How to Fix Your Electric Windlass 9 out of 10 Times

4 Jan

attachment 3626550438
If you have an electric windlass, eventually you will step on the foot switch, or flip the switch in the cockpit, and nothing will happen. Of course this can be caused by many problems, but the most common are corroded contacts on a solenoid. In a blog post a while back I discussed solenoids in general terms. If you don’t know what a solenoid is, or what it does, it would do you well to read this brief primer.

Here we’ll discuss windlass solenoids, or what they call a windlass control box, which is really just two solenoids in the same box and sharing some of the same circuitry. If your windlass just powers in one direction (up!) then your windlass control solenoid will be a simple one like this:
…or this:
Windlass Rewire
…But if your windlass has both power up and power down, it’ll look something like this:
June 020
…or this:
…or this:
IMG 0582

Hey, wait a minute, those last two look exactly alike. Yes, many windlass control boxes are made in Italy by the same manufacturer, and other companies brand them as their own. We must stop this evil Italian monopoly on windlass control solenoids!…or just address one problem at a time, like a windlass that won’t work.

Most windlasses are switched through a solenoid, like those ones pictured above, but some are switched directly through a high-amperage foot switch, with no solenoid between the foot switch and the windlass. In both cases, the problem and solution are the same: The solenoid in the control box, or your foot, presses a large copper bar against two contacts. Since this is a high amperage connection, this copper bar can spark, arc, and take a lot of abuse. Over time, the points of contact will become fouled, “carboned up,” as they say, and will no longer make good electrical contact.

There will usually be some warning: You’ll go to raise your anchor and the windlass won’t work. You’ll try a few times and it will work, then you’ll forget it didn’t work the first time, but the first time should serve as a warning that troubles are on the way.

The telltale sign is the solenoid clicking, or stomping on that foot switch, but the windlass still not working.

The solution is simple – clean the electrical contacts – but of course it’s seldom that simple. If yours is a solid state solenoid, as in many up-only installations, you simply can’t get at the contacts and the solenoid must be replaced (about $50). If you’ve got one of the Italian jobs, or one of their American (meaning Chinese) equivalents, you can get to the contacts and clean them.

During my ten-year circumnavigation this was an annual task, heralded by the aforementioned warnings.

Usually you’ll have to completely remove the control box and disconnect all wires. Note where everything goes: digital cameras and smart phones are great for this. Once you’ve got everything disconnected you can confirm your diagnosis by touching the power cable directly to the power lead(s) on the windlass. If it jumps to life, you’ll know your solenoid/control box is indeed the problem. If it doesn’t jump to life, your problem lies somewhere else.

Remove the screws that hold the lid on the the control box:
IMG 0586
Inside, you will see something like this:
IMG 0587
On both sides, down in the box, are the solenoids. Above are the contacts, the filthy, fouled contacts, which must be cleaned. But to clean the contacts you must loosen and remove the studs from the top of the control box:
IMG 0589
Once everything is out and exposed, go to it with a wire brush. Don’t be shy: The fouling on the contacts can be tenacious, and require vigorous action with a wire brush or sandpaper. The copper contacts will probably be zinc plated, but the zinc may have to go bye-bye to make clean electrical connections again. This isn’t rocket science: It’s brute physical/electrical stuff, where copper bars have to come into contact with copper studs like a punch in the face:
IMG 0592
IMG 0591
Once the contacts are clean, reassemble the control box, reconnect the wires, and you should be up and running again. Yes, there are many other things that can go wrong electrically with a windlass, but in my experience it was this about ten times in a row, followed by something more serious (I’ll get to this later).

Most importantly, a new windlass control box will cost $150-$180 retail. Forty-five minutes in the most uncomfortable position imaginable in your anchor locker to deal with a faulty windlass control box…priceless.

This article was syndicated from The Adventures of the Vessel Condesa


  1. Rafael

    Hi Clark

    Thank you very much for the reply.

    When I bring it back to life the windlass runs at partial strenght for 10 seconds. After that it goes to full load.

    But if you stop it for a few seconds it returns to the initial situation again.

    I will follow your advices and start looking for the problem step by step.

    Thank you.

  2. Clark

    Hi Rafael,

    I guess first question is after you bring it back to life with the wrench, does it operate under full load, as in pulling the anchor up, or does it just get the windlass turning by itself, at partial strength?

    Assuming that once you get it moving it’s operating in some weakened state, it sounds like it’s electrical rather than mechanical. A bad connection could be anywhere in the circuit, so it’s worth going through the mantra of all electrical troubleshooting manuals: “Ensure that all connections are clean and tight before proceeding.” Next I’d suspect the control box. Remove the cables from the control box and touch (carefully….there will be sparks) the pos. power cable to the leads on the windlass motor, and see if that makes a difference.

    Equally I’d suspect a stuck brush in the motor, even though it’s only a year old. The brushes are usually in the back end of the motor, and they should be semi-accessible, hopefully without removing the motor from the windlass, but you might have to. If you’re lucky there may be little covers, under which the brushes are very visible, accessible, and replaceable. If you’re less lucky you’ll have to completely disassemble the motor. A motor that runs like you describe could be only 3 out of 4 brushes making contact…still turns, but very weak.

    Or try whacking the motor with a mallet/wood block/plastic handle of a big screwdriver, as this sometimes dislodges a stuck brush.

  3. Rafael

    In need of advice please. I’m In Bahamas with the following situation:

    My windlass is a Horizon Express  (Simpsom Lawrence) with a remote control on the anchor lock.

    The motor was replaced one year ago.

    The solenoid  (control box) looks new and it’s located inside the boat so it does not get salty.

    When I push the up / down button it clicks the solenoid but the windlass does not turn .

    When I use a wrench to move the drum manualy it makes the windlass return to life. Slowly on the beggining and normal after a few seconds.

    But when I stop using it for a few moments it does not work anymore. So again need to give some manual help before it works one more time.

    What should I check first?

    Thank you.

  4. Clark Beek

    Hi Brian, That’s a new one. You’ll have to poke around with a voltmeter to see what’s going on. Verify the voltages going in and coming out of the solenoids, and going into the windlass to figure out what’s 12 and what’s 24-Volt. Could it be that the bow thruster is 24-Volt, with the batteries wired in series to power it, but the windlass is 12-Volt, so it’s taking 12-Volt off just one of the batteries? Or vice versa? Or maybe it’s what you suggest, and the solenoids are doing double duty to handle high current? Or could there be some related purpose for the additional solenoids, like running a chain counter, anchor washer, or???

  5. Brian Whiddon

    My boss’s windlass solenoids on her 52 ft Irwin ketch are horribly rusted and need replacing. But I’m a little confused. The windlass is 2 directional. But there are a total of 4 solenoids! I know that the boat is wired to run 24 volts for the bow thruster and (I think) the windlass via 12 volt batteries connected in series. The solenoids are the cylindrical types with the 4 terminals. Is it possible that 2 12 volt solenoids are being used for each direction to handle 24 volts? Or are 2 solenoids actually required for each direction?

  6. Clark Beek

    Hi Stacey, That sounds like the gypsy/wildcat just isn’t engaging the motor. There’s a nut to tighten to clamp it to the motor. On yours it looks like you do this with a winch handle. It’s designed to slip under heavy loads, and it can be well-greased, so you might have to really crank down on the nut. When my windlass was new I was surprised how hard I had to crank down on it to stop it from slipping. Cheers, Clark

  7. Stacey

    Hi I have a Quick Antreas windless
    Power is there but anchor won’t go up or down the piece just turns what do I do ?

  8. Clark

    Ken/Paul, If you can’t find the right brushes online or through manufacturer, most windlass motors are automotive starter motors, or close enough, so if you take it to an auto electric shop, where they rebuild starters and alternators, they will almost certainly have, or be able to get, the right brushes.

  9. Ken Tait

    For Paul Westhead.

    Where did you find Brushes for your windlass motor. The motors all seem to be CIMA manufactured.
    I need some and am getting the same run around from the manufacturers that I need to buy a complete motor!


  10. Clark Beek

    Hi Dayne, You’ve got me. If the solenoid clicks that usually means electricity is no longer flowing. You’d have to get a volt meter on the leads to see if the juice stops when you hear the click. If it does, it’s some free-wheeling issue with your windlass. If not, I suppose the contact within the solenoid could be sticking, but that would be weird.

  11. Dayne Turner

    Hey Clark,
    Just installed a Lewmar Pro Series 1000. When I toggle between up and down (with no load/rope/chain/anchor) the winch will sometimes spool for a few turns on the down after the solenoid has clicked off. It’s a brand new winch……think it could be tracking inside the solenoid causing the winch to go forward? Or could it be a mechanical issue in the winch like maybe the clutch? Any light on this issue is much appreciated.


  12. Jeremy

    Hi guys. Was wondering if anyone ever encountered this problem.
    My lofrans will lower the anchor with no problem, but when I press the up switch, nothing is happening.

    Any thoughts appreciated.

  13. christian

    I have a Lofrans and it wont stop ! I was going to change out my chain at the dock thank goodness when I was letting it out and I released my button to stop, and it kept going then reversed on its own and brought the chain and anchor back up! once all the way in, the circuit breaker popped for me. I have disconnected all switches and about to take the control box off. Any thoughts on my issue would be a great help. Thanks Christian

  14. Peter windsor

    Hi,we are in Indonesia at present so not much help here .we have a quick 1000w.
    On retrieval it came up to a hard stop ,but did not trip the fuse as it did once in the past .since then it only clicks .we have cleaned the solenoid ,cleaned the brushes ,filled up with gearbox oil but no luck .Dismantled the clutches only to find 2x broken circlps .There is power to the unit .Any ideas? Cheers Peter

  15. Nimrod Shapir


    I have a Lofrans 1200 W. windlass.
    When I lift my anchor the windlass stops every few meters and I have to wait 20-30 seconds before it comes to life again. Sometimes the fuse is “jumping” and I have to go to the cabin to put it on.
    I don’t think it’s a contact problem as it works every time I push the up and down buttons.
    Do you have any idea how this situation can be solved or at least improved?

  16. Paul Westhead

    For Jane marrie brunette look at my post my windlas had sticking worn brushes inside motor this also caused windlas to operate very slowly when solonoid did not click just 2 bolts holding base of my motor which holds the culprit sticking brush

  17. Paul Westhead

    Hi I had a problem with my Lewmar v700 windlas when trying to use solonoid just clicking after my own investigation I took the motor apart and found the brushes to be worn and one brush was sticking so I sanded it down a little so the brush does not stick and the spring does its job, it now works perfect. I contacted lewmar to order 1 pair of brushes but they said I would have to buy a new motor I have measured the brushes and ordered a pair off the Internet for £3.99 so waiting for them to arrive hope this helps anyone else


    But do you think that the wash down pump connected directly to the control box may have damaged the solenoids?

  19. Clark Beek

    Jean-Marie, No, not too risky, assuming the high amperage connection comes through a fuse or breaker, usually somewhere aft, closer to the batteries. Since it’s a high amperage connection you should be careful when you touch the leads together as it is sure to spark, and if there is some kind of short or seizing in the motor, it will really spark, so probably prudent to wear glasses and gloves.


    Hi Clark,
    Thanks for your prompt answer. I opened the control box earlier. No corrosion in that. Everything very clean. It is not located in the anchor box but under in the ” crew cabin” not exposed to salt water.
    Last week the problem began when I used the windlass and the wash down pump at the same time. But, probably not a good idea, the connections for the pump were made directly on the control box. Maybe, using both together I created a dammage in the solenoid box.
    What do you think? Is it risky to bypass the control box to test?

  21. Clark

    Hi Jean-Marie, Try circumventing the control box/solenoid by disconnecting the big cables and touching them directly (carefully) to the leads on the windlass. If it jumps to life you’ve got a problem with the control box/solenoid. If it still performs poorly it points to a problem in the windlass motor. Windlass motors lead hard lives, and the brushes often get corroded, or just stuck. I’m not sure about a Quick, but there can be 2-4 brushes that contact the rotor on the motor. If less than all are contacting the rotor, it will still work, but work poorly. The brushes are usually accessible, so if you remove, clean, and (lightly) lubricate them, they’ll work better. It takes a long time for them to wear out, so it’s usually a stuck brush.


