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Old 29-12-2008, 23:57   #1
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Servicing a Maxwell 3500 Windlass

The boat I bought has never had the oil changed on its Maxwell 3500 windlass. They mention a "sight glass" to look through to see the oil level but doesn't discuss how to change the oil. It looks as though you have to remove the entire unit to change the oil.

I can't believe that that is the case.

I've contacted Maxwell who put me in touch with a dealer. They had no idea how to change it.

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Old 30-12-2008, 03:22   #2
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If GMac doesn’t chime in, PM him for expert information.

Maxwell VWC/HWC Windlass Maintenance (not very helpful):

Originally Posted by mestrezat View Post
... It looks as though you have to remove the entire unit to change the oil.
I can't believe that that is the case...
I agree.

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"If you didn't have the time or money to do it right in the first place, when will you get the time/$ to fix it?"

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Old 30-12-2008, 03:53   #3
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I have neglected my Maxwell windlass lately, but as I recall the sight glass is a plastic piece which also unscrews to add/change oil in the gearbox. Unless you want to tip the boat 90 degrees, you probably will want to remove the unit.
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Old 13-01-2009, 13:36   #4
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I am bumping this back up cos GMac has returned and I too would be very interested in any hints as to replacing the oil in the easiest way possible.

Maintaining the top side of these windlasses is dead easy but the oil change seems not so straight forward. As far as I know the easiest (sic) way is to drop the gearbox (complete with motor) off the spacer tube which is under the deck - I have not done this myself though as the only time the oil was really due was around the same time as I had the yard do some deck modifications requiring the windlass to be removed completely so I was clever enuff to get them to change the oil for me then .

But it now should be done again.

I haven't seen a recent manual but the older ones I have seen give no hints whatsoever as to any easy way to go about this job. Maybe GMac is able to write us some instructions, especially as to how this bottom end comes apart and if any differences in doing so among this family of vertical windlasses (mine is a VWC1200 )- if so thanks in advance.

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Old 07-03-2009, 21:32   #5
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Ok, don't know how many are still interested but I have now stripped a VWC right down and can pass on the essential hints in case they are useful. As already known, one has to remove the bottom part of the windlass in order to change the oil.

But first regarding my previous post-

Originally Posted by MidLandOne View Post
As far as I know the easiest (sic) way is to drop the gearbox (complete with motor) off the spacer tube which is under the deck - I have not done this myself though...
It is wrong, wrong, wrong. I got this off a forum and given the tripe many post in these places I better than anyone should have known that I should have personally validated it before passing it on so and more 's.

Everything is pretty easy so I'll just pass on the useful bits.

It is best to remove the worm box and the main shaft out from under the deck all in one piece. This means most will have to take the motor off - just undo the motor to worm box flange bolts and the motor pulls straight out.

Take all the above deck stuff off the main shaft down to and including the emergency crank collar. If the emergency crank collar has not been exercised it may be stuck to the shaft and I find it is easiest to check this out and break it free with the clutch lever before starting disassembly.

Also, the clutch cones tend to stick in the chain wheel if not recently greased and exercised - I always break these free before dismantling by releasing the clutch and powering the windlass against the anchor jambed against the bow roller.

One can then just drop the worm box, spacer tube and mainshaft all in one piece down and out from under deck by removing the 4 bolts that go through the deck plate. If one does not intend replacing the seals then the oil can be drained and topped up through the sight glass and all reassembled again. All that should be no more than a 30 minute job assuming no seized fastenings.

Maxwell recommend replacing the seals and I would agree, certainly the main shaft ones - you will see why when you clean all the grit and mud off their exposed sides . Maxwell provide a seal kit which is reasonably priced here making it hardly worth while breaking the flow of the job up by having to measure up the seals and going off to buy them. The kit also includes a new sight glass, o'rings, circlips and a couple of spare top caps. If buying the separate bits in I would recommend replacing the sight glass o'ring too, but the big o'ring between the worm box and the spacer tube you may decide is fine after inspection as it may not be so easy to find a new one of.

