How to Take Care & Maintain a Winch

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Last Updated on June 25, 2022

Just like every other tool that we ever used or ever will, a winch too requires its maintenance to be done from time to time. Starting from the winch cable, rope to the motors and solenoid; every aspect of a winch needs to be cleaned and maintained for the best outcome. 

Although winches are almost maintenance-free, doing these will not only help you get your job done more easily for a long time but will also be a factor in keeping you safe while winching. Here are a few things that you should always keep in mind while taking care of your winch.

How to Take Care & Maintain a Winch

Winch Care & Maintenance

Winch Rope

Winch Rope

If your winch contains synthetic rope, the functioning and lifespan of the winch rope are important factors to consider for your safety. The main cause of synthetic rope deterioration is abrasion, which occurs when something rubs the independent fiber strands, causing the rope to weaken. 

A rope may be subjected to abrasion in a variety of ways, some of which may be difficult to detect. The line rubbing on rocks or terrain during winching is the most evident source of abrasion. Even though most individuals use blanket or winch wraps to keep the rope from coming into direct contact with the ground while pulling, the ropes still gather up dust and debris.

These microscopic particles inside the rope create abrasion. As a result, you will need to soak your winch rope in pure water regularly, especially after a dirty car recovery. Stepping on the winch line during a car recovery, or when the line becomes stuck in the pulley block or tangles and crosses over itself, are other causes of abrasion. 

Although stepping on the rope rather than straddling it when winching is a preferable safety precaution, it also allows dust into the winch. Instead of walking on the rope, we recommend that you walk around your vehicle to avoid these kinds of abrasions. 

Also, prior to winching, inspect your rigging under stress to ensure that your line is not twisting or binding in any way. To properly clean your winch rope, it is best if put some soap inside the bucket of water and then get your winch inside and run its entire length, one end to the other, through the water. 

And while doing so, push together on the rope to open up the strands so that the dirt and grit are washed away from the rope.

And if you allow slack in your winch line when powering in or out is likewise a bad idea. When you’re powering in and out, you should provide strain to the line using your hands or something else. If you do not do so, your synthetic winch rope will be abraded even more.



The fairlead is another item that must be checked on a regular basis. This is because it is the tool that has the most contact with the winch line. You must constantly verify that it is installed in appropriate alignment with the winch’s drum. If the fairlead is not in the center, the drag will rise on one side, causing the rope to wrap excessively tightly on the other. 

You must ensure that all contact points on the bumper edges, as well as the fairlead with whom your winch may come into contact, are smooth and burr-free.



Another component that requires attention is the hook. Stowage correctly means that neither the hook nor the thimble should be sucked into the fairlead, causing the surface to be chewed up. Use a polyurethane isolator or attach the winch hook to a recovery point on the vehicle’s bumper. 

Allowing your winch to draw everything on the other end of the winch line into the fairlead will most likely scar the fairlead, roughening the region where the winch rope will chew up for your future use. As you can see, taking care of one component will assist keep the rest of your winch in good working order.

Winch Motor

Winch motor

When closing, we have the pleasure of hearing the soft sound of clean ratchets. Manufacturers offer repair kits with ratchets, spring, and grease. Have one ready.

For all the obvious reasons, a winch motor is the main component of a winch. Imagine having a winch but the motor has gone bad? How good is your winch now? Some say, a winch is as good as its motor and it’s true in its entirety. Taking care of your winch motor isn’t as frequent as others but is more vital than anything else. 

This is quite the process you will need to go through, you are going to need different types of lubricants as well as a few other tools.

To start with, you are going to need to unscrew the upper cup of the motor. For this, a screwdriver or an Allen key would work and that depends on the model of your winch. After that, lift the headstock off of the winch. You must be careful with bearings as they can get stuck inside. 

Once you are done with that, remove the two needle bearings and then remove the entire gearbox from the winch using an Allen key. Make sure that the screws of the gearbox do not fall off. Then you can proceed to remove the column by keeping an eye on the third bearing and removing the central axis. 

Once you do that, you will be able to see the first pawls. For maintenance purposes, you have to make sure the pawl seats are very clean so that they can operate freely at all times during winching. Then, dismantle all the gears but be careful as you might lose the pawls. Now, the actual cleaning begins. 

Make sure to put all the parts in an orderly fashion so that once you are done with cleaning, you can easily reassemble all the components without any issue or losing anything. For cleaning, you will require diesel, petrol or white spirit. You should avoid gasoline as it is too withered for the job. 

When you are done cleaning everything, put a little grease at the end of your brush as it requires a very light greasing when you start to reassemble everything back together. But grease only the moving parts, such as the bearings and gears, and do not use grease on the pawls; you can use normal oil instead. 

Winch Solenoid

winch solenoid

A winch solenoid requires its due care as well and that is mainly due to corrosion. For keeping it in good working condition, you are going to need to take it apart just like you would do for the motor. At first, you should mark the plate on the peak of the dominant body before taking it apart since the peak cover is not aligned. 

While doing so, you need to be careful to not give too much pressure or bend the power cable of the solenoid since they are quite fragile. By any chance, if you break one, it would only get you into bigger trouble. Then, keep some sort of support grip for the base plate but be careful with the dominant body as lots of forces on it would distort making the speculator not fit into place. 

Once you are all set for that, remove the peak of the solenoid. For this task, you’ll require a small pin punch or small chisel. This is needed for the six sets of loops that are unrolled apart throughout the peak part of the solenoid. All you need to do is push the loop inside with a chisel so that the peak can be lifted off. 

After that is out of the way, you can start with the cleanup. Firstly, clean the Teflon sheets and place them aside. Then, polish and clean the speculator and polish and let them slide into the Teflon sheets without raking them off when it moves. 

Then comes the bores that need to be burnished and sheeny before you extract the leftover corrosion from inside. You will need to start accompanied by a few 400 grits dank withered papers for that. For preventing the plunger or the bore from further corrosion, you can tightly coat both of them in the company of a very lean film of Permatex Ultra Silicone disk brake grease.

Once done, put the swathe speculator back in their place making sure that they slide freely. Make sure that the Teflon sheets do not tear or fold over. Now since you are done with that, change the unfold on the peak of the solenoids. Remember the marking you made on top? Align them properly to fit the unfold around the holding tabs. 

Then reassemble using the loop you put away before and make sure that the peak is seated comfortably and completely. Then replace the solenoid turnout into the base solenoid housing and ensure that all the cables fit into it properly. Do inspect the state of the silicone seal all over the wire and seal again with RTV sealant if needed.

Final Words

A winch does not need very frequent cleaning or maintenance but for the most efficient outcome and also to have your money worth, cleaning it from time to time would only benefit you in the long run. Try and keep a routine of inspecting it before and after use for safety reasons as well. As you have seen, there isn’t much you need to do to keep it in great shape for a long time.

About the Author: Brian Silvestro

Brian Silvestro is the founder and chief editor of OffroadersArena. He spends his free time tending to his BMW iX SUV and explaining its merits to anyone who'll listen.

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