    Hi Clark,
    My Quick windlass operates very slowly since one week. I cleaned the corroded connectors and changed the bolts at the motor posts. In operating slowly, the 100A breaker trip many times. The voltage at the motor when operating was around 9.3 volts. On the wires at the bow coming from the batteries the voltage was around 13 volts when testing. Do you think it is something wrong in the control/solenoid box. It is slow either going up or down. A prompt reply would be really appreciated. Thanks

  23. Abdel

    I got a problem with my windlass. a rope got stack in the windlass and after that the motor does not work, I realized that the 5 amps fuse was broken, I replaced the fuse but once I activate the windlass the fuse breaks again. The solenoid clicks but the motor does not work because the fuse breaks every time you activate the windlass. Apparently is an electrical problem, could you help me??? thanks

  24. Clark Beek

    Hi Ken, If it were an overcurrent issue it would be tripping the breaker, requiring a reset each time. You’re sure the motor is stopping each time, and the gypsy isn’t just slipping? Had to ask :-) If the motor is stopping each time, while you’re pressing the button, it sure sounds like some kind of faulty connection somewhere, which would be odd on a new installation. I guess I’d start by circumventing all switches and solenoids, and just (carefully) touch the live cable to the lead on the motor (or use a jumper cable to accomplish same without disconnecting everything) , with anchor down and some load on it. If it powers up like crazy, then you know the problem lies in the switching circuitry and it’s not an overload problem with the motor itself. Then it’s on to the witch hunt of finding which connection is faulty.

  25. Ken Landis

    Hi Clark,

    I recently installed a Maxwell HRC10 (1200 watt motor) on my Beneteau 473. Everything appeared to work at installation however the first real test came this past weekend at Catalina. With the engine running, I pressed the up button and the windlass would raise the chain a few feet and stop. After waiting a few seconds, I would press up again and it would take in another few week before stopping. The motor did not have time to overheat so I think it must be related to amperage draw. It has a 135 amp breaker, either 1 or 0 size cable running from the batteries to the solenoid (approx. 55 feet round trip), and size 2 (from memory) from the solenoid to the windlass which is about a 10 foot run round trip. Any idea where to start trouble shooting? Thanks, Ken

  26. Clark Beek

    Hi Dennis, Sounds plausible to me, as long as the knife switch is rated for the amperage and you’ve got a fuse or breaker in the works. Also sounds like if it doesn’t work out, electrically or convenience-wise, you won’t have too much invested.

  27. dennis schneider

    hi clark (hope your july 4 will be a blast. Hey, Im building a46′ cat forca 40k$ from scratch; have ca 6k hrs in her now(started when i was74…) so not a lot of $$$ for Lewmar v2 windlass(auction$250) control box/contactor. Having backround in electrics\-tronics, and winch located amidship on bridgedeck next to helm, I’m considering making a ‘knife blade’-type make\break with + from bat -thru a 90amp c.b., to the central ‘blade, pivoting left to ‘down fork’ then to motor, Or right, to ‘up fork’; then to other motor terminal;then from motor back to bat -…….If I build it so its idiot-proof, why not? Your thoughts, please! Dennis S.

  28. Clark Beek

    Are you trying to power down, or release a clutch and let gravity do the work? If it’s the former, probably a solenoid; if it’s the latter, it’s probably just a stuck clutch, which can be remedied by disassembling, cleaning, and lubricating.

  29. Danny DeFelice

    I have a Simson- Lawrence , It works only when i hit the up position but when I try to release it wants to go but will not release the anchor. What is your take on this ?

  30. vega

    i have a h600/900 windlass and is not moving look is too tight how i fix this. any advice

  31. Clark Beek

    Sounds like you should clean the contacts on the solenoid, or replace it if it’s solid state. Disconnect the cables from the solenoid and touch them together (carefully) and see if the windlass works. If it does, you know you’ve got a solenoid problem.

