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Inspect and clean deck hardware
Deck hardware is an investment. Buy the good stuff, then take care of it, and it can last for decades. Winch and hardware maintenance is absolutely a DIY project, and it’s not a bad idea to get in there so if something ever does break you’re familiarized with the equipment before it’s crunch time.
It’s not a bad idea to do annual winch maintenance, but it’s a requirement if the winch is making a strange sound or doesn’t seem to turn freely, according to the experts at Harken.
The hardest part of servicing a winch is keeping track of all the parts and the way they go back in. One trick that some people employ is to take a box that’s about three times as wide as the winch, cut a hole the size of the winch base and put the box over the winch. This will catch parts before they roll off the deck. As for the order, your smartphone is your friend. Take photos as you go so you can refer back to them if need be, but most manufacturers also have instructions and diagrams on their websites.
Take the winch apart, setting the parts down in the order they are removed, until you get to the inner workings. Check gears for worn teeth and clean everything with a solvent-based solution and a small brush. Regrease (manufacturers sell specific winch grease) and re-oil parts appropriately. Think about replacing the springs and pawls, inexpensive parts that can wreck havoc when they fail.
When you’re finished, reassemble the winch and make sure there are no spare parts.
Other deck hardware should be inspected for cracks, damage or missing mounting hardware, cleaned well with soapy water and dried. A drop of light oil such as McLube One Drop Ball Bearing Oil keeps ball bearings clean and lubricated.