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Old 18-08-2014, 02:36   #1
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Replacing Seals in Lofrans Falkon 1500W Windlass

Our 10 year old Lofrans Falkon windlass was leaking gear oil to the extent that it was staining the deck and I was concerned that we might run it dry of oil, and that would be grim. Other than the main engine, I think the next most important piece of equipment on the boat is the windlass. The Lofrans Falkon that we have has been a trooper. Over the past few seasons I reckon we have anchored hundreds of times, not including the times where we have needed to lift our anchor and try again. We have 12 mm anchor chain and a 40 kilo anchor, so it does a lot of work.

I had to repair a broken spring in Mallorca a few years ago. It happened when we lifted the anchor too aggressively and pulled it against the stem roller with a bang. The broken spring prevented us from doing a controlled drop of the anchor – somewhat disconcerting when your anchor takes off and drops freefall. Thankfully we have a brake on the unit to slow the descent. I ordered the parts from Lofrans and had a machine shop extract the broken screw (and 50 euros from my pocket). I managed to get the anchor windlass put back together fairly quickly, but didn’t write down my approach and therefore had a couple of problems that I am will document how to avoid here.

Over the past few years I have been performing regular maintenance on our Lofrans Falkon – greasing the windlass and making sure that it is well lubricated, but this year I needed to go further and replace the o-rings and seals, plus I decided to replace the brushes of the motor as well. One of those – “if you have to take everything apart anyway, you might as well …” scenarios where we might as well replace everything at once.

Dismantling the windlass is no problem, take off the clutch, chain gypsy, clutch and cone on the starboard side – so all you have is the shaft remaining. On the starboard side there is a permanent key that cannot be removed. On the port side you remove the winch drum with the 17mm bolt and then remove the winch drum, the manual raising mechanism and the key.

Note: every time I have worked on the port-side of the shaft when the key is removed I have received a brutal cut to my hand from the extremely – e.g., razor sharp – edges of the key-way slot.

After this I removed the motor housing bolts (2 13mm’s) to show the motor (carefully marking the port vs. starboard red power lines.
Then I sucked out as much oil as I could through the filler hole. If I had a “do-over” I would have spent a lot more time getting oil out this way because when I removed the 8 hex allen-key bolts from the cover I had a huge oil spill that I used an entire roll of paper towel to mop up.

Once the cover is off you just need to pull the shaft out the starboard side – a gentle tap of the port side with a dead-blow hammer is helpful, and it will slide out. Again if I had a do-over I would not have wiggled the shaft to remove it as that pulled the bearing out of the pump casing. It always amazes me how easy it is to pull a bearing out and how difficult it is to reinstall it.

At this point I sucked out the remaining oil with my small hand pump and then cleaned out the inside of the casting with paper towel. During this process the bearing came out of the housing on the port side which was a bit of a pain to replace. We ended up putting it in the freezer for 5 minutes and tapping it in using a deadblow hammer and a piece of wood.

Replacing the seals was quite easy. I pulled them out with a screwdriver and pair of pliers. I cleaned up the aluminum with oil and a rag, and then pushed the seal in gently seating it again with the deadblow hammer.

Taking the motor out was a two person job. The first thing I did was remove the long two-ended screw (difficult to describe but it’s the 40cm or so long bolt that is threaded on both sides that the acorn nuts attach to hold the motor cover on.) Then there are three allen-key bolts that hold the motor in. Unfortunately on my installation the battery cables that provide power obscure the bolt – this is where the second set of hands is required – one to hold the cable out of the way, and the other to remove the bolts. The hardest was the port-side, because of having both a red and a black wire in the way. The starboard one only had a red wire – the top one was a cinch.

Once unbolted the motor just pulls out – the end of the worm gear sits in a needle bearing where the oil window is. Just pull it out of the hole and the entire mechanism, other than the needle bearing, comes out of the cast aluminum housing.

Once the motor was out I set to replacing the O-ring and brushes. Replacing the brushes was pretty easy – my main problem was the replacement brushes had a smaller diameter hole in the connector than the set-screw that holds them in place … so a little modification with my drill and we were away to the races.

Note: if you need to do this hold the connector with needle-nose pliers because the metal is copper and very soft.

