Hints and Tips



Harken Winch Service

A step by step guide to servicing Harken winches


This great photo based guide by TEDP was originally published on the Jeanneau Owners Forum - you can read comments at:



During my first sail of the season I noticed one of my sheet winches got a little noisy, so I thought it might be running dry. I have to admit I never yet took one of them apart, so three years after I bought the boat I thought it was time to take a look. So I removed the winch and took it home.


The Harken website gives an overview of winch maintenance manuals: http://www.harken.com/article.aspx?id=18795


For my 2004 SO32 I found the correct type of winch under the 'manual classic' tab. The 32.2ST which proved to be similar to mine, a self-tailing two-speed winch. The manual can be downloaded as a PDF file. Removing the winch from the deck is easy. Remove the central screw from the head and take off the drum and the self-tailing head. This will reveal the mounting screws which are secured with nuts and backing rings under the deck. After removing the screws, push in a screwdriver under the base and flip the winch off. At home I took the winch apart. The bearing pins can be pushed out of the two gear assemblies from below. After pulling these free, the central shaft drops out of the base. The winch proved to be very clogged inside, with old grease caked all over the mechanism. This must have caused the grinding. Harken's advice is to clean the parts in turpentine or petrol, except for the plastic parts of the self-tailing head. I used some paper towels and a matchstick after dipping the parts in the solvent for a while. The matchstick helps cleaning the teeth of the gears. After a while the winch looked like this:


This was the easy part - now it had to go together again. First I assembled the central shaft, which has a fixed gear at its base and a ratchet and a loose gear on top of that. The ratchet was clean enough - I didn't take it apart except for the loose gear. The pawls of the ratchet are lubricated with a little engine oil.


Next is the central needle bearing, which goes on top of a large washer. The manual shows the washer going on top of the bearing but that won't work as it will not go into the housing. The bearing and the gears are lubricated with grease (a lot more grease than shown in the photos). I had some Lewmar winch grease which I expect will be OK for any winch.

Here is the ratchet of the high reduction gear being oiled. The pawls are spring-loaded. Mind that you fit the outer ring with the gear the right way up, otherwise the winch won't go together. A washer will go under the pawls to prevent them catching on the base of the winch housing.

In the next photo the gears are fitted to the mechanism.

Next we fit the main bearings of the drum, with a separation ring between. Again, apply grease to the bearings and rather more than shown in the photo.

Finally, the drum is put on the winch. The self-tailing head is re-assembled, with the upper half pushed in by the spring loaded lid. Four screws will go into the lid, compressing the springs slightly. Then the rope guide is fitted to the head with the ring carrying the Harken legend on top. The top bush is greased and inserted into the winch and the central screw re-fitted. Testing the mechanism with the winch handle and checking for any play in the drum (to ensure it has gone together according to the book) completes the procedure.

Thanks and credits to TEDP for this great photo based guide, which was originally published on the Jeanneau Owners Forum - you can also read existing comments by others and make your own at: