Winch maintenance

Winch Care & Feeding  

The Winch Doctor’s prescription for a happy working relationship

by Bruce W. Smith

Alvin Bordelon is called the Winch Doctor around Truck Supply & Outfitters. His “patients” are the tired, the used and the abused. Some are new, some are old. All are broken.

His waiting room, a pallet on the floor and a steel work bench on wheels, is stacked with electric winches that have blown brake systems, burned out motors, broken gears and spools that don’t no more.

Most are repairable. Some are not worth neither Bordelon’s time nor the customer’s money to bring back to a life.

What is the common denominator that  puts hundreds of these hard-working patients on the Winch Doctor’s fix-it pile every year?

“Why are all of these winches here? The operator,” says the man who heads up Warn’s major repair center for the souther half of the country. “The person on the other end of the control is the biggest killer of a self-recovery winch.”

But a trip to this doctor can be avoided if you follow a few simple suggestions. Here’re a few valuable tidbits Bordelon, a certified Warn winch repair technician,  prescribes to winch users who are using them in the construction and contracting trades:

  • Run the winch cable out about 10 feet and then back in at least once a month if it’s not been used. This keeps the solenoids’ contacts from corroding.
  • Never pressure-wash the winch. This forces water into the solenoid pack and motor causing serious problems down the road.
  • Don’t silcone the winch to seal everything. The little weep hole on the motor is there to let water and moisture from condensation escape,
  • If you work in a high-humidity region, leave the winch cover off  or else the cover will keep the winch from drying out.
  • If the winch can’t make the pull, don’t crank up the truck and use the winch/cable as a snatch strap. If you do it’ll destroy the internal brake assembly or explode the planetary gear set.
  • Don’t use the winch cable as a choker with the cable hook placed back over the cable. Doing this will snap the cable every time.
  • Spool the winch so the cable comes off the bottom of the drum — not the top. The internal brake is a one-way setup and it only works when the drum spools cable off the bottom.
  • If a solenoid goes bad, replace both in the pair; two for in, two for out.
  • Never let the winch remote-control cable get sucked into the drum. If the remote gets smashed it instantly  short-circuits the control panel, destroying it.

Typical Warn winch repair parts costs

  • Winch motor: $250-$300
  • Brake assembly: $100-$125
  • Solenoid control pack: $200
  • A day using the winch without any problems: priceless.