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Pescador Pilot 12.0 – Drive Issue and Maintenance

Kayak on hill overlooking lake

This season marks the third year of owning the Perception Kayaks, Pescador Pilot 12.0. I have been very happy with this boat, it is quick, pedal drives are amazing and it has been easy to own. As far as upkeep goes it has been minimal. There are some things you need to pay attention to every so often but I wouldn’t call it maintenance, it’s less work than that.

That being said I did come across the first major issue with the kayak since I bought it. The Pilot Drive gear housing started to come loose causing grease to leak out and a knock in the drive train as I pedaled. The fix was not complicated but it did require some special tools, none of which I had, so I improvised.

Pilot Drive with crank arms removed
Pilot drive was leaking around the edges of the housing. Also pictured is the square tapered shaft the crank arms are mounted to.

The top of the drive consists of a cylindrical housing with two threaded face plates on either end. The plates hold the crank shaft centered in the gear housing with a set of snap rings. The face plates (which are the black, flat ends of the cylinder) have small indents to allow the use of a pin face spanner wrench to tighten it. Since I did not have a pin face spanner wrench I made one, but once I finished it I discovered the wrench did not fit behind the crank arms. So now I had to remove those too.

Heating crank arms with torch.
Don’t burn the paint!

There is a proper tool to remove the crank arms, it’s called a crank puller and is typically used for bicycles, but I didn’t have that either. With the careful application of heat and leverage I was able to remove both arms with minimal damage to the paint.

Removing crank arms with a crowbar.
Carefully removing the crank arms from a square tapered shaft. This was hard, just buy the proper tools.

Next came tightening the face plates. When you are sitting in the seat of the kayak and looking at the drive the right side is a right hand thread and the left side is a left hand thread. This is important to note when tightening the plates down.

Tightening the pilot drive head with adjustable pin face wrench.
Tightening the drive head with home made wrench.

Once I was satisfied everything was secure I remounted the crank arms (making sure to align them with the prop) and gave the unit a liberal shot of grease. Since my repair the knock in the drive has gone away and no more grease leaks out of the housing. I call that a win!

Regular Maintenance

The owners manual states the only annual maintenance requirement is to lubricate the pilot drive with some marine grade grease every year. The one I use is Mystik JT-6 Marine Grease because its convenient. The grease comes in small tubes for the $10 mini grease guns and you can get it all from Canadian Tire.

Other maintenance items to watch for are just routine checkup type things. Screws for handles and gear tracks can come loose and I will usually tighten those down twice a year.

Rear grab handle for Pescador Pilot
Tighten the screws on handles and gear tracks regularly.

The propeller will become misaligned after hitting bottom or rocks but its a simple procedure to realign the prop. Just loosen off the nuts that hold it in place, realign with the crank arms and then re-tighten.

I use a silicone lubricant like the WD-40 Specialist Water Resistant Silicone to lubricate the rudder pulley to make raising and lowering easier. A heavier grease would attract more dirt and grime in the pulley so I recommend using a lubricant that dries.

At the same frequency as checking for loose screws I will check and adjust the tension of the rudder control cables if necessary.

Rudder cable adjustment points
Keeping the rudder cables tight will help the kayak track straight.

The last thing I do is apply some silicone grease on the pin that holds the drive in the down position, otherwise it squeaks and can be pretty irritating. If I forget to do this or the pin dries out, I will just splash some water on it to keep it lubricated.

Pescador Pilot Drive mounted in kayak.
Add some lubricant to the pin that holds the drive down or it will squeak like crazy…

14 thoughts on “Pescador Pilot 12.0 – Drive Issue and Maintenance”

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    1. Hi, Ricardo. Unfortunately I do not typically do kayak repairs. The best thing to do with it is to take it apart, inspect the gears for damage and apply more grease to the bevel gears. Be sure to inspect the o-rings and ensure they are not pinched when you put it back together as well. Thanks for the comment!

