April 23, 2024

3 min

Skills & Seamanship

How to Service a Winch: A Step-by-Step Guide

how to service a winch

Servicing a Lewmar winch is essential for ensuring optimal performance and longevity of your equipment. Regular maintenance prevents mechanical failures and keeps everything running smoothly. Here’s a detailed guide on how to service your Lewmar winch effectively.

Preparation: Essential Steps Before You Start

Before you begin servicing your winch, proper preparation is crucial to ensure a smooth and clean process. Here are some steps to prepare:

  • Tools and Diagrams: Ensure you have all necessary tools and materials at hand. Additionally, obtain an exploded diagram of your winch model to guide you through the process. This diagram acts as a visual aid for part identification and placement. We have ours laminated and in the service kit.
  • Protect Your Space: Lay towels around the work area on the deck to protect it and minimize the chance of parts bouncing away during disassembly. If you’re working near the side of the boat, drape towels over the lifelines to prevent any parts from potentially disappearing overboard.
  • Skin Protection: Wear gloves to shield your skin from grease and dirt associated with winch maintenance. Consider wearing two pairs of gloves; as you approach the final stages of reassembly, you can remove the outer dirty pair to keep the freshly serviced winch clean.
preparing to service a winch

Tools and Materials Needed:

  • Degreaser or diesel
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpicks
  • Marine grease
  • Light machine oil
  • Rags
  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Allen keys or hex wrenches
dismantling a winch for service

Step 1: Disassembly

Begin by removing the winch drum. Most winches allow you to lift the drum straight off the base after removing the circlip or screw at the top of the spindle. Keep all small parts in a tray to avoid losing them.

inside a winch

Step 2: Cleaning

Clean all parts thoroughly using bespoke degreaser or diesel. Remove all the old grease, salt, and grime from the gears and bearings using a rag, toothpick and a soft brush. Ensure all parts are completely clean, free from degreaser and dry before re-greasing.

degreasing winch parts

Step 3: Inspection

Inspect all components for wear and damage. Pay special attention to the pawls and springs, which are prone to wear due to their crucial role in the winch mechanism. Replace any worn or damaged parts using spares from your service kit.

inspecting winch oarts

Step 4: Lubrication

Apply marine grease generously to the gears. The grease should coat the gears evenly but not excessively—too much grease can attract more dirt. Oil the pawls and springs lightly with machine oil to ensure smooth operation. Be cautious not to over-lubricate, as this can lead to sluggish pawl action. Never put grease on the pawls or springs.

lubricating winch parts

Step 5: Reassembly

Carefully reassemble the winch, ensuring all parts are correctly aligned and seated, using the winch diagram for certainty. Replace the drum on the base and secure any circlips or screws removed during disassembly.

winch diagram

Step 6: Function Check

Once reassembled, rotate the winch handle to ensure smooth operation. There should be no sticking or grinding noises. If the winch does not operate smoothly, double-check assembly and lubrication.

reassembling a winch

Step 7: Maintenance Schedule

Regular maintenance is key to prolonging the life of your winch. Due to heavy use, we service our winches every 12 weeks. You likely won’t need anything like such regular servicing but they must be done at least once a season.


Servicing your winch is a straightforward process that is essential for safety and will greatly extend its life and performance. You need to have learned your winch, have the right tools and a bit of time to spare, and you can ensure your winch operates efficiently and safely, saving you from many potential headaches during your sailing adventures. Remember, a well-maintained winch is a reliable winch!

See our Yachting Monthly video on winch servicing here

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