Feb 13, 2013

Maintenance update: servicing the self-tailing winches

Servicing the winches is something that I have been putting off for too long. During the last few springs, I have often been too busy with other tasks at hand, and during the autumn, just too lazy. And on the other hand, during the sailing season, I didn't want to start disassembling and messing with something that is working well. However, on one of the last trips of the previous season, the starboard winch started making a whining noise  like it was saying that we should take better care of it!

The best time for servicing the winches is while the boat is on the hard  just in case, you happen to drop something. I was actually somewhat worried, that when opening the winch, the cogwheels and springs would just 'explode' at my hands. However, fortunately the Lewmar winch is very cleverly designed: it is very maintenance friendly and also idiot-proof  you really cannot reassemble it in a wrong way. Thus, with some extra-care, winches can be easily serviced also during the season.

After I had disassembled the winch, I cleaned the  parts from old grease and dirt. I used some diesel and cloth for de-greasing. Then the parts were re-greased. However, the pawls and springs were only treated with some machine oil, since greasing could cause them to stick.

I used CRC super-adhesive grease for re-greasing. There is also some specific grease available for winches. However, I do not know, what is the difference apart from the price. All in all, it is important to not to use too much grease, since this could find its way to the pawls. When disassembling the port winch, I noticed that one spring (holding the pawl) was broken. So I bought a spares kit by Lewmar, and decided to change also other springs at the same time.

Here is a very informative video of servicing a Lewmar Ocean series winch:
(thanks for http://seglingarlivet.blogspot.se/ for this video tip)

Next on the agenda are the halyard winches, and then, later at spring, the reefing winch on the mast (when the weather gets a bit warmer for working outside). Servicing winches is actually quite an easy task, but it takes some time and patience. Perhaps, the most time-consuming part is the cleaning stage, but on the other hand, when you repeat it more often, there is also less cleaning to do. We will do this job annually in the future.

I used an old tootbrush for cleaning and re-greasing

First cleaning all the parts with some diesel.

Greasing the gears by rotating the winch handle

Then it is time to reassemble the winch and test it...and figure out what to do with all the parts that were left over.


  1. It almost feels like you have read my mind with this posting. It has been on our task list to open the winches of our boat this spring and clean and service our winches. That will happen later though when it is a little bit warmer! I was also reading about this in some other blog so it seems to be in many task lists. Thanks, this will be very useful!

    1. Thanks, I am glad if this post is helpful to you. I actually found that youtube clip very useful...just opened it up in an iPad and then followed the video step by step. In my opinion, it is much more practical this way, than reading the manual.


It would be very great to hear your opinion or comments. Thank you in advance for commenting! -Antti & Minna