  32. john

    yes it moves manually but when you hit switch just a clunk.. Like you hear the solenoid engage but just one clunk… any ideas?

  33. Clark Beek

    Sounds like a fouled solenoid, as in the article, or maybe something stuck or frozen in the windlass itself. Try moving it manually, if you can…

  34. john

    when i hit the down or up mode it just clunks like the solenoid is stuck….
    Any ideas???

  35. tony

    my windliss will free drop, but on retrieve the outer casing moves in like its about to grab the rope, but rope gear is not spinning or grabbing and retrieving the rope . is there a shear pin out or any suggestions what to do?

  36. chris cornelius

    My windless, when in the up position, slowly when traveling allows the anchor to loosen about 6 inches and becomes loose.

    Also, when trying to pull up the anchor, the line is slipping through the teeth. How can I remedy this?

  37. Neil McCubbin

    Follow up on Lofrans that drew 180 amps on no-load
    Lofrans finally replaced the motor,, (which took two attempts, since they sent wrong one first time)
    We rented a car and drove 1000 miles in two days to get it worked out
    It took from my July 2016 post till a few weeks ago to get refunds for the motors we paid to get shipped, including dealing with emails from Loframs factory that were an insult to any customer’s intellect.
    We have given up on a refund for the solenoid they made us buy to replace the original that had a one volt drop across it when new.
    The windlass is working now, but cannot pull anywhere near the advertised load, we have over 10.5 volts at motor terminals at full load.
    Bottom line. I will never buy a Lofrans product again
    We bought in the UK, and are now in Caribbean, a few weeks later than planned due to the Lofrans issues. If I lived in U.K. I could probably get a good settlement in small claims court, but I prefer sailing

  38. Jim

    I have a sea wolf windlass all chain that stopped working. It is old but not crazy old. It is up only. I here the click on the foot button but hear nothing from the motor. I think I used to be able to crank it up Manually with my metal bar but that isn’t working either. It just tightens up the windlass. If I loosen it the chain deploys. Any ideas beyond your tips here that I will try? I’m worried that I can winch it normally up. Could it be seized somewhere?

  39. Clark Beek

    Hi Neil, That sounds bizarro. You say it moves freely, as in, the motor spins without any load on it, so that rules out some failed bearing, or something putting a lot of drag on it, which would be unlikely anyway on a six-week-old windlass. My guess is that your problem is purely electrical. Measure the voltage right at the windlass, while it is running. My guess is you’ll see very low voltage, which shouldn’t push the amperage up in and of itself, but if it’s trying to draw current through a bad connection or undersized cabling, that might be causing the extra current draw. Simplest (although back breaking) solution would be to take a battery up to the bow and connect the leads from the windlass right to it (very carefully, and with a high amp fuse or breaker in between) and see if it performs better. My guess is that it will, and that your problem lies somewhere in the cabling or connections between you battery banks and the windlass.

  40. Neil McCubbin

    Our 6 week old Lofrans Tigres 1500 watt 12V windlass worked OK first few times used, but is now gutless
    It trips a 150 amp breaker, although I can pull the chain in a few inches with one hand.
    Motor runs at advertised speed on no load (chain off) BUT draws 180 amps. Full load is supposed to be 130 amps.

  41. Clark Beek

    Hi Brian, Hmm, to actually sheer a sheer pin would take some force, so unless there’s been something catastrophic that’s unlikely. Usually a cone or washer friction device engages the motor to the gypsy/wildcat/drum. This device can get stripped or just weirdly-greased. I mean, the two halves of the cone/washer are supposed to be greased, but if they’re too greased, or if you don’t crank down enough, the joint just slips. On mine, with fresh grease, I’ve got to really crank on it- Like use all of my strength to tighten the clutch–so if you really crank on it, and no love, then suspect a sheer pin, or something mechanical that’s come undone.

  42. Brian

    The motor on my unit seems to be working fine but doesn’t hoist. Are there sheer pins or something like that might have been compromised?

