rudder bushings...don't overthink it.


Got a MK I C400 with a simple one-piece upper rudder bushing? (Me too).  Looking at buying the Catalina Direct bushing kit and upgrading to the self-aligning upper bushing? (Me too).  I am a big fan and regular customer of Catalina Direct.  Love their products and service but, this bushing kit really falls short.  Since they don't have any sort of "review" section on their website, I'm posting my experience on here to try to clarify any questions other C400 owners might have about the rudder bushings.  I mistakenly thought that after the initial $614 cost of the would be unicorns and rainbows.  But here are some other items you will need that are NOT included...

Yeah...this is pretty bad.  Plan on downloading at least three different diagrams that tell you to use 4200...or 5200...or nothing at all.  They also may tell you to NOT use screws on the lower bushing...tell you to use set screws instead...AND visa versa.  ALL of these instructions show the late style self-aligning upper bushing, and make ZERO mention of what to do if you have the early style upper bushing.  The basic issue is that the new style bushing is too tall to fit under the cockpit lid of the Mk I boat.  I assume the Mk II boats have a deeper well in the cockpit?...not sure.  Whatever the case, toss any and all instructions and go with your gut.  Also toss the late style upper bushing and steel retaining ring.

As already mentioned...the kit does not come with the early style upper bushing.  But you can actually use the upper half of the stuffing box assembly for this.  Its the same part.  The only problem is that you will be missing this piece if you decide to replace your stuffing box assembly.  Catalina Direct does not sell these parts separately (fail), so you must decide if you want to rob this piece and use it as the MK I upper bushing...or use it for the upper half of the stuffing box, as intended.  I chose to rob it as the upper bushing is far more important.  I will keep the upper half of the original stuffing box, and re-use it.  Its main job is to compress the packing and seal the rudder tube, so any wear on the OD is not a big deal.


But wait...there's more!  For the amazing price of $614, you also get to fabricate your own shims!  I cut mine from a sheet of 1/8" HDPE.  The early style upper bushing uses a very simple fiberglass ring with a cross-bolt thru it to basically hold the rudder stock in the proper place.  These shims act as both thrust washers and also allow you to adjust the endplay (up & down tolerance) of the rudder, so use something relatively hard and slippery.

You may be able to re-use most of your hardware but, plan on grabbing some miscellaneous stainless 1/4" and 3/8" bolts, nuts, and fender washers.

Also NOT included in your kit is the packing for the new rudder stuffing box.  Get some 1/2" from West Marine or well.

The rudder must be dropped to do the lower bushing and stuffing box.  The upper bushing can be done while in the water.  Make sure you have a travel lift that can get your boat high enough (50 ton or more), or be prepared to dig a hole in the boatyard to drop the rudder.  The Catalina 400's four feet of spade and three feet of post will require approximately eight feet clear, from the hull to the ground.  Put 5200 on the flanges only...not on the cylindrical part of the bushings.  Use the vertical screws on the bottom bushing.  Use the horizontal set screws on all bushings but, only crank them to 10-12 ft. lbs so as not to distort the bushings or rudder tube.  The set screws are not meant to penetrate the bushings but rather pin them in place.  You should have a plastic thrust washer on the exterior of the boat between the lower bushing and the rudder spade.  If this washer is missing or worn, make a new one from 1/8" HDPE.  Other than the weight of the rudder, and the lifting of the boat...this is a fairly simple DIY job.

In summation...If you have a Mk II that already has the self-aligning late style upper bushing, then go for the Catalina Direct kit.  It seems well made, and the three-piece upper bushing looks quite complicated to make on your own.  Plus having a pre-made kit can save you valuable downtime you would loose by making your own.  HOWEVER, if you got a Mk I with the early style upper, TRUST ME...make your own.  This is not a hard job and you can do it for much less than the cost of the kit.  Get a stick of 6" dia. Delrin from McMaster-Carr or Grainger.  Knock out your old bushings and take them to any machine shop with a lathe.  Delrin cuts like butta, and you can make new bushings to fit your boat, rather than chop on your boat to make the wrong bushing fit.  You will never convince me that the self-aligning bushing is any better, especially when you must do so much work to get it installed.  The one blog I read where the owner did manage to get his kit installed, did not seem near as robust compared to the original layout.  So much easier to use the correct bushing, and my old one lasted 20 years!