Greasing a Boat Winch – A How to Basic

A boat winch is very much exposed to a lot of elements. It goes through environments that include water, sun, mud, sand, and who knows what else. It is only expected that it will feel a little sluggish over time.

Don’t worry if your winch becomes inefficient over time. It just needs a little maintenance to get it running smoothly again. Greasing up your boat winch is a simple, yet effective way to restore back its performance to its price.

Aside from being an easy fix, it is also won’t cost much. All you’ll need is a bit elbow grease. To make things easier for you, then using a grease gun can be utilized.

Benefits of a Regular Winch Maintenance Routine

There are a lot of benefits in regularly doing a maintenance routine on your winch. The biggest of which is that you’d get more use out of them.

Poor maintenance may cause friction in its mechanisms. This will greatly affect the winch’s performance. It will be slower, sluggish, inefficient and harder to use. It may even result in it not being able to handle the loads it can handle before. It will lose its potential.

Another reason why you should regularly service your boat winch is to prevent corrosion or rusting from setting in. Even if your winch has a corrosion resistant coating, it is still in danger of crippling condition.

Small particles such as sand, dirt or metal grinds the surface of your winch every time you use it. These little particles can damage the anti-rust coating over time. Greasing your winch removes these silent winch killers.

Basics of Greasing UP Your Winch

Preparing for the Job

Before getting started, make sure that you have all the tools you’ll need. Every boat winch model differs form each other, so I can’t provide an accurate list here. But most often than not, only basic tools are required.

Wrenches will most likely be needed. A set of Allen wrenches, or an adjustable wrench are almost always your primary tool.

Having your winch service manual may come in handy. It will contain the specific details requires for your winch model. If you don’t have a manual, you can easily find a PDF file online provided by the winch manufacturer.

The Replacement Parts

When servicing your winch, you’ll often find yourself needing to replace some parts. Pawls or springs are little parts that can easily break. They can also be easily lost during the process. It is advisable that you have these replacement parts at the ready before beginning .

To avoid losing the small parts, it is smart to have a box ready.

The Disassembly

As mentioned above, different winch models need different steps to get them greased up. For the disassembly of your winch, refer to your manual.

To avoid a lot of confusion in the assembly part of the task later on, you have to keep your workplace organized. Arrange the parts down in the order in which they were disassembled. This will make reassembly much easier.

The first general step in the disassembly step is to remove the winch drum. The drum is normally secured with a screw. So a screwdriver might be all that you need for this part.

When pulling off the drum, make sure that there are no bearings inside. They might roll out and cause you a lot of frustration.

Clean the drum, along with the bearings and the washer. Then you have to remove the spindle retaining collets to lift out the main spindle. If you have a multiple speed winch, you may have gears in the spindle. You will have to remove each individual part and clean it. Then place it on its right spot in your organizational parts container. That way, each part will always be in order and ready for a quick and easy reassembly.

Have a container of a solvent based cleaner to clean the parts with. Diesel, or any commercial degreaser should do the trick. Don’t use gasoline, though; it damages plastic parts.

The next parts you’ll have to clean are the little pawls and springs. While doing so, check then for any sign of damage. If you think that they’ll compromise for your winch, do yourself a favor and replace them. You should also be able prepared to do the same to all the other parts. I hope that that goes without saying.

Now you have to examine the other, bigger parts. The winch base, pads or the inside of the drum have to be  examined for any sign of structured damage. After cleaning them all with the solvent, dry them thoroughly with a lint – free cloth. If any solvent is left and you grease them, the integrity of your lubricant may be compromised.

Applying the Lubrication

Once everything is nice and dry, it is time to lubricate. For he pawls, use light machine oil. Don’t use grease as that is sticky, and you don’t want a sticky pawl. Apply a bit of light winch grease on the bearings, gears and spindles using a brush. Make sure that you only use a little grease as too much grease makes the winch prone to salt and water deposit.


After everything is inspected, cleaned and oiled, it’s time to put everything back together again. If you’ve been diligent in keeping everything organized, this part of the process should be easy.

Now that your machine is  well-oiled slick piece of pure, pulling force, it is ready to go on sails with you. Just remember, maintenance should be done regularly.

We provide other helpful guides on winches in our site. Information on topics such as how to replace a a winch cable or how to ensure safety during winching operations are present. You need only explore our site.