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Old 08-07-2010
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windlass motor or battery problem?

Hello!

I recently purchased a new Lewmar H3 windlass and installed it using the very heavy cables that were attached to the old windlass. It ran like a champ for 6 days of cruising the outer coast of Alaska. However on day 7, when pulling 250 feet of 3/8 chain and 60 lb anchor, it started running slowly, then stopped running. When I pressed the up or down switch, I could hear the solenoid click but the motor wouldnt engage. An important piece of information is that the engine was running as I was using the windlass and I have a large capacity (120 amp) charging alternator. The other important piece of information is that I think my batteries are going south (6, T105's). They are around 6 years old and I have used them hard. Here is where I know I have a gap in my knowledge about boat electrical systems. I assume that if my alternator is cranking away while I am using something (the windlass) that is wired to the battery that there should be plenty of power available to the electrical unit even if the batteries are compromised, but I am beginning to question that assumption. So my question here is: Are my battery problems directly related to my windlass problem (even if I am using the windlass as the alternator is producing a heavy charge) or do I need to be suspicious of my windlass motor?

Thanks for any and all suggestions.....
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Old 08-07-2010
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A few minutes with a voltmeter will answer a lot of questions. I'd measure the voltage right at the batteries while raising the anchor. If you are seeing a large voltage drop, probably down to 8 volts or so from what you describe, then you can be pretty sure it is the batteries. A windlass can draw several hundred amps. So if your batteries are really bad you might even damage the alternator. However there is a good chance you have a bad connection some place. That could be dangerous, because dumping 4 volts of losses at 100 amps is 400 watts of HEAT, or fire!

If the batteries were good check the voltage at the windlass motor terminals. with good batteries and low voltage at the motor, it is a wiring problem. Easy to find. Follow the wiring back from the windlass. The point at which the voltage is suddenly good again is just past the problem!

Gary H. Lucas
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Old 08-07-2010
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In addition to what Gary said, I'd point out that low voltage is one of the most common cause of windlass motor failure. If you don't solve the problem, you may add a replacement windlass motor to your list of things to buy/repair.
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Last edited by sailingdog; 08-07-2010 at 10:30 PM.
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I would suspect the batteries. It is unlikely your alternator puts out 120Amps at idle so unless you were running the motor at higher rpm you would have been dependent on the batteries for some of the amperage required to run the motor. The H3 is a 1KW motor so will require ~100 amps under load. Also, if the windlass started to work again after the batteries had taken on more charge that would be another clue. That being said, good connections are still crucial.
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Just curious, have you measured the cables for resistance? Also, what gauge are the cables going to the windlass and how long is the run? An 100 amp load requires some pretty heavy cables and it is very likely that the cables are UNDERSIZED.
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Old 08-08-2010
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Does your boat have a separate windlass battery up front? If so, that could be the problem. As the other posters said, its time to take out the voltmeter and check out where the voltage drops--both on the hot and the ground side of the circuit. A clamp-on DC ammeter would be nice to make sure that the currrent is not much over 120 amps or so.
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Old 08-08-2010
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Patrick
You installed the windlass using the previous cables and connections. I would think that the fault is probably in a bad connection. Voltage will measure fine if the windlass isn't running but when called on to supply 100 amps or so the current can't flow. I'd check all connections between the windlass and the batteries and follow the ground to the bus if there is one and then the engine block itself. Take them apart and clean the mating surfaces of corrosion.

What was wrong with the old windlass? Why do you think your batteries are going south? Serviceable batteries with bad connections that are not able to carry large currents will give the symptoms of bad batteries.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sailingdog View Post
In addition to what Gary said, I'd point out that low voltage is one of the most common cause of windlass motor failure. If you don't solve the problem, you may add a replacement windlass motor to your list of things to buy/repair.
I would be surprised that low voltage would damage a windlass. They have series connected brush type motors, and reducing the voltage is how you control the speed of that kind of motor. It's not unussual to run that kind of motor at less than 10% of rated speed by running it on say 2 volts. I know this because I have several machines running this way, and they have been doing it 8 hours a day 3 months of the year, for the past 18 years. Electric fork lift trucks are controlled this way too.

More likely that the motor is running slow because it is overloaded, The commutator or brushes are bad, that kind of thing. Those things will burn out the motor, and kill your batteries too. An overload or bad brushes causes the motor to pulll more current so the battery voltage drops, and it looks like low votage is the culprit.

Gary H. Lucas
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Old 08-08-2010
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The H3 windlass is supposedly spec'd for a working pull of 475 pounds. If you have 250 ft of 3/8 chain and a 60 pound anchor you are about there. However, the Lewmar folks hope you don't ever try to lift all that chain when its hanging straight down, because you are likely to burn out their motor. I'm assuming you were in 50 ft of water, so the max load on the windlass would be about 150 (60 +1.7x50) pounds...unless you were trying to pull the boat into the wind/current with it.

If you ever anchor in 100', plan on stopping and letting the windlass rest for a few minutes once the anchor clears the bottom. It may be supposed to work, but it never hurts to baby it a bit, as the consequences of failure mean that you have to lift up that chain and anchor by yourself.
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Well, considering that LEWMAR, one of the larger manufacturer of windlasses, says in most of its windlass manuals:

Quote:
Check the voltage across the motor leads with the windlass on. (Proper voltage is 13.5 V. Constant low voltage will destroy the motor).
I'm going to guess that low voltage is bad for the windlass.

Quote:
Originally Posted by GaryHLucas View Post
I would be surprised that low voltage would damage a windlass. They have series connected brush type motors, and reducing the voltage is how you control the speed of that kind of motor. It's not unussual to run that kind of motor at less than 10% of rated speed by running it on say 2 volts. I know this because I have several machines running this way, and they have been doing it 8 hours a day 3 months of the year, for the past 18 years. Electric fork lift trucks are controlled this way too.

More likely that the motor is running slow because it is overloaded, The commutator or brushes are bad, that kind of thing. Those things will burn out the motor, and kill your batteries too. An overload or bad brushes causes the motor to pulll more current so the battery voltage drops, and it looks like low votage is the culprit.

Gary H. Lucas
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her going when she oughta fall down, tells you she's hurting 'fore she keens. Makes her a home.

—Cpt. Mal Reynolds, Serenity (edited)

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