To replace the seals the worm box can then be separated from the spacer tube by undoing the 4 socket head screws revealing the innards. For the windlass I dismantled I had to grind a little of the aluminium casting away where chain whip had burred it over a little onto the top of 2 of the screws. A Dremel did this fine - if that or a small die grinder is not available a small file would do it. Note that when removing the main shaft from the worm box you do not have to undo any of the circlips on it including the bottom one, as the only purpose they serve is to restrain the worm wheel from sliding along the shaft.

The main seals do not have easy access to drive them out and the worm shaft seal has no access at all to drive it out. As well, you are likely to find the main shaft seals a little difficult to remove as there is likely light corrosion in the recess they are mounted in. Note that the worm shaft cannot be driven out from the sight glass end taking the bearing and seal with it as it is restrained by circlips behind the seal.

In case not known, an easy way to remove seals when no access to just drive them out is to drill a pilot hole in them and screw a self tapping screw into that and use that to pull the seal out. Have a light touch if drilling a hole for such in the worm shaft seal as one doesn't want the drill to plunge through into the bearing behind.

However, it is difficult to get a drill down into the spacer tube to get at the top mainshaft seal so I drove that out from the bush side with a soft drift so's I would not damage the bronze bush that hides it. There is not much of the hard part of the seal accessible to do this on but it eventually moved - in the end if that hadn't worked I may have been able to get a Dremel down to it with a drill in its chuck.

If for some unlikely reason you do not have enough room to drop the worm box together with the mainshaft out from under the deck (I say "unlikely" as after all this would be how most builders would have installed it up from under the deck in the first place) then you are in for a job. You may get a bit more wriggle room if you drop the worm box off the spacer tube but otherwise one is probably best to drop the worm box off the spacer tube, lift the deck plate from the deck (and then have the breaking of the sealant and remaking the sealant problems) and pull the main shaft and spacer tube up through the hole in the deck. If doing so be ready for spilled oil from the worm box when you drop it off the main shaft.

During reassembly I gunked up all bolts and screws with industrial grade Lanocote.

Hope that is of help to some - seems to be a question that comes up from time to time and I have yet to see a correct answer.
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Old 07-03-2009, 22:45   #6
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I recently replaced the 3500VWC gearbox on our unit. I first removed the motor (2 bolts) and after that the difficult to reach bolts (forgot how many, 4?) that hold the gearbox to the spacer tube. The C-clip under the gearbox was broken so it came right off, into the chain locker... it was heavier than expected ;-)

The interesting part was putting the motor back on the new gearbox... it didn't fit, the shaft was too long. Cut some off and all is well. The replacement was painted blue instead of my original white (original is 1993 I think). The shortened motor-shaft still fits the old gearbox, which is a spare now. The gasket between the two halves of the gearbox is a liquid gasket, the expensive type that only cures when no oxygen is present, name too difficult for me to remember. The manual lists one from LocTite but I used similar from Permatex. Corrosion around the seals is the weak point of the gearbox, my old one is only good for emergency spare because of it.

Edit: things to check are the C-clips and the drive pin in the motor shaft, as those were broken in my unit. It still worked well with half a drive pin on the shaft, pulling my 176 pound Bruce ;-)

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Old 06-08-2010, 20:50   #7
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I have this windlass too.

The lower clutch cone on mine does not slide off of the vertical shaft. It binds about an inch above its normal position. I have applied some pressure with a pry bar under it while soaking it in WD40, with no success. I am reluctant to apply heavy pressure. I am concerned that a real mechanic may have a gear puller device that would do a better job than a pry bar. I do not think that the shaft is bent, but there could well be grit preventing it form sliding off the shaft.

The spring washer under it was broken and came out from under it due to the break in its ring.

I have ordered the overhaul kit, and will get it when I return from the current cruise.

Any suggestions for In the field dis-assembly?
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Old 22-04-2015, 15:29   #8
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Re: Servicing a Maxwell 3500 Windlass

Old news but the puller works well to pull a stick cone off.

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