  43. Colin Walsh

    I have a Lofrans Project 1500 windlass. One of its selling points in the literature is that it has internal solenoids. Now that one has failed I am told by the supplier that it is not a spare part and it will cost me over £1,000 for a new motor! I’m pretty cross about this as I know solenoids will eventually give trouble. The windlass comes with an emergency terminal marked E to bypass the ‘up’ solenoid so the manufacturer knows it will fail at some point. So why is it not a replaceable part!!
    Anyone know if it’s possible to source and replace it?

  44. Clark

    Hi Trevor, I’d circumvent the solenoid and touch the power lead from the windlass directly to the power cable coming from the battery (carefully, and ready to abort quickly, as there may be sparks), with the anchor down so there is some load on it. If it makes the same noises and complaints this eliminates the solenoid. It could still be electrical, like something in the windlass motor, or could be motor bearings or other mechanical bits in the windlass. If it’s old and it’s about time anyway, it gives peace of mind to pull the motor, take it to a reputable shop, and have it completely rebuilt and tested. It’s usually about $300, then you know you’ve got a solid motor for the next ten years-ish, and you can eliminate it at a possible cause.

  45. Trevor Coverdale

    Hi Clark,
    The Muir VRC1250 winch has recently begun labouring and making loud wining noises when anchor is being raised, it has also thrown the circuit breaker several times. I am about to strip the mechanical side down to clean and grease, but wondered if I should also be looking for an electrical problem. I would appreciate your helpful advice.

  46. Clark

    Hi Mel, That’s definitely a bizarro one. The fan circuit is somehow cross-connected with one side of the windlass control circuit (but not the windlass power circuit). I guess first see which way it turns with both the fan breaker and windlass breakers on, then you’ll know whether the up wire or down wire is suspect. You’ll probably need to test for voltage at the solenoid to see which wire is energized. From there you can turn off the big windlass breaker so it doesn’t spin, but leave on the control circuit power, which I’m guessing is on a separate breaker/circuit from the main windlass breaker. It won’t hurt to leave the solenoid energized while you’re testin, but I’d give it a break every few minutes to let it cool off. Then it’s just matter of testing for voltage (with the fan breaker on) back from the solenoid. I’m guessing you’ll find wires melted through, or some erroneous cross-connect in the back of a panel somewhere. Do you have a remote switch in the cockpit, or just the deck switch forward? If it’s just the deck switch forward, then the problem has to be somewhere forward. If you’ve got a cockpit switch, it’s more likely to be along the up or down wire from this switch. It should be straight shots from the up and down sides of the cockpit switch to the solenoid (no switches, breakers, or fuses along the way) so my bet is on something in your fan circuit actually touching one of the terminals on the back of the switch, or a melted/chafed wire making unintended contact somewhere. If all else fails, replace the the whole up or down wire, at least with a temporary test wire, and see if this fixes it.

  47. Mel

    HI Clark- I recently purchased a new solenoid because my windlass would only spin one direction, and when I disconnected the solenoid and tested the windlass it would turn both directions when I changed the leads. I also changed the outside switch because it was fairly corroded and to make sure that wasn’t a source of another problem. I have a forward remote switch that I have taken out of the picture since that is fairly corroded and I don’t have a replacement. Now the windlass works great with the new switch in back operating it up and down but I still have one problem that may have caused all this in the first place. When I turn on one specific breaker (fans), the solenoid makes a click/pop sound. And if I have the fan breaker on and the windlass breaker on it actually spins the windlass. I am checking all the wiring to ensure there are no bad connections but right now, I’m not finding anything. Any ideas on how to better narrow down this search would be greatly appreciated!

  48. Dave

    Anyone help with an IZ Leroy Somer 12v 100 amp vertical windlass 1999 (model courant continu) that will turn only about 1/4 inch and then it seems to lock up or stop abruptly So it has power but will not turn except the 1/4 inch distance? Possible solenoid problem or mechanical freeze up?

  49. Johann

    Can I have some info about a CIMA windlass, don’t know how old is it? How do I know how use are the carbon box ? Visual ? Technic list would be good to have for spare part

  50. Paul

    thanks Clark, yeh thats what i was thinking, just never had an anchor motor before. there is a 50 amp breaker associated with the system as well. this one just through me off being on such a heavy gauge wire.

