Monday, 8 April 2013

Lewmar Wavegrip Winch Maintenance

This week, we attacked the winches.  We didn’t know when they had last been cleaned, so armed with the Lewmar maintenance manual, white spirit, light machine oil, winch grease, and piles of rags and miles of paper towels, we opened up our first winch.

Everyone will tell you that cleaning and remounting a winch is not difficult, and it’s true.  Everyone will also tell you that it is all too easy to lose pieces overboard, so be very careful and keep all parts  inside the cockpit at all times.  And oh, ‘tis true, ‘tis true, but you won’t believe how true it is until it happens to you.

The basic dismounting, cleaning, and remounting is fairly straightforward and is covered in the manual.  Our first surprise was that we didn’t have the right manual, or rather, we didn’t have the winches we thought we had.  Our winches are the older Lewmar Wavegrip series (30ST and 40ST), made between 1983 and 1991, easily identifiable by their 4 cross-head screws on the top cap.  The schematic for these winches is available at: http://www.pyacht.com/lewmar-winch-schematics.htm

The 30STs were pretty clean.  These are the ones that stay under the dodger. 

Before and after cleaning.

But the 40st were full of gunk (dried, clumping grease) and we noticed cracks in the gel coat underneath both of these winches.  We put some silicone over the cracks to prevent creeping and leaking.  But does anyone know why these are there?  Stress fractures?

Dried grease on bearings.


Mystery cracks underneath both 40STs.

We followed instructions in the manual about using winch grease everywhere except the pawls, where we used a light machine oil.  Several boating friends told us they simply used grease everywhere, but that seems to gunk up the pawls after awhile, so we followed the instructions and used only oil there. 

In reading the various nets and blogs, there are a couple of issues not covered in the manuals that can cause problems.  We fell into these traps, too, but figured them out with a little trial and error.

The first one deals with the 2 collets sitting just underneath the top cap and on top of the feeder arm.  The collets support the spindle and keep it at the right height in relation to the gears at the bottom of the winch.  They fit like puzzle pieces into notches cut in the center stem and they must also be aligned with the grove at the top of the spindle when you put them back together.  You have to lift the spindle up a bit to get the grove to align with the notches.  If you don’t get them aligned, you’ll notice that the collets have a gap between them and you won’t be able to line up the screw holes.

Removing and re-seating the collets.  Lift the spindle to align the notch and spindle groove (red arrow).
The second problem we had was in putting together the upper and lower crowns of the self-tailing jaws.  When you place the upper crown on the lower one, with the stripper ring in between, you have to rotate the upper crown until it “clicks” into place on the lower crown and it no longer rotates freely.  If you don’t do this, you’ll notice that your upper crown is wavy when you tighten down the screws (as if it’s not seated correctly, which it isn’t.) 

Place top crown (not shown) over bottom crown and stripper ring and turn until it clicks into place.
In general, our winches were in good shape.  One pawl spring broke and that was a good sign for us to buy a replacement kit and change them out .  The only major kerfuffle was when one of the upper crowns went sliding down the gunwale like a hockey puck before making a big PLOOF sound as it hit the water.  We had been working on our hands and knees in the cockpit floor to avoid losing any pieces overboard, and this happened when one of us stood up to dry the part.  The water in the port is about 2 meters deep with zero visibility and is still very cold.  Diving for it blind is a last-ditch option.  We managed to find a company in the UK (winchspares.com) that still sells parts for these older models, but stocks won’t last forever.  Next time, we’ll have a better appreciation for what “be very careful” really means.    

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