Once you’ve prepared the new brushes, remove the existing brush (I used my fingers) and install the new one by pulling the spring – I hooked it with an o-ring remover and then used my fingers again. I had a little rust at the bottom of the motor that I scraped off and then painted the motor to protect it from further corrosion.

There is a pile of copper and commutator dust that you probably don’t want to inhale so be careful.

By this point and time I had replaced the seals, o-rings, cleaned out the oil reservoir and replaced the brushes on the motor. I had put in about an hour and a half and thought I was 80% done. The tips I will describe next will save you a few hours upon reassembly – so listen carefully.

To re-install the motor, you’ll probably need 2 sets of hands again. The battery cables get in the way so here’s what we did. We started with the port bolt (the one with the two wires on it that makes it especially hard) put the bolt into the mounting hole on the motor before we put the motor into the housting and have the ratchet already attached to it. This allowed us to get the bolt past the cables – something that we had tried unsuccessfully to do otherwise for about 15 minutes.

The shaft of the worm drive must seat into the needle bearing at the ‘window’ in the casing. Make sure that it is installed and spins smoothly before tightening up all the motor bolts.

Once these are tightened up we reattached the battery cables to the motor and tested that the motor works. It’s a good idea to make sure that it works before you reinstall everything else, add oil and then realize you need to break it down again.

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At this point you have the worm gear in and the motor installed properly – great. You also have the new seals installed on the case and the cover, new o-ring on the motor, new o-ring on the cover and you have one o-ring left for the starboard side of the shaft after the bearing and before the seal. You should also have the bearing is installed on the port side of the case. If you look at the bronze worm gear it is concave –if you try to install it with the outer ratchet already installed you cannot get it past the worm gear. No amount of hammering, pushing, swearing or cutting your hand on the razor sharp key edge will get this installed.

Put the shaft and the inner gear in, and arrange it so that it sits directly on top of the worm gear engaged with it. Then you must install the outer ratchet gear with the spring. This is a finicky thing, you’ll need a strong flat-head screwdriver that’s pretty big, and one that is slightly smaller. While someone holds the shaft so it doesn’t spin, you pry the ratchet spring with the big screwdriver allowing the smaller one to get in between the ratchet and the gears and this will let you push the pieces together and now you’re nearly there.

I spent more than an hour in the hot Greek sun trying (mostly hammering away gingerly with my dead-blow rubber mallet) to do this unsuccessfully before we went for lunch and came back with a new mind-set and figured out how to do it this way. Hopefully this may save you some time, frustration and possibly damaging your equipment.

Now we have the gear in place, the ratchet is in place and a little bit of gear oil in the bottom of the reservoir – poured on top of the worm gear to facilitate mating up. This is another good time to test that everything works. Our windlass only works with the motor running so we sparked it up, tested the windlass up and down worked like a charm, so we were good to reassemble everything.

Don’t put too much oil in the reservoir because the worm drive turns at something like 2400RPM and you’ll have a mess of oil on deck.

I filled the reservoir up with gear oil before installing the cover because the SAE 140 gear oil is a real pain to get into the fill hole. To install the cover I tapped the cover lightly with my dead-blow hammer to seat the bearing before I installed the bolts. I do this because once I tried to seat the bearing using the 8 bolts and broke the cover by putting too much pressure on a bolt. Note to self: every time you have stainless bolts going into aluminum you can easily break the cast aluminum. Anyway, 8 bolts later it is time to test one final time. Works perfectly.

Now reinstall the chain gypsy side – with new grease as you go, and then the winch side. Tighten up the clutch, test the manual retrieval and voila … you have a fully serviced Lofrans winch – hopefully that you will not need to do again for a couple of years.

Parts Purchased
• 418402 KIT A SEALS FALKON KA11101 Price including Vat 23% - 35,00
• 428947 BRUSH KIT FOR OLD 1500-1700W 12V Price including Vat 23% - 95,00
• 633545 SPRING FALKON 403 Price including Vat 23% - 27,00
• 633252 SEAL TIGRES 463 Price including Vat 23% - 21,00
• 1 liter Gear Oil 140 SAE Price including Vat 23% - 5,00

Tools Needed
13mm ratchet
17mm ratchet
Small and medium hex drivers – (metric but I can’t remember off the top of my head and don’t want to pull my tools out to look)
Dead-blow hammer
Phillips head screwdriver #2 for brush replacement
2x Regular head screwdrivers for prying ratchet and spring and pulling seals out
Large pliers to pull out seal on case,
Needlenose pliers, drill and bit for enlarging holes on brushes
2 buckets to hold the parts during dismantling
Lots of rags and paper towels
Oil pump and waste oil bucket
Band-aids for when you cut your hand on that stupid key slot
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Old 18-08-2014, 07:07   #2
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Re: Replacing Seals in Lofrans Falkon 1500W Windlass

I have the same windlass, this is all great info. Thanks for sharing.