  51. Clark Beek

    Hi Paul, I’m thinking the 3 Amp fuse is just the fuse for the switch circuit. IE It’s just carrying the current that runs through the switch when you step on it, not the full current going to the windlass motor. That should have a BIG fuse, like 100 Amps, or similar-sized breaker, somewhere.

  52. Paul

    hi, restoring a bot presently. the winlass works as far as can tell right now being out of the water but the question i have is regarding an in line fuse coming from the control box going up to the switch. i had to break apart the fuse holder to see what size fuse was in there and to my surprise it was only a 3 amp fuse on what looks like 10 gauge wire. i only ran the winlass out about 15 feet and back just to see if it worked and it seemed fine but is that the correct fuse for that location?

  53. Clark Beek

    Hi Mike, Start by checking and cleaning all the electrical connections. A simple bad connection can do that, work fine at first then cause the device to fade as the bad connection heats up. If you’ve got a multimeter and/or amp clamp you can check for Voltage drop along the cabling and see if it’s drawing the right amount of juice. If all the cabling and connections are solid, then it points to warn motor brushes, or brushes that aren’t making good contact. Replacing the brushes and cleaning the commutator is something you can do yourself, if you can get hold of a brush replacement kit, or you can just take the motor to an electric motor shop and they’ll make quick work of it. Getting a motor out of a windlass can either be easy or take an entire weekend, unfortunately.

  54. Mike P

    Hi my name is mike perkins I have a Lewmar 500 it works most of time but it just seems weak and some times just struggles to pull up the anchor does that mean the motor is getting weak please email if you know or can help at

  55. Paul

    Thanks Clark

    This was useful and led to my own project following a failed windlass a few weeks back. I’ve documented my findings (and referenced your useful detail above)


  56. Pingback: Windlass cutting out, fusing, anchor counter resetting | Just Sail

  57. Clark Beek

    Hi Michael, I would think it’s got to be a stuck switch, or something bridging the contacts on the switch. I’d disconnect the leads on both sides of the switch, just for sanity’s sake, and see if touching them together and separating them starts and stops the windlass from going up. If that’s the case, something is funky in the switch.

  58. Michael Moloney

    After blowing a fuse overworking my Lofrans windlass I replaced the fuse only to find the windlass instantly ran in up mode without pressing the switch. I removed the power and checked and cleaned the switches then hooked the power up and again it ran without pressing the switch in the up mode. Any ideas where next to look??????

  59. Clark

    Hi Jane, You’ve got me. Sometimes you can get faulty readings with a digital voltmeter. You might do better to use a test light rated for the ship’s voltage and see if it lights up when touched to either side of the switches. And just see if the windlass moves when you bridge the contacts that the foot switch should be making. I’ve seen some Lewmar foot switches that seem to have some electronics built into them, so they’ve got more to them than just two contacts and a copper bar.

  60. jane towler

    we have a Lewmar windlass it has a switch in the cockpit that works, a remote in the anchor locker that works but the two foot pedals don’t work, I have taken them apart and cleaned the contacts but no go. I put a voltage meter on first the remote and it reads 13.7 same as the Xantrax. When I put the meter on the up switch I get 40.3 and when I put the meter on the down I get 194.1 what am I doing wrong

  61. Susan

    When ever the anchor windlass is activated a loud noise comes from the stereo speakers when stereo is on. I have had an electrician look at and replaced the AMP in stereo but can not find the problem. Ever heard of this? What could it be?

  62. Clark

    Well, no, but I’d guess the don’t make their own electric motors, so if you can look at the motor itself and get a manufacturer and a model number, you can probably get them from a motor supply place instead of from Lofrans.