  3. I have this exact same boat and have really enjoyed it these past two years but it seems the drive on mine is failing. Last time I was out it started slipping, I was lucky to be able to gently limp it back to the boat launch. I sent a warranty claim into Confulence outdoors, hopefully they help sort this out. Have only used the boat 10 or so times over the past 2 years and haven’t pedalled it very far each time so not good that it is slipping, shouldn’t be close to worn out at all.

    1. Hi John! Your drive definitely isn’t worn out, I’ve seen many Helix pedal drives with likely thousands of miles on them so yours should have plenty of life left! That said, some do have problems. Slipping could be caused by the propeller becoming loose – have you checked that the nuts that hold the prop in place are good and tight? I have had that happen to me on the water. If that doesn’t solve it and you are comfortable with it, I would open the drive up and inspect the gears and add more grease to the bevel gears. It could be that one of the screws that hold the bevel gear in place has come loose. I hope this is helpful! Thanks for the comment!
      Wilderness Systems Helix Drive Bevel Gear

  4. I have contacted Confluence and they have agreed to ship a replacement at my cost for shipping, hasn’t been sent yet. I will see if they want the old drive back, if not, I may try opening it up. I asked them if there is a fix and was advised there is not which is unfortunate. Thanks for responding.

  5. I decided to take the drive apart and believe I found the problem. All the gears are in good condition and were well greased. All the smaller gears that are attached with a mounting screw to the different shafts were tight with zero play. The large gear that is on the pedal shaft though had excessive play and I believe this is the reason my drive has been slipping. The gear sits on a splined shaft and has a washer that sits between the gear and the bearing. There was a good deal of wear on this washer which on my unit is now crowned on one side. I think it is because the gear is movable on the shaft and has been moving against the washer, not sure if it is supposed to be press fit but mine isn’t. I installed a thin washer between the back of the gear and the original washer. This has removed the play in the gear, not sure if this is a fix, will have to test it. If not, I may attempt to weld the gear to the shaft, will post my results once tested. In my opinion, this is a poor design, there is no way this should be slipping with so little use, I am still waiting to hear back from Confluence WRT a replacement drive. Your explanation of how to remove the covers on the upper unit was very helpful, thanks.

    1. Hi John, thanks for the update on your drive slipping. Your description of the problem is great and will definitely help others in the future, thanks for posting on the site! I’m glad to hear Confluence was ready to work with you on a drive replacement as well. Good luck with welding the gear in place. Others have had to do that in different models of pedal drives, this video from Nick at Navarre shows welding the shaft in his Old Town PDL. Does yours look similar?

  6. Hi Chris, no the internals are a bit different. I can send you some photos if you like. The difference between our kayaks and the old town is that the spacer he welded to the gear is a separate part that sits between the bearing and the gear, it’s on the opposite side away from the gear teeth. When in good condition it maintains the right pressure between the pedal gear and the shaft gear and when worn the gears slip slips like mine. If I weld the gear it will be to the splined shaft so as to remove any chance of the gear wobbling against the spacer and creating wear on it. I haven’t taken my kayak out yet and am going to tear it down again along with the new one when it arrives to see if they have made any changes to the drive unit, I will measure the spacers and see how much difference there is between new and old. I am also going to try and source a replacement spacer or some thin washers of the same dimension to use as shims. I believe part of the reason my drive failed so soon is that there was very little grease around the spacer and so it wore down faster than it should have. I will post back later with what I find.

  7. Hi Chris, just wanted to pass on that the fix to my drive works perfectly, in fact better than new in that the drive is quieter. I used to have a gear noise when pedalling now the drive is almost silent, all it took was a thin washer to bring the pedal shaft gear inline with the down shaft gear and remove the slop. I received the new drive, I can’t see any splines on the pedal gear shaft and the gear seems firmly attached but because everything has grease on it, hard to tell. I tested the new drive, it is definitely louder than my old one with gear noise. Will run the new drive for a while and see if the pedal shaft gear starts to have slop, easy fix in any case if it does, cheers.

    1. Thanks for the update, John! I’m glad to hear your old drive is now better than new. This is great information for anyone who owns a Helix pedal drive system if a similar situation happens to them. Thanks for posting!

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