Windlass problem...

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Oct 1, 2007
Vessel Name
Floatsome & Jetsome
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Meridian 411
I was crankin' the anchor in on Sunday and everything was fine and then...not so fine.* The windlass slowed down like it was binding or something.* So I went foward expecting to find something jammed but I didn't.* Next thing you would think is that it is not getting enough voltage but the way in which this suddenly occured and the fact that ALL things on this boat are powered by 2 group 31s and ALL things were working just fine(except windlass) would most likely rule out a battery problem.* I guess it could be a voltage(bad connection) problem but I really don't think so.* The DOWN operation works just fine although down is never really loaded.*

Whaday'all think?* Motor?
Might be an internal lube problem or something binding inside that isn't obvious visually. If you have an ammeter, and if you know what the ammeter read when the windlass was working normally, then it would tell you if it's started drawing a lot more current which could indicate a binding problem inside.
* I think Marin is on the right track with the ammeter.* You can check the current when the windlass is going out and compare*it to the draw when you are retrieving.* Higher draw on the retrieve would possibly suggest an internal bind of some sort.* Even though you do NOT suspect a bad or coroded connection, that is probably the simplest thing to check initially just to eliminate* THAT possiblility then, you can get out the curse jar, your band-aids and your wrenches (oh ya,*AND a case of sudsy stuff) and wait for a nice day.* After all, it*isn't working too well now, so how*much worse *can you make *it?* Just a gut thing, but I would look at the brushes when you have her apart....
I'd also check voltage *** at the windlass*** ***under load***.

If the voltage is significantly lower than your battery voltage while under load, there's an electrical problem (significant == more than one or two volts). You'll have to trace down the whole path and see where it's happening. If you have a separate disconnect switch for the windlass power, it's suspect. Same if there's a high current fuse.

Depending on the windlass, there may be one or more solenoids that actually switch the high current DC power. These can start to give trouble over time, giving significant voltage drop between the power connection to the winch and the motor itself. If you can, measure voltage *** at the motor *** (and still under load) to look for a voltage difference across it/them.

Note that you'll always have higher current on the retreive than the release as it takes more power to pull the anchor up than down. The motor current draw increases as the load increases. In fact, if you don't have significantly higher current on the retreive, that could indicate brushes starting to go.

Post a message or drop a note if you get some results and aren't sure what they mean. (I probably won't know either, but who knows....)
* Good points Chris Foster...One possible way to eliminate differences in drop/retrieve would be to operate the windlass WITHOUT the chain being involved...IE:* disconnect the chain from the gypsey and operate in both directions.* Solenoids are an excellent suggestion, I forgot about those.
Alright, where would the solenoids be located? I have found the "relay box"(my term) as it was located very close to the windlass and in the anchor locker. As I was looking at this, Brent was walking down the dock with his bag of tricks and he checked the voltage at the relays. There was a significant drop initially but it would recover to around 10 volts even as the thing "binded". I honestly don't think this is a voltage problem but I may be wrong. I think this because of the immediate failure and not an insidious one over time or an intermitent one which would be a connection problem. I did unload the windlass and it ran and then I stepped on it with my rubber shoe sole to load it up and it binded. I did this in the down mode and it kept on cranking with plenty of power. After jacking with this, the down mode and the up mode started acting funny....more of a pulsating surging power and going even slower. I dunno if we were overheating it but I am about to go down to the boat now and check it out.

If it were a motor, can you replace just the motor? and if so, I did a very brief google search and didn't come up with much.
The "relay" box you refer to is, I think, the same as the "solenoid" others have referred to. I don't know how your windlass is controlled, but if there are foot or hand switches for deploy and retrieve, they don't run the windlass motor current though these but just a very light current that acivates a solenoid in the"relay" box. Just like an ignition switch and starter solenoid.

The individual solenoids can go bad, their contacts can corrode, and so on.

My minimal knowledge of electricicals tells me that if the motor runs fine going in one direction but not in the other direction, the problem is probably not the motor itself. A failing foot switch solenoid, a bad connection on the relay box or on the windlass motor itself or on the battery end of the windlass power cables sound like likely culprits to me.

