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Old 12-05-2011
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Winches useful life

Most of the 34 to 36 foot cruisers that i am looking to buy have either lewmar or harkin winches all self tailing. Given the high cost of winches i would appreciate any advice on the useful life of such winches and does it make a difference if the boat has been raced. Also of the two winch brands which is the best. Also does a surveyor pay close attention to the condition of the winches?

Many thanks.
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Old 12-05-2011
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I have non-ST winches on my boat that were original and they are from Lewmar. Some are single speed and others 2 speed. I also have some Barrient 2 speed ST winches the first owner of the boat installed as primaries. I know they are at least 30 years old. All of mine (except for one of the Barrients) is in great shape. I clean and lube them at the beginning of each season.

Winches are very reliable machines and should last you decades with proper care.
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Old 12-05-2011
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With minimal maintenance winch seem to last pretty much forever. The fact that these are self-tailing suggests they are not too old. Harken has not been in the business nearly as long as companies like Barient were and Barients are going strong after 40 years.

Most people don't seem to service winches as often as they should. Perhaps racers do a better job, don't know. Pawls do where and springs can break so it is a good idea on first servicing the winches to check these (and have a few spares on hand). Salt and sand into the bearings is not a good thing, but you can tell a lot by turning the winches and listening to the sound. Should be a silky, gentle clicking and even big winches should turn easily.

I doubt that surveyor will do more than give winches a cursory turn. Ask your surveyor what they are looking for with winches. Keep in mind you are paying for his expertise and it can be a good learning experience. Most surveyors don't mind (and some prefer) that you are there during the survey so he show you things and explain them to you - better than the written report that will folllow.

Not an expert on the advantages of Lewmar vs Harken. I suspect they are both just fine. Spare parts for both should be readily available which is a plus. I had Barients on a couple of boats and the only spare parts source (beyond springs and pawls) was in Australia.
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Old 12-05-2011
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I'm no expert, but the lifespan is likely to be very long, especially if they are correctly sized an regularly serviced. The pawls and springs do wear depending on usage (5-10 years?), but are cheap and easy to replace. The other issue I see is that the non-skid on the drums can wear off, or the grins can be be scored if wire ropes are used.

I have 30-year old Lewmar #16 and #42; there is some cosmetic wear (chrome worn off), and a couple of pawls have been replaced, but otherwise they have no discernible wear. So maybe 100 years life?

I cannot give you a direct Lewmar-Harken comparison, but my Lewmar are solidly built and easy to service. The only comment my surveyor made was "You should service these" (and "don't worry about some of the chrome wearing off")
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Old 12-05-2011
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I've got 24-yr-old Lewmar winches (ST and not), and from what I can tell they weren't pampered by previous owners, yet they were working even with hardened grease I got them with. Now they are living it up with fresh grease and oil.

But, they do have plastic sleeve bearings and another couple of plastic parts in them. Those will be a limiting factor when Lewmar no longer supports models of that age.
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Old 12-05-2011
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For what its worth, my headsail winch is a 50-year old (1962) bronze Merriman that continues to perform just fine and needs minimal maintenance. Production of Merriman winches ceased 20-ish years ago.
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Old 12-05-2011
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I always consider Lewmars to be first rate equipment. I think they will last forever, although the pawls can wear down (edges round off) and pawls springs can break, these are replacement parts.
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Old 12-05-2011
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Thanks guys. All of the posts were very helpful.
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Old 12-05-2011
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Just had a Lewmar 16 s-speed go south despite annual lub and cleaning. of Course it datesback to the year of my S-2, 1976. The drum spalled off a great big hunk of the internal teeth which owrked their way into the multispeed mechanism. Bound up the works. I could have someone heliarch new metal and recut the teeth I suppose. O look for a junked one with a good spool.
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Old 12-05-2011
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I've got 40 Y.O. S/S Barients that were seized solid with dried gunk when I bought the boat. Stripping, cleaning and polishing them made them as good as new. Oh, I forgot - one pawl and one spring were needed between all 12 of them.

Strip, clean and re-lube once a year. Keep wire and other hardware off them and they will outlive your grandchildren - chrome and anodized finish excepted.
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