Select Page

It is not essential to service the winches when a boat is ashore, but if time allows I prefer to do this maintenance job when the boat is on dry land, mainly because the retaining clips, pawls and pawl springs can easily go flying overboard as a winch is dismantled, especially if the boat is rocking about. Manufacturers recommend winches are serviced at least twice during the sailing season so getting this done before the boat goes back in the water is a good plan. Particular attention needs to be given to the condition of the pawls and pawl springs, which may need replacing.

Most manufacturers provide service manuals which can be downloaded and give detailed instructions for your specific winch models. If however you find these hard to come by, this is a reminder of how to go about things:

Things you will need – small flat bladed screwdriver, old toothbrush, cotton rag, paper towel, paraffin or white spirit, light machine oil (3-in-One oil is good), winch grease and two old plastic containers for cleaning the disassembled parts. Spare parts: springs and pawls.

Disassembly
When taking a winch apart it helps to take photos to remind you how to put it back together again later. These are in addition to the manufacturer’s service manual illustrations.

Like almost everything else on a boat, winches differ from manufacturer to manufacturer. To start the disassembly, some have a big slotted screw at the bottom of the handle socket, some have a cir-clip at the top which can be fiddly to pry open and put back. Others (see photos) have slots on the top that you can push with a screwdriver

Cleaning and checking
The winch components should be removed one by one and soaked in paraffin using one of the containers as a bath. Remove all the old oil and dirt from each part in turn – an old toothbrush makes an ideal tool for this. Then dry the parts and put them in the other plastic container prior to oiling and reassembly.
As you remove each part, check the condition, paying particular attention to the pawls and springs. If the pawls show signs of wear or chipping, then they need replacing. If the springs show signs of corrosion or loss of tension, they should be replaced. These parts are cheap and it is wise to carry spares on the boat. Other parts will be more expensive but still need to be checked – the gears for wear or broken teeth, the inside of the drum for corrosion.

Lubrication
Lubricate the pawls with 3-in-One oil. Lubricate the ratchet tracks, gear teeth and bearings with a light smear of winch grease. Do not apply excessive amounts of grease as this can collect in the pawl pockets, preventing the pawls from working properly. The grease will attract dirt and salt which could lead to the pawls binding and no longer working. Note: if any of the bearings in your winches are plastic, do not grease them.

Reassembly
Before you begin the reassembly, make sure the base plate is completely clean. Any dirt left in the winch can cause wear, so it is worth taking the time to do a thorough cleaning job.
I have to confess I am not brilliant at reassembling winches. There always seems to be something I leave out or put back upside down and invariably I have to start again. The main thing here is not to try and force the whole thing back together – if you meet resistance you are probably doing something wrong and need to start again.
When you finish the reassembly, the best moment of this sometimes fiddly and messy task is to test the winch is working nicely. Then reassure yourself it will be a joy to use when you get back on the water.


Step by steps for a typical winch:
1. Unscrew and remove the top cap, lift off the feeder arm and remove the 2 retaining collets.
2. Lift off the drum.
3. Remove and clean the drum bearings and washer.
4. Remove and clean the gear spindle and gear.
5. To remove the main spindle, rotate it in a clockwise direction as you lift it, also remove the ratchet gear.
6. Remove, clean and inspect the pawls and springs, look for excess wear, replace if necessary. Lubricate pawls with a light machine oil.
7. Lightly grease the ratchet gear, place it in position with the ratchet facing up.
8. Re-assemble in reverse order, remember to lightly grease all gears, ratchet tracks, spindles and bearings.
9. Remove the three fixing screws holding the crown assembly to the drum.
10. Carefully lift off the crowns and lift out the springs.
11. Remove, clean and inspect pawls and pawl springs, look for excess wear, replace as necessary. Lubricate pawls with a light machine oil. Re-assemble.
12. To fit the drum, you will need to use a small bladed screwdriver to close the pawls.