On our boat the control box, the box with the solenoids in it that control which direction the windlass motor turns, actually switches the ground side of the DC circuit, not the positive side.* I don't know if your setup is the same, but make sure you check all the ground connections as well as the positive connections.

-- Edited by Marin at 16:57, 2008-06-17
I'd think that reversing would require both + and - being switched - either the field or armature (but not both) need to have polarity reversed (I don't think these are permanent magnet motors - if so, then the armature needs to have power reversed and there won't be a field). Again - if you can get to the field and armature power feeds at the motor and check the voltage there, do so.

Concur with Marin that the motor probably isn't at fault - it doesn't really "know" which direction it's running in. Slight possibility of brushes - they take a bit of a set based on the direction they're turning, and if they're on their last legs, they might do better in one direction that the other. Could explain why it did start pulsing power-wise in both directions.

If it's oil-lubricated, your next step might be to drain the oil and see how it looks. I'm wondering if you have a bearing starting to go -- if so, you'll probably find quite a bit of metal in the lube oil. Or you might find no lube oil at all...

Who is the manufacturer of the windlass? Do they have manuals on line???
Okay, my memory is wrong despite my having done all the wiring of our new windlass. The direction our Lofrans Tigres runs is controled by switching the positive side of the current, NOT the negative side as I stated before. There are three wires coming from the windlass motor--- two positive and one negative. The negative goes directly to the battery bus. The two positive wires go to posts on each end of the relay box. The positive feed from the battery connects (via circuit breakers, etc) to the center post of the relay box. So they are using a common ground at the motor, and the direction the motor turns depends on which "side" of the motor the positive current is fed to from the relay box. The solenoids in the relay box are activated by the two foot switches in the foredeck.
It is a Lewmar and it is a "permanent magnetic motor" per the manual. The manual does not have a troubleshooting section so does not help much. I guess I iwll have to take it out and take it apart....
First thing I would do is disassemble and clean all the electrical connections. Of course spray with Corrosion Block when putting back together. It doesn't take much corrosion to cause problems when putting a high load on a piece of equipment like that. This includes the battery connections.
I took a quick look at the Lewmar website & found a couple of things.

All appear to switch both power terminals into the motor - the relay box basically reverses power to the two leads.

11 volts at the motor under load is what they consider minimum. So checking it there - across both ***motor*** terminals and not just at the relay box - is the important measurement.

Depending on whether it's a "pro series" or an "H series", the gearbox may or may not be serviceable. Neither run in an oil both. The "pro series" uses grease lubricated gears and bearings and is serviceable. The "H series" has an integral motor and worm drive gearbox that don't appear to be serviceable. (Pro series has a single gypsy while the H has gypsy on one side and drum on the other).
It is a Sprint series and considered "obsolete" on their website...

Thanks for all the does jog some things in my brain to get things going.* Keep 'em coming if ya got 'em.

-- Edited by Baker at 13:07, 2008-06-18
Boy, every time I shoot my mouth (keyboard?) off, I find I'm wrong. Oh, well.

The Sprint does seem to have gears in an oil bath, but no drain/fill plugs. So it looks like you need to remove the winch from the boat and pop the top off to drain & replace the oil. BTW- any sign of oil leakage below the windlass? There is an oil seal at the motor that could leak.

They do switch both wires into the motor with the relay box, so the previous note about checking voltage at the motor (or at least at the output of the relay box) under load still does apply.

And in reponse to one of your original questions, yes, it does look like you can replace the motor if that turns out to be the culprit. Might even be able to have a good motor shop overhaul your existing motor.
I assume you have seen that the manuals, exploded views, etc. for the Sprint 400 and 500 models are on the Lewmar website, albeit under "obsolete" models.**

The manual for the 400 is a little more detailed than the manual for the 500. It describes the gears as being lubricated with*PFG210 grease and that they should not need "regular attention."* Which I guess means they do not run in an oil bath, hence the lack of fill and level plugs.

It also says that the motor is replaceable and has instructions how to do it. Perhaps these instrructions apply to the other Sprint models as well as I imagine all them are similar in design and construction.

-- Edited by Marin at 18:44, 2008-06-18
It is a 600 model. And Mr. Foster claims it to be in an oil bath...although I have not verified it.
Dang... wrong again. I started looking at the 1000 series - plus the 1500 and 3000 - and they all show an oil seal at the motor shaft. So I ***assumed*** that would cover all of the models.

