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Old 07-17-2018, 03:14 PM   #1
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Do windlass motors wear out?

I have a Lewmar concept one windlass on our 2005 Mainship 400. It is original to the boat. I'm pretty easy on it, I never anchor in more than 20' of water (usually 10 or less) and never use it to pull the boat up to the anchor. I tie off to the samson post when anchoring or setting the anchor so as not to stress the windlass.



Until last year I had a 44 lb delta with 75 feet of G4 chain, (I'm not sure of the size) but a year ago I upgraded to a 55 lb Rocna.


The windlass worked great for a long time, even after the anchor upgrade. But on our last trip where we anchored almost every day for a month, it seemed to be weaker than before. It had trouble popping the anchor over the roller and was slow pulling up 15' of chain plus the anchor.


Otherwise, it works great. Do electric motors weaken over time? Anything else it can be? Can they be refurbed?


Thanks,
Doug
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Old 07-17-2018, 03:27 PM   #2
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The warning signs are there my friend. Get the motor rebuilt asap. It will crap out and not at your convience, trust me on this one.
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Old 07-17-2018, 03:28 PM   #3
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Are you sure it is the motor? It could be a low voltage issue. It could be the motor, but I would check the simple stuff first. Check the voltage at the windlass while it is pulling the anchor and compare that to what is at the batteries while pulling. Is there a significant drop in voltage? If so it could be a loose or corroded connection. Is the voltage at the batteries good would actually be the first thing to check. If you are getting good voltage then look at the motor. Yes they can be rebuilt or replaced.
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Old 07-17-2018, 03:29 PM   #4
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I had the same problem last year while in the Bahamas. I first took out the motor and a local electrician found that it was shorting out. Of course, I could have had it rebuilt in the states, but not there. A friend lugged a new motor to me, but that did not solve all the problem.

Motor worked will, but I kept breaking shear pins on the worm drive. I bought a new gear housing and worm drive, all good.

Motors can be rebuilt (except in the Bahamas). I think a misaligned wormdrive led to the early demise of the motor.

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Old 07-17-2018, 03:36 PM   #5
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And it's not always an electrical issue. If the gears are corroded or binding, that can cause these symptoms too.
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Old 07-17-2018, 03:47 PM   #6
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Have you serviced it? The mechanism in mine needs a good annual cleaning minimally, and lubricating occasionally keeps it limber. Mine has adjustable friction plates that sometimes become more sticky than they should either because they've gotten dirty or I've adjusted them to be without realizing it. There's also a big oil sump in which the gears sit that needs to be checked occasionally for proper level and oil quality. I've learned all this by experiencing the same symptoms you're seeing plus blowing CBs and discovering what should have been done that I hadn't.
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Old 07-17-2018, 03:54 PM   #7
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It could be that you need to tighten the clutch. Mine has a tool (similar to a winch handle) that can be used to adjust the clutch.
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Old 07-17-2018, 04:02 PM   #8
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The symptoms you describe are consistent with one of the most common windlass problems: worn carbon brushes. I don't know about Lewmar, but on my Lofrans these are easy to remove, measure and if necessary, replace. Search YouTube and see if someone has posted a guide on how to do this or call Lewmar direct...they may be able to send you instructions. Of course any marine electrician should be able to come aboard and remove the brushes while the windlass itself remains installed and if he comes equipped with new brushes he could compare on the spot.
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Old 07-17-2018, 04:37 PM   #9
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Yes, brushes are the most common failure point on a windlass motor. They wear down and stop making good contact with the commutator.

Find a good automotive starter/alternator shop to do the rebuild. Look for one with an old timer there who is used to making things work.

I had my Simpson Lawrence windlass motor rebuilt at a shop in Annapolis that the local S-L (well Lewmar actually) dealer recommended. He adapted (by grinding one side) a brush he had in stock to the motor. He also replaced a suspicious bearing.

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Old 07-17-2018, 04:39 PM   #10
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In addition to all of the good advice above, make sure all cable connections are in good shape, no corrosion, loose,etc. and don't forget the batteries that supply the motor. How are they?

Ken
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Old 07-17-2018, 07:40 PM   #11
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Thanks for all the advice guys, I'll look into the small things and then go bigger as needed.


Batteries are good, that part I know. I visually checked the connections before we left, but not the voltage, so it could be something like that.