A five day sailing cruise of the Solent, UK

Welcome to our virtual Solent sailing cruise – a five day sail in the south of England from Bosham Quay in Chichester...

Tacking a sailing boat

Tacking is the sailing manoeuvre used to change a boat's direction through an oncoming wind. Tacking a sailing boat calls...

Boat Engine Safety Checks

  Boat Engine Safety Checks Every skipper needs to make regular essential boat engine safety checks. Below you will...

Essential Boat Safety Briefing

Skippers Responsibilities Skippers are obliged to give a safety briefing to the crew even if they are a regular crew. At...

Feeling anxious at sea

  Some people feel anxious at sea. Will they be seasick? What if they get caught in a violent storm? Could the boat...

ColRegs when sailing single handed

  Don’t neglect the Colregs when sailing single handed Sailing single-handed represents several challenges for skippers, not least how to...

The VHF DSC Radio jargon buster

AIS - Automatic Identification System This system is used by shipping. It allows another vessel or coast station to use...

Boat engine basics

Boat engines come in all shapes and sizes and include inboards, outboards, petrol, diesel, electric and hybrid systems. Some engines are...

Rudders and steering systems – Part 3

In the third of our three blog articles on rudders and steering systems, we look at how to replace rudder bearings and repair a water-saturated core.

Top 5 Reasons Why an Inflatable SUP Should Be Your Next Yacht Accessory

In this article, inflatable paddle board expert Jason Paul gives the top 5 reasons why an inflatable SUP should be your next...

Safety Equipment Checklist for Boats

Safety Equipment Checklist for Boats   Liferaft line attached The liferaft will not work unless the trigger line is...

Winch Servicing

It is not essential to service the winches when a boat is ashore, but if time allows I prefer to do this maintenance job when the boat...

Essential Boat Spares for Safety

  Boats Spares Tool kit What you carry in the boats tool kit will be useful for many boat repairs, but you might want...

Cleaning & polishing painted topsides

The gelcoat topsides of a GRP boat can be pampered and restored to their former glory relatively easily when it is ashore. Gelcoat is only a very thin outer layer of the hull, often less than 1mm thick, so you should avoid cleaning it with highly abrasive cleaners, or an-ything that could potentially damage its surface.

Always have an emergency grab bag to hand when at sea…

  Grab bag: In the event of having to abandon ship, it is recommended to have a designated waterproof bag to carry...

Wooden Hulls – Part 2

It is important to ensure the essential hull maintenance of a wooden boat is done, even if you are paying others to look after your boat for you. The priority is to prevent rot from taking hold. The protective layers of paint and varnish over wood are far more critical than on GRP boats, where the topsides are painted more for cosmetic reasons.

Sailing & Motoring in Fog

Sailing & Motoring in Fog You can only measure the visibility accurately if sailing & motoring in fog when you have...

Fire prevention on boats

  Fire prevention on boats - common causes of fire: • Smoking below decks • Galley cookers • Build-up of butane or...

Boat electrics and essential checklist

Essential boat electrics Small yachts and power boats have 12-volt DC (direct current) systems, although larger vessels will have...

Man Overboard Drill

How to respond to crew overboard under sail • Keep the MOB in sight • Tack into the heave-to position, do not adjust the...

What boating skills should you have before you buy a yacht?

Many people dream of owning a yacht and sailing off into the blue yonder. What boating skills should you have before you buy...

Understanding tides

If you are used to sailing in tidal waters, you will know that tides can be both a benefit and a hindrance to the sailor. In many ways,...

Points of Sailing

The course on which a boat is sailing can be described by its angle to the wind, not to be confused with its compass...

Avoiding collisions at sea – how to stay safe on the water

Boats have many blind spots, including the headsails of sailing boats. Always keep a lookout, stay safe and remember that...

A simple guide to understanding tides when passage planning

Understanding tides when passage planning When planning a trip in tidal waters, check the tides before going afloat. Use...