I know someone else who broke that same spring, i think I will have to add a couple to my onboard stores!

I get confused over the correct oil level? There is a red plastic indicator in the view glass on the front of the windlass, where should this sit when the oil is at the correct level? Did you change the oil during the 10 years, if so how often?


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Old 07-12-2021, 12:14   #3
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Re: Replacing Seals in Lofrans Falkon 1500W Windlass

OK, I know this is a zombie thread now which I am bringing back from the dead, but I just went through this and I thought some others might benefit from my findings.

First and foremost, a big "thank you" to marina.alex for posting this. I actually came across it years ago, and, knowing I would need it some day and that the Internet is fickle, I actually downloaded it as a PDF. That day came this week, as our starboard seal started weeping a few months ago (after 18 years, 9 on my watch and several hundred anchorings).

I bought the kit (Maintenance A) and tore into the unit without unbolting from the deck. Alex's instructions were spot-on, with a couple of minor changes:

1. If a whole mess of oil came out when the cover plate was removed, the unit was overfilled. Note the sight glass (which I'd previously replaced because it had become opaque) is installed just forward of the needle bearing for the front of the worm, and the "full" level is in the middle of this glass. Thus the normal oil level is barely to the top of the opening when the cover is off. The sight glass, BTW, just pulls out; it's held in by friction and an O-ring seal. During the rebuild I removed it and cleaned it, since it had become nearly opaque again. The correct oil fill is 0.75-1.0 liter, which makes it very convenient here in the US to just use a full quart. (More on oil in a minute.)

2. The starboard key is not "permanent" as he suggests. It is removable and a new key is included in the kit (identical to the key on the port side. HOWEVER: the key is a bear to remove. There is a simple reason for this: all the force to raise the anchor every single time ends up bearing on this key, and, as a result, the metal of the shaft actually deforms, trapping the key in place, and also making it impossible to remove the bearing (and the need to eventually replace the bearing is one way to know the key is not permanent). I wanted to do the job right and so I removed this key. What worked for me was to take the entire shaft down to my little workshop in the engine room, then clamp the key tightly in my vice, key-side-down. It then only took a little effort to remove the key by pushing up on the port end of the shaft. I had to use the same trick on the center key that is driven by the ratchet wheel.

After getting the key out, I spent nearly an hour with a bastard file, some Revlon emery boards, and two different grades of sandpaper knocking down the high ridge along the pressure side of the keyway (forward edge if held key-side-up) so I could slide the bearing off. I inspected the bearing and cleaned it in diesel fuel.

3. Since I was doing the full maintenance I needed to get the brass ratchet wheel off the shaft. Just like the aforementioned key, deformation of the metal from years of heavy lifting had the wheel firmly stuck. I heated the brass wheel as much as I could with a regular heat gun (brass expands faster than steel) and was able to pound the shaft out with a mallet after supporting the wheel from underneath. I had to do the vice trick with the key again, and I spent another hour with files, emery, and sandpaper carefully removing the ridge on the inside of the wheel so that it would slide back onto the shaft.

4. Since the kit called for replacing the two bolts holding the ratchet spring, I thought I could avoid the prying process that Alex went through. No such luck -- you'll never get the bolts back into the spring if the ratchet pawl is already in position. I pulled the ring gear back out, put the spring on, and used a flat pry bar to get the pawl back over the ratchet teeth as I pushed the shaft, ratchet and all, back in.

5. If you've gone to the effort of removing the starboard key, you can press the starboard bearing into the housing cover before sliding the whole assembly onto the shaft, bypassing Alex's problem wherein he once broke the casting. As Alex suggests, ADD THE OIL FIRST. Way easier to pour in in through the opening than inject it through the filler hole. Try to get some on the bearings and the top of the ring gear until you can run it for splash lube.

