One of the first things we do when we step on any sailboat is spin the winches by hand. This gives us a good indication about the level of maintenance and care (or lack thereof) that has been performed on not only the winches themselves but also the rest of the rigging and hardware throughout the boat.
All too often we find that these expensive pieces of equipment are dirty, sluggish and underperforming their potential. This can lead to many problems inside the winch and eventual failure, usually right when you need it most. Improper wear and tear on the gears, sticky pawls and springs, corroded and/or fused metals are just some of the pitfalls.
Servicing this equipment regularly is a must. How often you service them largely depends on how often and to what degree they are engaged. Larger racing yacht programs might service their winches every few days, others do it every time they sail the boat. Cruising yachts or yachts that do light coastal racing, might be smart to service them a few times a season.
We recommend at least every season you inspect and clean your winches. Take the drum off, inspect the gears, look for grease buildup, dirt, salt, metal dust and fatigue, sticking pawls, corroded pieces and fasteners, etc.
If things don't feel, sound or look right with your winches call Bristol Yacht Rigging right away and schedule a service appointment.