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How to Maintain a Windlass

Photo by Eddie Berman

Keep Your Windlass Working

Like all of your onboard equipment, your windlass requires regular maintenance in order to live a long life.


After every extended jaunt, flush the entire windlass as well as the chain/rope rode with lots of fresh water. Also, spray any accessible electrics with a corrosion blocker like CRC Soft Seal. Note that it’s important on a machine like the Maxwell HRC10 shown here (with a composite-type motor enclosure) that you use only a corrosion blocker (Soft Seal, for example) that does not attack rubber, paint, plastic, or other related materials. And finally, check the rope for wear and replace if necessary.

At three-year intervals, the gearbox and related components should be serviced by an authorized professional.

Once a year, have the electric motor examined (and serviced if necessary) by a qualified technician. And, should rust spots develop anywhere on the exterior of the windlass, treat them with rust inhibitor and, if feasible, paint with a marine-grade product recommended by the manufacturer.

Every three months, separate the gearbox (anodized die-cast alloy on the HRC10) from the motor enclosure (black composite material) so you can check the gearbox’s oil level. Make sure it is more than half but less than three-quarters full. Top up if necessary, using a manufacturer-recommended product. Also, after the standard freshwater flush and a thorough wipe down with a chamois, spray the metal components of the windlass with a marine protectant like WD-40 or CRC Marine 66 and then polish with a soft, smooth cloth. And, while you’ve got the gearbox and motor enclosure separated, clean and grease the mating surfaces of each and, before you reassemble everything, remove the chainwheel and strip and grease the clutch. Lithium grease works best.

This article originally appeared in the June 2015 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.