that in testing after 480 continuous hours of salt spay showed no sign of rust. Inside a dry console it will last longer than I will. That'll do pig.

I couldn't locally get this ORB fitting with a 1/4 NPT end so what you see is a compression fitting with NPT adapter attached and gasp, more teflon tape.

This will all work fine for years to come but I won't repeat this scenario again if I can help it. I'll buy the high end plated Parker ORB fittings and go back to hard plumbing again. It's less costly, easier, and provides more flexibility to deal with the myriad of plumbing scenarios I encounter.

In the end I'm not upset with Teleflex. They make superior products, their local office has bent way over backwards on more than one occasion to help me with odd problems, and they have first class tech support. I just think in this case the change to ORB fittings that helps the boat builders, albeit their largest customer, has made my life much more difficult. 

A last note, the morons at the factory smeared gobs of pipe thread goo on the ORB fittings that don't need any of the stuff. I had to remove both fittings and clean up the mess or you would likely have had your first ORB related warranty claim. Maybe it's the boat builders that were causing the warranty issues in the first place and not my Teflon tape usage.

I plea nolo contendere your honor, it's just that sometimes things that look good on paper don't work that well in the field. Just in case though I have been practicing making shivs out of plastic sporks. Okay I feel better now. What's next?

1 comment:

  1. It's easy to see why you're deeply bothered by all of this. A stack of adapters is fundamentally dissatisfying and not only from the purely functional perspective; the goals of "workmanlike" including taking satisfaction from an aesthetically pleasing arrangement, and the first sign of redundancy or excess degrades that pleasure.

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