Windlass -  Maintenance and Care

Windlass - Maintenance and Care

Having a mechanical windlass on board that you can use to hoist your anchor and chain either with a handle or at the push of a button is a must on any boat over a certain size. To make sure your windlass runs smoothly all season long, some regular maintenance is recommended. Every windlass is a little different, and electric windlasses require more maintenance than manual ones. In this comprehensive guide to windlass maintenance and care, we hope you'll find all the answers to the most important questions and plenty of helpful tips.

How often should my windlass be maintained?

Windlass manufacturers generally advise regular maintenance of their products. In order to maintain the maximum efficiency of your windlass, they recommend following a service schedule - this is especially recommended in the event of an unexpected defect for warranty reasons (see the warranty conditions). The above deck parts, however, must be inspected at least once a year, ideally during winter storage.

Can I service my windlass myself?

It doesn't take much maintenance effort to keep your windlass in good working order and for as long as possible, and many tasks can easily be done by any owner. These include flushing the windlass with fresh water after every jaunt and checking the oil level. Take a look at the sight glass to make sure there is enough oil and that seals are doing their job. If you have an electric windlass, checking the electrical connections in the motor housing should be done regularly. Clean and treat contacts with terminal grease to prevent corrosion. Check the motor is dry and for any rust. If you're confident at taking things apart and like to tinker, you can disassemble your windlass and check and repair electrical parts more carefully.

Windlass care & maintenance - summary:

  • Maintain windlasses according to a service schedule, but at least once a year.
  • Clean the windlass & check oil fill level after each use
  • Clean & grease electrical connections regularly
  • Check that the motor is dry & rust-free

How do you service a windlass?

In addition to the minor tasks that you can regularly do yourself, your windlass should also be more thoroughly serviced once a year. This involves opening the housing, cleaning it from the inside and lightly greasing the mechanics. Your windlass should be completely removed from the deck for this purpose so that salt deposits can be washed off under the base. All external surfaces and concealed areas can now be easily cleaned with fresh water and any aggressive salt deposits removed (be careful, a high-pressure jet may damage the mechanics). Moving parts must be lubricated, especially the friction cones and the thread of the main shaft. Special, thick marine grease is recommended by experts for this. If signs of corrosion and mechanical stress are noticeable, it is advisable to replace the parts in question. This kind of thorough check should be followed by an oil change. Information about the amount and type of oil is usually provided by manufacturers on their websites. Lofrans, for example, uses SAE 90-140 oil for all its windlasses. The connections on the electric motor, if any, should be checked and all seals replaced.

Annual intensive windlass maintenance - summary:

  • Open the housing, clean & grease the inside of the windlass.
  • Replace parts if there are signs of corrosion & mechanical stress.
  • Change gearbox oil
  • Check motor connections
  • Replace seals

How do I check for wear on the gypsy?

Your windlass gypsy is subject to particular stress and should be checked for wear during annual intensive maintenance. Always refer to the operating instructions for practical advice if you are unsure about anything. Remove the bush with a winch handle, you can now remove the outer clutch cone, the gypsy and the inner cone from the shaft. Check for signs of corrosion and mechanical wear. If everything looks ok, replace the components in reverse order. Lubricate threads and all moving parts carefully with grease.

How do I care for the motor and electrics?

Your on-board electrical system is extremely important - without a reliable power supply, your engine won't start, instruments won't work and you won't be able to operate your navigation lights. Moisture and salt water pose a permanent risk to all wiring, connections and switches. Therefore, as a general rule to avoid corrosion and water ingress, all plug connections and terminals, including the windlass motor and electrics, should be sprayed with an anti-corrosion spray, such as WD 40, Teflon Spray or Wet-Protect. Seek professional help from an electrician if necessary.

What motor is right for my windlass?

If you ever need to change the electric motor of your windlass, find out well in advance about a suitable replacement motor. Our SVB online shop has a selection of Lofrans replacement motors for all common windlasses. When choosing a motor, it is important to know your windlass model as well as the operating voltage and in some cases the year of manufacture. If you can't find the motor you need online, simply send a photo of your windlass to SVB's customer service.
Tip: If your motor has to be removed, take a photo beforehand. Installation will then be much easier afterwards.

What do I need a relay for and which relay is the right one for my windlass?

A relay is used to switch the direction of rotation, in short, the "up and down" function of a windlass. Information on the relay used can be found in the manufacturer's product manuals. In many cases, the motor and relay must both be replaced, as windlass manufacturers tend to change their motor suppliers. This can result in a change in the number of poles on the windlass (two, three or four poles), which can be easily compensated for with a suitable relay. SVB has the right relay for every windlass and every type of motor.

Help! My new windlass motor has more / fewer poles than the old one!

We often get calls from customers who have bought a new windlass motor from our online shop and are surprised to find that their new motor has only two poles instead of three like their old windlass motor. This is usually because over the years, some windlass manufacturers change the suppliers of their motors, which can result in a change in the number of poles. This is easily solved with an appropriate relay.

How do I find the right spare parts for my windlass?

An 'exploded diagram', which is part of the operating instructions, shows the construction and components of each windlass. Instruction manuals can also be found in our online shop on the product page of each windlass. All spare parts are marked with a specific code number to facilitate reordering when required. Finding the right spare parts for Lofrans windlasses is even easier. In our Lofrans spare part finder, you simply select your windlass, search for the required spare part in the exploded view, and add it directly to your shopping cart. You will receive both individual spare parts and so-called maintenance kits, which contain all the usual, necessary spare parts for the respective windlass. These include, for example, wear parts such as sealing rings or oil seals, spring washers, nuts, washers and drive pins.

Motor, relay, spare parts - summary

  • Remove the gypsy once a year and check for wear.
  • Apply anti-corrosion spray to connectors & terminals of the motor.
  • Find a replacement motor based on the model, voltage and year of manufacture of the windlass.
  • If the new motor has fewer/more poles, buy a suitable relay.
  • Find spare parts using the exploded view of the instruction manual or Lofran's spare parts finder.