Please to ignore me. I'll shut up now...

FWIW here is the relevant page from the Sprint 600 manual. I notice it states to "re-grease as necessary."


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Marin, I noticed you've now attained the lofty status of "guru"!
Does that mean you get paid now? Or just collect the offerings left at the shrine of knowledge?
I had a problem with my bow thruster recently I hadn't used it in a while and the Comutator ring got "gummed up" the mechanics term. I brought the motor to a repair shop and they fixed it for their minumum charge. If you look at an electric motor diagram you will see where it is, all they do is clean it up with sand paper.
The problem was isolated to the motor by determining 12V at the leads at the motor when the solenoides were activated.
Good luck
Marin wrote:

FWIW here is the relevant page from the Sprint 600 manual. I notice it states to "re-grease as necessary."
Marin, I saw that.* I just didn't know what the objective of that section.* I was gonna take it apart just to take a look at it and grease it up.* That was my next step.

I didn't notice the avatar status change until you pointed it out just now. I have no idea why that title has been applied unless it's a joke, which would be appropriate since about the last thing I am when it comes to boating is a "guru." (Floatplanes are another matter

In the Grand Banks world the title of "guru" is certainly appropriate to people like Bob Lowe, Mike Negley, Tom Overs and others who each have forgotten more about boating in general and Grand Banks in particular than I will ever know. Over in the general boating world delivery skipper Capt. Mike Maurice and electrical wizard Arild, regular participants on the Trawlers & Trawlering list, are certainly gurus in their areas of expertise. Our good friend, cruising companion, and sometimes-forum-participant Carey knows worlds more about boating than I do. I'm forever asking him for advise on the best way to do this or that, which would make him a sort of "guru," I guess.

But not me.
I was gonna take it apart just to take a look at it and grease it up. That was my next step.

High quality front wheel bearing grease, is waterproof , takes high temperatures and is fine on bushings (cheap windlass ) or bearings (better windlass).

The old standby Lubriplate is easier to wash out when the windlass submerges than bearing grease.


-- Edited by FF at 05:39, 2008-06-20
Thnaks FF!!
Hey John - didjya ever get that beast apart??
Chris Foster wrote:

Hey John - didjya ever get that beast apart??
Yes I did.* The motor came off with a gush of rust colored water that was IN the motor!!!!* I am thinking it is time for a new motor
.* Just getting prices on it now.* We'll see how it shakes out.* It is a very basic moeld of windlass that costs about $700 if I need to replace.* Not bad but hopefully I can get away with a lot less than that.
Just getting prices on it now. We'll see how it shakes out. It is a very basic moeld of windlass that costs about $700 if I need to replace. Not bad but hopefully I can get away with a lot less than that.

If you need to replace the unit , look at the US made IDEAL.

Many of the smaller sizes are simply car starter motors , an EX rebuild when needed.

Mr. Baker,
** You may want to look into a rebuild of the existing unit IF it is salvagable.* A good generator/alternator/electric motor shop should be able to give you an estimate.* Granted, a new unit does have it's advantages (plus added $$) but by rebuilding your current unit it will give you an opportunity to totaly dissasemble it and become familiar with it's workings for future trouble shooting.* If going with new, FF's suggestion has merit.
Thanks folks. There is an old alternator shop that Brent(on here sometimes) recommended in our area where he has had work done and is happy with it. I was gonna give that a try as well. And FF, you are right. It looks exactly like a starter motor. If I were gonna go new I would get the same one(or the replacement one since they don't make it anymore) strictly for plug and play simplicity and also the boat is for sale.
Well, as it turned out it was not the motor or the fuse or any of wife's boss tore it down and found out what the issue was. It was a poor flaw. I did not fully understand what he was talking about but got the general gist. Basically the mechanism holding the gears in place tightens or binds under load. IOW, if you could flip the windlass over where on the other side where up was down and down was up it would make more sense since there is no load on it while you are lowering the anchor. Load it up and the whole mess tightens up and binds. He tried to fix it and it held for awhile but it is now doing the same thing. He said he would give it another go....except this time he would spot weld it instead of just using locktite. We will see.....

BTW...this thing is not being made anymore....I wonder why???
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