Member Courtney asked:
In this whole set of articles on rigs/spars/lines and the bits and bobs that make the sailing happen I see no mention of the service schedule or recommended sundries for winches. I found your suggestions for a water-based degreaser, but no suggestions for the grease (And there’s sooo many, and they all claim to be the best. Ugh). With 10 winches on the to-do list for spring, does anyone have a tried and true winch grease?
You hear all kinds of recommendations for winch service intervals, with the most common being every year, or every season.
But like you, we had a bunch of winches on our McCurdy and Rhodes 56 so servicing them every year would have been a crazy use of time that could be used more profitably in other areas—there’s never enough time to do everything that ideally should be done on a cruising boat.
So we found that servicing all our Lewmar winches every three years was just fine.
And I have to confess that several times over the years the interval was longer than that.
Anyway, we never had any trouble with our winches as a result of this service interval. I think the key is doing a really good service, when we do it, with close attention to checking for any wear and immediately replacing any parts that show even a little.
That said, in nearly 30 years, we have only replaced a couple of spindles —worn teeth.
As to which grease, people get terribly worked up about this on the forums, but we found that our favourite Lubriplate 130-AA works fine and lasts well over the above interval.
In theory we are supposed to use a light oil on the pawls, but we have always just used the same grease and had no problems with sticking.
That said, when I serviced the Harken winches on our J/109 last year I used Harken grease and Lewmar winch pawl oil as an experiment. So far, there has been no discernible difference.
One thing I would caution against is using a lower quality or thicker grease than the 130AA on the pawls, since if they stick in the retracted position the winch can spin and really hurt someone.
Particularly beware of forum posts touting cheaper lubricants from doubtful sources, which, these days, includes Amazon and eBay—both are riddled with counterfeits of other stuff, so I’m guessing the same applies to lubricants.