Sounds like a rebuild is not a huge deal. I think I'll call Lewmar and see if they do it, I don't mind sending it off, and they have all the correct parts etc.
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Old 07-17-2018, 08:15 PM   #12
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Basic troubleshooting says start with the simple stuff first. Don’t fixate on the fix first. Make a logical plan and then test your plan step by step. I would do the simple voltage checks first. It may not be the problem, but make sure in a few minutes. You would hate to do a rebuild of the windlass and put it back in and it still not work. If the voltages are good then move to the next step in your plan. Good luck and let us know what fixed it.
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Old 07-17-2018, 09:46 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Comodave View Post
Basic troubleshooting says start with the simple stuff first.... You would hate to do a rebuild of the windlass and put it back in and it still not work....
Indeed. When my Muir died I got an electrician in to do the tests. Advice was: rebuild. Turned out it needed a new motor, now it runs almost too fast.

Not sure about the Lofrans but when I removed my Muir it was seriously heavy, I needed to be careful with my back while moving it. And local repair might save some costly freight.
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Old 07-17-2018, 10:15 PM   #14
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Recently had the same issue with my own Lewmar. I replaced it with a spare I already had because I had been waiting for it to fail. As it turned out, it was probably the easiest thing to do but it was still weak. More checking revealed a corroded condition inside the old windlass breaker. Although the windlass change was simple (I was back in business in a half hour), I still feel silly for not checking more carefully.
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Old 07-17-2018, 10:21 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by Dougcole View Post
Thanks for all the advice guys, I'll look into the small things and then go bigger as needed.


Batteries are good, that part I know. I visually checked the connections before we left, but not the voltage, so it could be something like that.



Sounds like a rebuild is not a huge deal. I think I'll call Lewmar and see if they do it, I don't mind sending it off, and they have all the correct parts etc.


A Visual inspection of terminals does not do it. The actual contact areas can become oxidized out of sight. You won't see it. A big Vdrop is an indicator but even so it is worthwhile taking the joints apart and cleaning them with a wire brush and then using something like a NoAlox or a dielectric [silicone] grease. But they can still oxidize enough to cause trouble.
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Old 07-18-2018, 06:36 AM   #16
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You're getting some good counsel. Come up with a plan. Work the plan. Troubleshooting is about doggedly following logical steps that eliminate contributing factors on the way to finding the problem. Troubleshooting isn't about fixing the problem, that's repair. Troubleshooting is about defining the problem. You can't fix it if you don't know what's broken.
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Old 07-18-2018, 08:33 PM   #17
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I will let you guys know what I find out, but won't get to this job for at least a month.



We just got back from a month in the Bahamas and I'm buried with things to do that are on the list in front of it. Not the least of which is figuring out where the coolant in my bilge under the tranny end of my port motor came from on the run back across the stream.



Motor is not low on coolant, no milky oil, did not appear to be any saltwater in coolant, no extra in overflow canister. Ran the motor on fast idle for 10 minutes (up to 150 degrees, it was still warm from the 5 hour run) and saw no leaks anywhere. Motor never ran hot on the gauge, 180 degrees all the way across at 2900 rpm. Could be the genset I guess, as there was also a little in the lazzerette. But if so, how did it flow into the ER? I haven't had a chance to run the genset yet.



Oh well, more detective work.
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Old 07-18-2018, 09:26 PM   #18
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I'm curious about the windlass battery voltage.
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Old 07-23-2018, 01:24 PM   #19
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Electric DC motors, from windlass motors to autopilot and water pump motors, have brushes and commutators that require periodic maintenance. They also have bearings that may need changing. They require a good electric supply. A lower voltage to the motor will increase the amperage being drawn by that motor, sometimes to a critical point and burn up a motor or the wiring to it.
Any of these things can contribute to a motor failing. If you aren't a hands-on boat operator you need to bring in a good electrician periodically to service your electric motors, if you do not want a failure at an inconvenient time.
In this case, without knowing the voltage to the motor under load, no one can determine if the problem is with the motor or the power supply. That is the first place to start. Like you car, the headlights may shine brightly, but the starter will not turn the motor over because the starter draws many times more amps than the lights do and the battery just doesn't have that power, if it is weak or discharged.
Most often, on a boat, it is the connections that are the cause of an electrical problem. Corrosion in the crimp connectors is common, as is the possibility that these connectors have a poor contact at their attachment points.
Generally speaking, though probably not in this case, the negative ground from the batteries to the engine block is very often the culpret in whole system electrical issues. That connection is frequently made lower down on the engine where any leaking water can easily get to it and corrode the connection.
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Old 07-23-2018, 02:16 PM   #20
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I had a similar problem. Connection posts on the electric motor were heavily corroded, as were the connections on the wires themselves.

Lewmar sells replacement motors and replacement motors and gearboxes. My entire gearbox and motor was a ball of rust. I replaced the motor and gearbox, then cut, and re-crimped all the wire connections.

It works great now.
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