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Old 09-15-2019, 12:22 AM   #1
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Windlass Foot Switch

We have just one "Up" deck mounted footswitch to recover our anchor/rode. No helm or other switch.
The switch fails every couple of years, despite sealing it as well as I can during install. Dis/re connecting power requires a lot of unwelcome boat yoga. Switches cost $ 40 for the anonymous Taiwan made model, or $60 for a Muir "Waterproof" identical to the Taiwan version(DO NOT drink the bubble tea in Taipei, and don`t ask why).
Yesterday, armed with a new switch, I found the inside of the "cup" part of the switch full of dirt/plant like fibres. Enough to stop the plunger pin making contact in the closed area below. I cleaned out the muck,no improvement,then recalled advice to deluge the plunger/pin with WD40. Which I did, several times,noting it drained away, meaning the "cup" can drain into the closed contact area. Partner goes below and finds similar muck exiting below, there are drains in the cup to allow flow through. Gradually I start to get contact. Windlass switch off, I rotate the plunger pin while pressing it, and squirt more WD40. Activating the breaker, I get reliable immediate contact,normal service restored. New switch goes into Spares box.
Moral of the story: if you have one, play around with the switch, it may not need replacing.
Switch looks like this, note domed rubber cover detaches:
https://www.grabyourtackle.com.au/pr...nt=19814354951
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Old 09-15-2019, 12:44 AM   #2
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Always nice to see someone able to fix something rather than just throwing it away. Is there a way to better waterproof it?
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Old 09-15-2019, 12:55 AM   #3
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.. Is there a way to better waterproof it?
In hindsight, although the screws are supposed to clamp everything together, applying sealant( silicone or other less permanent product might be best) between the domed foot press pad and the base under it might help. As well as of course running polyurethane sealant under the base and around the edges.
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Old 09-15-2019, 01:04 AM   #4
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I would certainly give it a try. In the end you were going to replace it anyway. So if it gets damaged you arenít any worse off.
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Old 09-15-2019, 02:11 AM   #5
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I'm not sure that's the exact foot switch I have in my foredeck, but its very similar. One of my punch list items is to better seal the deck where those two foot switches are (I have an up and a down). When they were installed the core was not sealed. While it hasn't yet rotted I don't want it to. I'm wondering if during that process I shouldn't make a raised area for those switches to set into so they are less likely to have moisture and muck get into them.

Thanks for the attention to this. This may be a festering problem for us, we too only have the one possible switch to raise the anchor. The admiral and I talked about additional options and ruled them out because we are comfortable with our team approach, but didn't think through the equipment failure angle. (I was suggesting a remote option for us.) I'm wondering if I shouldn't put in at least a hard wired helm switch at least just to have for a back up.

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Old 09-15-2019, 03:03 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by fractalphreak View Post
I'm not sure that's the exact foot switch I have in my foredeck, but its very similar. One of my punch list items is to better seal the deck where those two foot switches are (I have an up and a down). When they were installed the core was not sealed. While it hasn't yet rotted I don't want it to. I'm wondering if during that process I shouldn't make a raised area for those switches to set into so they are less likely to have moisture and muck get into them...
I`ve seen pics of GBs with a similar pedestal to mine built inside the bow,and footswitches mounted on a vertical part of the pedestal. It made more sense than setting the switch into the deck. Not strictly footswitches any more but hand or knee pressure should be plenty to operate the switches.
For a deck mounted switch, a hole through the deck is required, with the cabling to the switch under the deck. Generously applied polyurethane sealant should seal the 2.5" deck opening the switch requires.
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Old 09-15-2019, 09:12 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by fractalphreak View Post
Thanks for the attention to this. This may be a festering problem for us, we too only have the one possible switch to raise the anchor. The admiral and I talked about additional options and ruled them out because we are comfortable with our team approach, but didn't think through the equipment failure angle. (I was suggesting a remote option for us.) I'm wondering if I shouldn't put in at least a hard wired helm switch at least just to have for a back up.
Personally I'd go for the helm switch. It's all I've got (no bow switches on my boat although I could easily add them if desired), so anchoring is a 2 person job. 1 on the bow who runs the show, 1 at the helm that's just a robot to follow hand signals (for anchor up/down and boat movement).
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Old 09-15-2019, 09:34 AM   #8
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There appear to be 2 kinds of foot switches. Ones that carry the load of the windlass and others that are microswitch types that just go to a relay.


Mine are the microswitch kind. After heads of them failing I did find replacement microswitches in eBay for $5 a five pack....good deal? Naw...they were a pain to switch and only lasted as long as the OEM.


I gave up and hollowed out the foot switch and tried some completely sealed, waterproof ones. These I hot glued in for even better protection.