  63. Clark Beek

    Hi Michael, You say a little shaking in the electric motor shaft? That sounds like you’re getting current to the electric motor, but the motor isn’t turning. The fact that you’re seeing/hearing some vibration means (maybe/probably) that either the motor is locked (it’s stuck and trying to move) or maybe has a stuck brush or two: Usually simple DC motors have brushes (which are actually solid and not very brush-like) that contact the commutator, on the end of the rotor. I’m not sure how many brushes can be stuck and still get noise/vibration from the motor without any real oomph, but that’s a simple thing to check with a preliminary disassembly of the motor. Or just pull the motor and take it to a motor shop, where they can check it out and make quick work of it. Before any of that I’d try touching the power leads from the battery directly to the leads/posts on the motor and see what happens. Keep in mind you’ve got a motor that might be locked or have something wrong with it, so expect sparks (wear glasses) and be ready to abandon the effort quickly.

  64. Michael Warlick

    Hi Clark, I disassembled my solenoid that operates my Seawolf windlass. It was mounted inside at the front of the V-Berth so corrosion does not seem to be an issue here. The contacts are clean. I see only where they have been arcing clean as they made contact. So with the clicking sound coming from the solenoid and little movement from the motor except for a little shaking in the electric motor shaft, what would be next on the list to check? Thanks

  65. Clark Beek

    Hi Keith, It’s hard to say what’s going on without seeing it. The up/down control circuit on the control box should be fairly low amperage (your model probably calls for a 3-Amp fuse) so 14-16 AWG wire (1.5-2mm) should be big enough, and it’s odd that only the ground wire gets hot. As every electrical instructional begins, “ensure that all connections are clean and secure” so I’d disassemble all the connections and scrub them with a wire brush, then reassemble. I suppose a bad connection somewhere on that ground wire could cause only it to get hot. I assume there’s a fuse on the positive side, yet it’s not blowing?

  66. Keith Francica

    Hi, I have a problem with my Lofrans solenoid that takes 4 Main contacts + the 3 small contacts for the control…
    Motor seems to work well and the switching of the solenoid as well.
    The only problem I have is that I have 3 new wires of 1.5mm squared/ approximately 15AWG from the solenoid to the toggle switch and when I operate the motor in any direction the ground 15awg wire gets hot after only 5 seconds of operation.
    Is the wire so thin ?
    but it was the same gauge before I overhauled this boat….
    (wires in solenoid make contact with sliders like the ones in your pictures)
    Distance from solenoid to toggle switch is 4 metres.

  67. Clark Beek

    Hi James, Definitely, as long as it’s 12-volt. Remember it’s a high amperage motor, so when you touch the cables to the battery there will be sparks! To be safe, you should have a fuse or breaker in the circuit too.

  68. James Herbertson

    I recently purchased a lofrans tigres 1500 at auction. I’d like to test the motor before fitting it. Is it possible to test it in the garage using a car battery to power it?


  69. Carlos M.

    I have a windlass control box IMTRA, 12v, 500-1500 watts, 3 terminals. I tried the above procedure step by step, still the windlass will not move, the control box is just doing the clicking sound. Any other ideas???


  70. Clark Beek

    Hard to tell what’s going on there without seeing it, but sounds like you don’t have power at all up to the bow. Trace it all the way back to the batteries. Once you get juice to the big wires up to the bow you can touch them directly to the windlass motor cables to see if the windlass is alive…then it’s back to troubleshooting switches, solenoids, connections, et al.

  71. Mike Crouse

    I have an older windlass electric anchor and it is now dead. The foot pedal nor the switch in the cabin make it work. There is no electrical clicking heard coming from the solenoids. I have put a tester on the high voltage line and ground on solenoid and there is no power there at all. I have checked the cable from front to back looking for a fuse or in line breaker switch and have not been able to find anything that resembles a breaker.

  72. Michael Roberts

    Thank you for this invaluable information.

    Two hours ago we were seriously jammed in a bay in the Cyclades with a gale forecast tomorrow.

    Encouraged by you we now have a reliably working solenoid and we can get to a safe anchorage.

    Thanks again

  73. John T

    This is called just in time publishing. During the survey of my GS 50 it was noted that when attempting to activate the windless only a click was heard. That led me to believe it was a connection someplace. I will be back to the boat in a couple weeks and will start there. Previous owner says it has not been used in a few years.

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