6. Oil. I went crazy trying to find the right oil. Do NOT use regular gear lube from the auto parts store like, say, Valvoline 85w-90. First off, it's too low a viscosity; Lofrans calls for straight 90 to 140 weight oil, and winter-designated multi-grades are too thin. More importantly, most automotive gear lube contains sulfur compounds as extreme pressure (EP) additives, and these will corrode the brass parts. You need a "yellow-metal safe" lube. You might get away with automotive oil that is designated only GL-4 and not GL-5 or marketed as "safe for synchromesh transmissions," but ask the manufacturer.

After going around and around I settled on Mobil SHC 634, which is a synthetic (PAO) industrial gear oil safe for yellow metals (score of 1b on ASTM D130), long life, rated for a wide range of temperatures, and specifically marketed as suitable for high-ratio worm drives. Pricey at $28 a quart on Amazon ($23 plus shipping from McMaster), but I figure this is the last oil I will ever need.

I wiped down the entire inside of the gearbox with a diesel-soaked rag before reassembly, getting a lot of brown crud out in the process. I dried it all out, but the good thing about PAO synthetics is that they are compatible with petroleum oils and so will not react with any old oil residue in the box or on the gears.

We're at a dock (which provided the opportunity to do this work) so I have not fully tested it all, but I am looking forward to giving it a workout after its spa day. Well, three days -- the whole project took me close to a dozen hours with all the recalcitrant parts, cleaning, and carefully matching up the kit parts.

Hope this helps some.

m/y Vector
lying Little River, SC
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Old 07-12-2021, 18:46   #4
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Re: Replacing Seals in Lofrans Falkon 1500W Windlass

Hey Sean, perfect resurrection of the thread and info from your work.
I have the older 1700W Falkon but I assume it's the same as the 1500W except for motor size.

My Falkon has stopped after a particularly bad pounding into steep waves where the anchor hold-down broke and the entire weight was on the windlass: result was a whole lot of oil coming out and a need to pull it apart.

I have just bought the maintenance kit - like this one which includes "all necessary wear parts such as screws, seals, cotter pins, etc".

But I'd prefer to have parts on hand for things that could/should be changed after the bad experience.
Would you have any thoughts on what's likely (or almost certainly) to need replacing before I pull it apart?
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Old 07-12-2021, 19:14   #5
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Re: Replacing Seals in Lofrans Falkon 1500W Windlass

Alex, Sean and McArthur, thank you all for the detailed descriptions. I have now saved them in a PDF file.... just in case (I have the 1500 W version).
Wishing you all sunny skies above, clear water below, gentle winds behind and a safe port ahead,
and when coming this way check,_Australia
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Old 08-12-2021, 10:00   #6
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Re: Replacing Seals in Lofrans Falkon 1500W Windlass

Originally Posted by mcarthur View Post
...I have the older 1700W Falkon but I assume it's the same as the 1500W except for motor size.
I think that is correct.

My Falkon has stopped after a particularly bad pounding into steep waves where the anchor hold-down broke and the entire weight was on the windlass: result was a whole lot of oil coming out and a need to pull it apart.

I have just bought the maintenance kit ... which includes "all necessary wear parts such as screws, seals, cotter pins, etc".
But I'd prefer to have parts on hand for things that could/should be changed after the bad experience.
Would you have any thoughts on what's likely (or almost certainly) to need replacing before I pull it apart?
This is tough to answer without seeing it. Over-stressing the windlass in the way you described could result in several very different failures. I'm concerned about your statement that oil was coming out, which might mean a fracture of the casting itself.

You don't describe the symptoms when you try to run it. But effort against the anchor rode is transmitted through the shaft to the ratchet, and from the ratchet through the pawl to the ring gear, and then to the interface of a few (three?) ring gear teeth against the worm. Things that *might* have broken:
  • The ratchet pawl; more correctly, the pin that connects it to the ring gear.
  • Teeth on the ring gear.
  • The shaft bearing(s).
  • The keys between the shaft and the clutch cones or the ratchet.
  • The housing.
  • The motor.
The only way to be sure is to disassemble the unit. Other than the maintenance kit you already have, which you need no matter what because it contains the seals, it's hard to know what to pre-order.

Hope that helps.

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