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Rebuilding Saves Money

Last cruising season while enjoying the warm tantalizing waters of Fiji, you may recall we had some electrical difficulties with our windlass motor and engine starter.  

I had saved the defective windlass motor with thoughts of possibly rebuilding it.  A few weeks ago Jilly alerted me to a cruiser advertisement of a used Lighthouse windlass motor and parts for sale in the Opua area which is about an hour north of Whangerie.  We made contact with Gary Slidell and eventually made a day trip up to Opua to have a closer look at the used motor.  

We met with Gary and I examined the motor which had been taken apart.  The magnets were still attached and in place inside the cylindrical motor housing.  The end caps and the brush assembly although covered in carbon dust all appeared to be in serviceable condition.  The armature, windings and commutator appeared to be in good condition as well.  Gary only wanted $89 USD for the unassembled, used motor.  He, in fact, sweetened the deal by offering a chain gypsy and a guarantee that if the motor didn’t work once I got it back together, he would provide a full refund.  I figured I had nothing to lose except my time.  

A few days later back in Whangarei, I decided to begin tackling the motor restoration.  One of the long skinny bolts that holds the case together had broken off in one of the end caps.  The first order of business was to get some new bearings, an end cap seal and a new long, skinny case bolt.  Here in Whangarei is a business called Donovans, a place where you can get or order just about anything needed to rebuild electric motors.  This is where I obtained the bearings, seals and some treaded stock and nuts that matched the tread pattern of the damaged end cap.  Next I took the end cap and treaded stock to a local machine shop to have them extract the end bearing, broken machine screw, cut the treaded stock and weld the nuts onto the rods to make new long, skinny case bolts. 

Back at Dazzler I cleaned up the brush assembly, case and other end caps.  Everything was starting to look like a clean motor that might return to life.  The armature and commutator were inspected and found to be in good order.  I did take it to the machine shop to have it turned on a lathe to clean up the surface of the commutator.

Once everything was back from the machine shop it was time to start to get it back together.  First I wanted to give it some fresh paint.  The exterior surfaces were all prepared, primed and finished with a top coat. 

The next day after letting the paint dry, I installed the new bearings and seal and began the reassembly process.  Both end cap joints were slathered with silicone sealant to help keep out water.  Everything looked proper and I didn’t have any parts left over which is always a bonus. The Kevlar coating was then replaced with the aid of a good contact cement.  Now it was time to apply a 12 volt power source and see what happens.  Jilly provided the drum roll and Bam!  It worked both forward and reverse.  Dazzler once again has a replacement windlass motor.  

There are those that might say why not just buy a new motor?  The company address for Lighthouse Manufacturing is in Riverside, California.  The cost of a new replacement motor is approximately $1,200 USD and then there is the shipping of a very heavy electric motor to New Zealand.  I hate to think what that may cost.  Obviously, if we had no other options we would have ordered a new motor. 

All in the cost of rebuilding this used motor in US dollars.

As you can see a working motor at a fraction of the cost of a new motor and it leaves money left over for the next project.  Sometimes rebuilding something can be worthwhile.  This was the first time I have ever rebuilt an electric motor.  Thank goodness for the internet and the plethora of “how to” videos and other valuable information at your finger tips.  As I have said before, “If it’s already broken or not working, You can’t hurt it any more.”  Besides I had a return refund waiting for me if it didn’t work.  LOL  Trying to fix something not working is something I believe in and have employed many times in fixing other issues on Dazzler.  The worst case scenario would be buying and shipping a new motor from the States.  The best case scenario is we saved some money and I learned a new skill of rebuilding an electric motor.  The satisfaction of a “can do” attitude….Priceless!

By the way, the old motor that had stopped working in Fiji would have required a $650 USD rewind on top of new bearings and new brushes.  This motor is identical to the replacement motor currently on the windlass.  I decided to cannibalize some of the parts and save them for a rainy day down the road.  You never know what can happen in Water World and what is useful until you need it and seashells and coconut husks won’t work.  LOL

Until the next time this old man writes another article, stay healthy my friends with fair winds, following seas. 

Cheers!

Captain Dan

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