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Budget Winch Rebuild

Posted in How To on January 1, 2012
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The venerable Warn M8274 winch has the fastest line speed of any 12-volt electric winch ever offered yet it is often underrated. Since it has been around the four-wheeling world since 1974 it’s arguably the easiest used winch to get a great deal on when scanning the eBay and Craigslist ads. Many sellers have no idea of its pulling potential. Plenty of these winches have been in use for decades and a version of the M8274 still exists in the Warn product line today. It’s remained mostly unchanged throughout its life, although there have been some minor mechanical revisions. Improved electrical components have been incorporated as well. A simple rebuild can turn what looks like a worn-out and wasted winch into a very useful tool.


Our M8274 that was manufactured in 1982 still worked but was aging and needed some attention. Frequent use, time, and weather had taken quite a toll on the tool. Over the years, it had been exposed to water, mud, and clouds of fine desert dust as it rode on a front bumper.


We decided it was time to tear into this winch for some inspection and perform whatever maintenance it might need. The M8274 teardown and rebuild requires only common hand tools and is fairly straightforward.

We’ve seen some of the worst degradation of internal parts in winches that have somehow allowed water to enter the gearbox. Subsequent contamination of the lubricants can result in internal component rust from moisture and can severely degrade steel parts.

The motor fits snug to the housing but should pop free with a few taps with a soft-faced hammer. Be careful that the armature inside does not fall out as you remove the motor. A Prestolite motor was used on this vintage winch. There are four motor brushes. Ours still had plenty of material remaining and were not chipped or cracked, so they were reused. You can pull the armature out if needed. It can be reinserted by pushing back on the brushes until they clear the edge of the contacts and the armature can be slid back into the motor housing.

You can find an exploded parts diagram in your likely long-gone original Warn manual, along with a parts list. The good news is that you can also find this information for nearly all of Warn’s winches right on the Warn website.

We ordered our parts from Warn Service Parts, a factory authorized service and repair center in Redding, California. The company stocks a large selection of Warn parts and the employees are available by phone to provide information and technical support. You’ll need the serial number from your particular M8274 when ordering. Along with the repair parts and multiple seals, you’ll want six ounces of fresh non-detergent 30W oil for the gearbox. Here are a few tips to get your low-buck diamond in the rough winching right.

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Warn Industries
Clackamas, OR 97015
Warn Service Parts

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