They look like they might just last long enough to satisfy me.
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Old 09-15-2019, 10:55 AM   #9
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There appear to be 2 kinds of foot switches. Ones that carry the load of the windlass and others that are microswitch types that just go to a relay.


Mine are the microswitch kind. After heads of them failing I did find replacement microswitches in eBay for $5 a five pack....good deal? Naw...they were a pain to switch and only lasted as long as the OEM.


I gave up and hollowed out the foot switch and tried some completely sealed, waterproof ones. These I hot glued in for even better protection.



They look like they might just last long enough to satisfy me.
Two kinds of switches for two kinds of solenoids.
1 Mechanical connection of the foot switch with the solenoid. This is described in Bruce's first post.
2 Microswitch, wired to solenoid. In Scott's post.

My experience: Not all marine stores have the mechanical, so I removed both up and down of this kind when the second one failed. Converted "down" to "up" when the first failed.
Solenoids vary from cheap to expensive, from intermittent duty to continuous duty. You need "Continuous duty". They also vary from $20 to $100. I have the cheaper ones and they have survived in the harsh environment of the anchor locker for at east a decade. I haven't tried the expensive ones, but they can't be better value. If you shop at only marine stores you may not find the cheaper ones. Automotive stores have the cheaper ones.
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Old 09-15-2019, 02:06 PM   #10
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Two kinds of switches for two kinds of solenoids.
1 Mechanical connection of the foot switch with the solenoid. This is described in Bruce's first post.
2 Microswitch, wired to solenoid. In Scott's post.
Ah, I have the microswitch type, but this will still prompt me to doublecheck the installation into the deck, and likely have a backup system. (We're also sourcing key windlass parts for onboard spares in case of failure out and about...)
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Old 09-15-2019, 02:56 PM   #11
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We have the low-amperage microswitch ,made by Maxwell I think. Our SeaWolf windlass previously used the higher amperage foot switch but I've seen too many of them fail plus hated the idea of cutting such a large hole in our newly rebuilt decks! I rewired everything using a solenoid below decks to handle the current and the microswitch to energize the solenoid. Honestly ,when I'm retrieving the anchor ,I don't step on the "footswitch" but rather push it like a button with my left hand and spray the anchor chain with the washdown using my right. That system works for us and the switch seems to be happy by continuing to work well with me not standing on it!
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Old 09-15-2019, 03:20 PM   #12
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We have the low-amperage microswitch ,made by Maxwell I think. Our SeaWolf windlass previously used the higher amperage foot switch but I've seen too many of them fail plus hated the idea of cutting such a large hole in our newly rebuilt decks! I rewired everything using a solenoid below decks to handle the current and the microswitch to energize the solenoid. Honestly ,when I'm retrieving the anchor ,I don't step on the "footswitch" but rather push it like a button with my left hand and spray the anchor chain with the washdown using my right. That system works for us and the switch seems to be happy by continuing to work well with me not standing on it!
For those needing a third hand, for reaching through the access hole with the windlass' crank handle, to knock down the rising cone of chain: I Teed off of the washdown line and installed an anchor chain sprayer, it is a squashed bit of copper water pipe that is fastened to the underside of the teak bow platform, aimed at the chain as it rises to the roller, a couple of inches away. With the valve to that sprayer open I get a forceful spray right onto the vertical chain. The force of the spray can be increased by further squashing the opening in the pipe. That leaves one hand for the pile of chain and one to activate the "up" switch.

In a strong headwind it doesn't work so well as standing to the side with the hose sprayer, as 1, the chain isn't vertical and 2, the wind blows the spray back in my face. Otherwise, it gets far more use than the hose nozzle
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Old 09-15-2019, 07:18 PM   #13
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Best thing we ever did when replacing the rotten deck was ditch the foot switch, so no more water and muck issues and replace with these and winch up and down from pretty much anywhere.
We wired the receiver into the toggle up/down at helm.




https://www.ebay.com.au/itm/50fT-Wir...edirect=mobile
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Old 09-15-2019, 08:52 PM   #14
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The OP seems to be dealing with a failure in the making, and I think I might be looking for a more WP switch. After a rough day taking water aboard, I woke up one night in the Coronado Islands off San Diego to the sound on my anchor chain rattling aboard. Thankfully it was back in the days before I learned the value of a snubber, or I would have had a mess. After replacing the mechanical switch, I never had another issue in over 25 years with it. I did however remember from them on to open the master switch for the windlass when operations were complete. There was no other operating switch on the boat until I added a "down" foot switch on the deck beside the original up-only foot switch making it a VERY awkward single-anchoring vessel. This boat has foot switches forward and a console up/down Carling switch as well as the master power switch at the console making it soooo much easier to anchor single-hand or with mate aboard.
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