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Postby Guest » Wed May 09, 2001 1:53 pm

I sail a 1994 model and have recently had trouble with sticking pawls on my Harken primary winches. After trying several obvious solutions (cleaning, greasing, oiling, replacing springs & pawls, etc.) I discovered that the (upper) stainless pawls seem to have slightly worn down the bottom of the depression where they sit in the aluminum drum. Although slight, this "sinkage" is enough to cause the pawls to stick. I temporarily solved the problem by placing split ball bearings (whole bearing was too tall) underneath the pawls to raise them slightly. This works well until the bearing eventually crushes into dust, and is obviously only a temporary fix. Harken claims never to have heard of this problem and offered to sell me new drums (not cheap!). Has anyone else encountered (and hopefully solved) this problem?

Postby Guest » Wed May 09, 2001 9:13 pm


I also have a 1994 J/80 (hull#70) whose winches had a similar problem. The pawls stuck on the sockets of both winches, but the "sticking pattern" alternated. This caused only one of the pawls to stop the ratchet head which prevents the drum from slipping while the other pawl did nothing cause it was stuck. The force of only one pawl preventing the winch from slipping deformed the socket to the point that the pawls would slip out of the socket with the winch assembled. I tried to fill the socket and drill another borehole to no avail. When I called Harken to order new drums the told me that they had run out of replacement drums and that the new 32.2A winch drums could fit my current winches with some type of "adapter". The cost of both drums with adapters was pretty close to the price of two new winches so I ended up buying a couple of winches. I learned my lesson and every couple of weeks I open up the winches and check that the pawls are OK and lubricate them. Also be aware that the metal dust that your split bearings turn to could further damage the gear mechanism and turn your drum problem into a bigger problem.

Postby Guest » Thu May 10, 2001 8:54 am

Both my Harken B32A winches failed at the end of last year within a month of each other and Harken were advised of this so it shouldn't be news to them. The stainless steel pawls ($cheap) finally deformed the socket in the aluminium drum ($expensive) where they sit. Two drums later I'm back in business. We service our winches regularly but are dissappointed that sticky pawls can trash the drum so easily. I'm not an engineer but I would have thought that the s/steel pawl should sit in a s/steel housing sleeved into the aluminium drum, either that or use a pawl that destructs before the drum.
J/24 Sadiiqi

Postby Guest » Thu May 10, 2001 2:44 pm

I AM an engineer and posed this same thought to Harken (that making the expensive drum the sacrificial part seemed like a poor design), but they had no real explanation or proposed solution.

Postby Guest » Tue May 22, 2001 11:28 am


I have seen J/80's where the primary winches have been replaced by Anderson stainless steel winches of the same ratio as the Harkens. The Andersons weigh more to be sure but are otherwise bulletproof and should be allowed under class rules (see the "Optional Equipment" section). If you are stuck for the cost of new drums and plan to keep the boat any length of time it might make more sense to bite the bullet and change.


Postby Guest » Wed Oct 10, 2001 12:09 pm

I'm thinking of replacing my primary winches with self-tailing ones. Any recommendations or criticisms on this?

Postby Guest » Thu Nov 01, 2001 4:33 pm

Self tailers are fine if your short on crew. During fine tune, it's more difficult to release if you have over sheeted.

Postby Guest » Mon Jan 07, 2002 12:32 am

I managed to do the bonehead thing at the dock today while servicing my winches, and watched the rathcet head and screw from the starboard Harken B32.2A bounce over the gunnel and disappear into 100 ft. of water. Does anyone know if replacement parts are available? I've emailed both Harken and West Marine, but thought I should ask here given all of the extensive commentary on these winches.

Postby Guest » Mon Jan 07, 2002 4:00 am

I'm sure that Harken can supply the necessary parts; however, I thought I'd relate a similar tale from a few years ago. I was finishing servicing my winches the day before a big local regatta with the boat on the trailer. Bonehead (ME) bounces one of the roller bearing rings off the deck and onto the parking lot. The plastic rings cracked and I thought I was S.O.L. West did not have the winch model in stock, but BOAT US had a display model. The assistant manager used to race J/22's and he helped me tear down their display model to scavenge the necessary part from. BOAT US didn't have a part number for the bearing, so with the help of his regional manager they created a part number with a reasonable price and invoiced it as a special order item. An hour later, I was ready ro race. Otherwise, it would have been time to beg, borrow, or steal from another boat. You might try a to arrange a similar deal with your local chandlery.

Postby Guest » Tue Sep 14, 2004 11:39 am

Harken has finally recognized this problem and has redesigned the winches with four pawls instead of two. This helps spread the load and has reduced or eliminated the wear problem. For a limited time, they are offering replacmement drums (including four pawls!) at 40% off list price. This makes the price only $152 per drum, which is pretty reasonable as a long term fix.

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