Stabilizer Maintenance: Time to Charge the Silencers!

30 January 2009 By Mike Perkins

It’s extremely frustrating when the phone rings and the following conversation takes place – and it happens more often than you’d think.

Chief Engineer: “The stabilizers started making noises a couple of weeks ago. The charter guests have begun to complain and are threatening to bail.”
Manufacturer: “Chief, when was the last time you charged the silencers?”
Chief Engineer: “Silencers? What silencers?”

Even if manufacturers write a beautiful technical manual, it doesn't matter if no one on the planet picks up the bloody thing and reads it. We have seen the maintenance cycle for stabilizing systems shorten pretty dramatically when compared with older, conventional systems. The reason is simple – they are being used more hours per year.

The average hours per year on a traditional stabilizer system used to be in the range of 400 to 700 hours. Now, reports say that 4,000 to 5,000 hours is quite common. With this almost tenfold increase in service hours, it’s obvious (to us, anyway) that maintenance has to be done more frequently. We supply a technical manual that details the regular maintenance procedures and provides the recommended intervals at which to carry out this service.

There are a few simple actions that can be taken by the crew to prolong service life for stabilizers, and act as preventative steps to assure the proper operation of the system. These steps also apply to dual-purpose stabilizing systems offered by other manufacturers, but it’s important to consult the manual for your system, since components and maintenance recommendations do vary.

Charging the silencers and accumulators – All Zero Speed systems have both silencers and accumulators. The regular inspection and recharging of the silencers (fitted to the pressure lines on the hydraulic pumps) is crucial to keeping the system operating quietly.

Greasing – This is probably one of the most important but least attended to regular actions that can dramatically prolong the service life of the system’s bearings, shafts and other critical components.

Fluid and filter changes – Over time, in any mechanical/hydraulic system there is system component wear. The debris from this wear will be picked up in the hydraulic fluid. If the system filters and fluid are not changed on a regular basis, it can lead to contamination, which can and frequently will result in more serious damage to servo valves, pumps and other system components. It's strongly recommended that this service be carried out in accordance with the schedule in the manual.

Oil coolers – Each system hydraulic unit is supplied with shell and tube type cooler(s). These coolers, if allowed to fail due to lack of maintenance, can lead to a very messy and destructive outcome. Coolers will, over time, suffer from erosion of the shell and tube surfaces. If there is a breach and the hydraulic fluid and water mix, you will have a real mess. The best way to maintain these critical components is to follow the maintenance program in your manual and replace them at the scheduled intervals.

Quantum Marine Engineering, based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is a global supplier of roll stabilizer systems and hydraulics for the superyacht market. Quantum’s reputation for excellence in engineering and technology is only matched by its dedication to service and customer support.

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