Air clutch control troubleshooting - help!

I’m stumped. I’m on an older tugboat. We have Haley gears, air clutches. The air controls have been getting more and more sluggish. I’ve rebuilt and / or replaced the throttle control valve connected to the governor’s multiple times and it will work better for a little while, but get sticky and sluggish again. I’ve installed good drains in the air feed lines and have been vigilant about draining moisture.

Any advice?

Air lube?

I’ve tried a little air tool oil. The valve instructions dont call for it, so I’ve been a little reluctant.

Give the air supply inlet fitting a squirt of air tool oil and cycle the clutches a few times. I think you will find they work much better and if so, install a lubricator. Don’t over lubricate, just make sure you get a drop or two from the lubricator each time a clutch shifts.

Make sure the wheelhouse controls are lubed as well. Give the air supply to them a squirt too.

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Ok, I’ll give it a try. Right now I’m giving everything a thorough cleaning. Lot of grime inside; I’d been rebuilding the throttle valve - but the other valves are pretty bad. Trying to get a baseline to start from.

Do you have a filter/regulator serving the system? I strongly recommend a fllter/regulator/lubricator for that system. You need to maintain a clean, constant pressure, lubricated air supply to the valves.

If you are getting a regular dose of crud it is time to disconnect and purge/clean/dry the air lines from engine room to wheelhouse and back. When was last time wheelhouse controls were serviced? I am not familiar with the Haley clutches but many have fine screens in the system at several points and if they become fouled they will definitely slow down operation.

I’ve got a regulator and a filter inline, but that’s all.

Air compressors carrying over oil into the air system?

Is there a remote/stern steering station and control? The system control shift valves and dump valves are a common problem. The diaphragms get indented.

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Do you have water separators at the pilothouse controls ?

There’s a company in Seattle, PSI. The older guy Bill is an air control genius. Worked on everything from Navy ships to crappy old tugs. This is the number I have though I’m not sure it’s Bill’s number. 206 789-0944

Ok - thanks, everyone!

After cleaning literally every part of the system and adjusting air pressures to the actual recommended numbers (had to talk to someone who knew) we’re back in business! Throttle controls are crisp and snappy; Captain is happy!

I’ve been two years on tugboats (after some yachting and oil field supply); its been a steep learning curve but very rewarding!


Depending on what sector and/or company, pneumatic engine controls are becoming harder to find. Nice job and glad to hear you are up and running!

We have a ship with pneumatic controls. In a very humid part of the country, too so moisture separation is really very important. Well done!

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