Keeping You On The Water

Servicing Self Tailing Winches

D.I.Y. Self-tailing winch maintenance

Winches are important and expensive pieces of precision boat engineering subject to high loads and constantly exposed to the elements.

Rain and seawater inevitably find their way in through the winch tops unless constantly covered and will mix with and degrade the internal lubricants. These should be refreshed at least once per year.

Iain Bishop from the Windcraft Service Centre gives his tips on how to maintain your winches.

You will need the following:

  • Separate containers for clean and dirty parts
  • Small cleaning brush
  • 1” Paint brush
  • Lewmar/Harken Winch Grease
  • Machine oil
  • Large and small flat head screwdrivers
  • Large Phillips screwdriver
  • Clean rags
  • Mineral turpentine
  • Drop sheets

To complete a service you will need to disassemble the winch, clean all grease off the parts and then re-grease/oil. Parts need to be replaced in the correct order and function checked.

Taking the winch apart

1 – Protect teak with the drop sheets and anywhere else that the grease could leave a mark.

2 – Remove the top cap, upper crown and stripper ring and place into container. TOP TIP: take a photo of the complete winch before removing parts.

3 – Remove collets from top of centre stem and place in container. TOP TIP: Collets are the easiest part to drop and can go overboard. Care required when removing!

4 – Remove the drum, being careful not to drop the bearings that may be stuck to the inside and place into the container.

5 – Use a flat head screwdriver to remove the gear spindles. Remove the gear spindles completely and place into container. TOP TIP: Take a photo before removing the gears to record how they should be put back in….

6 – For electric winches the stem will need to be removed from the deck to access further gears underneath.


Cleaning the parts

1 – Clean all grease from: bearings, stem, gear spindles, collets and inside of the drum using Mineral Turps

2 – Cleaning the gears requires taking them apart. In the gears are pawls and pawl springs and they will need to be removed. TOP TIP: Remove pawl springs with a small flat head screw driver. The springs are small and are easy to lose.

Greasing and oiling the parts

1 – Replace pawls and pawl springs into gears. The pawls are moving parts and grease will make them stick and not function so use oil for these parts.

2 – Using a paint brush coat all internal parts with grease. If the grease looks “clumpy” on the parts then there is too much!


Time to re-assemble!

Re-assemble in reverse order making sure to use your photos as reference.

As you can see, winch maintenance is a fairly straight forward, important but time consuming task.

You may like to have a go yourself or alternatively you can have your winches serviced by us at your next Annual Service.

If you need any further information do not hesitate to email the service team at [email protected]

There are excellent instructional videos available on youtube. Here is one


Protect your winches

Happy Sailing

Photos courtesy of

Posted By admin on February 22, 2016 at 9:42 am