How I bought an $1800 Warn winch for $400!

ByWes WhitworthFebruary 20, 2020
How I bought an $1800 Warn winch for $400!

Gift horses and all that…here’s the story of how I bought an $1800 Warn winch for just $400 because the owner said it was stuffed…and I didn’t believe him.

It’s no secret that I like to tinker with stuff in the shed. So sit back and let me tell you a quick story about how I scored an $1800 Warn winch for just $400 – there’s some, ahem, good advice in here for those players who, like me, reckon there’s nothing that can’t be fixed.

It all started, as most things do, browsing Facebook marketplace for random crap to tinker with in the shed (anyone remember when that used to be the Trading Post – Ed)… I’m always on the lookout for anything that has ‘issues’ or ‘doesn’t work’ in the title. That’s how I stumbled upon a 12-month-old Warn Magnum 12K-S winch (12,000lb with synthetic rope). Bloke wanted $500 for it, and it allegedly had a ‘shot motor’. Now I’ve seen more than my fair share of winches that fail and that’s usually due to lack of maintenance, rather than from abuse or cooking them, so I thought it might be worth picking up. Worst case, I would get a set of solenoids out of it, the rope, and maybe even be able to Frankenstein the gearbox on to something else down the track.

So I had a yarn with the fella that owned it, and he explained it’d never been used in anger, right up until the day he went to, and it wouldn’t run. It’d sat on his bullbar for more than 12 months, and had never been used aside from when he first got it to familiarise himself with how it worked. Luckily when he needed it, he had a mate with him who pulled him out, but that didn’t solve a 12-month old winch not working. So he took it back to where he bought it from and, as you can understand, nearly threw it at them from the front door.

200219 Winch Rebuild (5 Of 6)

After a little investigation, the winch was removed from his 4X4 and bench striped. I won’t go into too much detail here, suffice to say it was determined the winch had never been rolled in and out every month (like you’re supposed to), and that lack of maintenance was not covered under warranty. The long and the short of it was that they wouldn’t repair it for him, due to the fact they could never warrant their work, because of the water damage inside of it – corrosion is one of those things that you’ll never ever be able to completely clean out, and despite your best efforts the winch could fail again at any point. So old mate was sold into a new, different branded winch, with strict instructions to roll it out and back in every month, and keep maintenance up to it – lest he have the same thing happen to this new winch.

This is where the story gets interesting. I ended up offering this bloke $400 which he happily accepted and got my hands on what looked like a brand-spanking-new Warn Magnum 12K-S winch with the only overt sign something was wrong being rusty connection poles on the motor housing. I got it home, and pulled it down finding exactly what I expected. The little retainer springs that hold the brushes against the commutator of the stator (which provides the rotating magnetic field for the rotating armature) in the motor had rusted out and broken, and the stator and iron plates were corroded to buggery.

200219 Winch Rebuild (3 Of 6)

After grabbing a set of springs out of an old starter motor that’d died and with a little bit of persuasion (read: grunting and swearing), I managed to get them to line up and bend the right way, to hold the brushes in where they should be. Following that, I spent an hour with some emery paper, contact cleaner, and a new 6201NRC3 end bearing for the stator, and the little jigger sprang to life. All of a sudden I had an all but brand spanking new winch, for next to nothing. But, as with most things that happen in my shed, it’s not quite that simple.

200219 Winch Rebuild (4 Of 6)

See, despite cleaning the stator, housings, brushes, bearings, springs and everything else in the motor end of the winch, there is always the chance that this could fail again on me, at just about anytime. Despite running the rope in and out every month, there’s just no way of knowing if the inside of the stator is damaged, and the only way to be certain is to replace the motor. That’s the reason why it was never warranted originally, and why it couldn’t be repaired for the bloke; It was more cost-effective for him to sell the winch as is, and buy a new one. End of the day, the new motor will cost me about $650, which still makes this a pretty cheap winch at $1050 for a Warn Magnum 12K-S with synthetic rope.

200219 Winch Rebuild (6 Of 6)

I guess the point to this yarn, aside from you never know what you can fix just tinkering in the shed, is to stop throwing stuff away. We’ve become by and large a throw-away society. People don’t tinker with stuff in their sheds anymore, it’s just easier to throw it in the bin, and get a new one. The internet is a rather amazing place these days, with videos and write ups on just about anything you could want. Next time you’ve got something on the fritz, before you throw it in the bin, it might be worth looking into whether it can be fixed or not first.