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Warn Critical Care: It’s Easy To Rebuild Your 8274’s Brake And Free-Spool Actuator

Posted in How To: Suspension Brakes on December 20, 2016
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There are only two items on Warn’s classic model 8274 that require service under normal use: the free-spool actuator (aka “clutch” release) and the brake. The free-spool actuator can freeze up over time from rust and neglect. The brake wears out with use or from using the winch as a snatch strap.

The most critical component from a safety standpoint is the brake assembly. It’s that finned disc assembly on the 8274 that holds the load on the winch drum. It’s also the one component on the winch that gets the most wear. The two small ring-like discs, called friction material, that are sandwiched against the faces of the pawl disc wear out from use, as does the compression spring that maintains that braking force. Because of the brake assembly’s exposed location, it’s also the most susceptible to water intrusion and corrosion. Normal wear, combined with corrosion, will affect not only the braking action but also the operation of the cam mechanism that moves the brake in and out over the brake shaft as the winch is working.

The best way to service the brake assembly is by splitting the 8274 case halves. Warn’s Mike Warrilow showed us the keyhole locking plate (arrow) that keeps the brake shaft and intermediate gear in position. The plate has to be lifted up so the shaft assembly can be slid out the larger portion of the keyhole.

Easy Rebuild

The brake assembly can be rebuilt without disassembling the entire winch by using a traditional wheel puller. Although that sounds like a good route to go, we learned different when we took a well-used 8274 to Warn Industries’ Milwaukie, Oregon, winch service center. Warn Service Technician Mike Warrilow said doing the brake job is far easier if the upper case half is pulled off and the complete brake assembly is pulled out—shaft and all—so it can be worked on using a bench vise.

As we found out, doing a brake job on an old 8274 is easy and very straightforward, paying big safety dividends when the job is done right. Warn offers a complete Brake Service Kit that has everything needed to put the braking force back on the load. The kit costs less than $100, depending on the source.

We also learned that when the winch is incorrectly used as a snatch strap, a common failure is the small end of the brake shaft shearing off. Warrilow said a replacement shaft costs upwards of $120, which should deter anyone from using a winch cable in place of a nylon snatch strap.

Popping loose the brake assembly from the aluminum case required a sharp rap with a rubber mallet while applying light pressure with a crowbar wedged between the brake housing and the winch case.

Free-Spool Repair

This is also the perfect time to service the free-spool, aka clutch assembly. It’s frustrating when you get ready to spool out winch cable only to find the push-pull free-spool release isn’t working. No winch owner likes having to power out cable, especially if time is of the essence.

A bad free-spool actuator is a very common problem on older 8274s that are left unused for months (or years) while sitting out in the elements. The push-pull lever isn’t very well sealed, so corrosion builds up between the shaft and the housing to the point where the shaft rusts in place, usually in the locked position. Warn doesn’t offer individual parts to rebuild the free-spool/clutch release mechanism. Instead, you have to buy the unit as a whole, which costs about $90. The good news is we’ll show you how to make sure that doesn’t happen or, if it has, a trick on how to make it function again without spending a dime.

The next item Warrilow removed was the ratchet pawl. A 7/16-inch socket is all that’s needed. When you do this, note how the ratchet teeth and locking pawl lever make contact so you can put it back together the same way.
The brake assembly has a spring inside so there’s a lot of internal pressure being exerted on the outside brake housing. Warrilow used a 6-inch C-clamp to hold the housing together. He then placed the assembly in a bench vise and gave a hard rap on the shaft with the mallet, which helped break loose the corrosion around the housing and snap-ring.
Once the shaft was out, the C-clamp was eased off to let the brake case halves slowly separate. Caution: If you don’t have the case halves clamped together, they will fly apart- along, with 21 ball bearings.
Warn’s Brake Service Kit (PN 8409) includes new friction material, hub, steel balls, snap ring, bushing, seal and O-ring. We cleaned up the old inner disc but put in a new ratchet so the critical braking surfaces were new.
The shaft on our winch had signs of rust and water submersion, so we took it to the wire wheel so the shaft was clean and the pinion and cam worked smoothly. Then we put it back together using the new bushing, O-ring, and lip seal. The seal has to be carefully installed so it doesn’t cut on the sharp edge of the bushing that goes over the splined cam.
Warrilow said it’s important to clean the surface of the inboard brake disc. A little rust on the surface like ours isn’t a big deal. We could have replaced the disc but didn’t think it was worth the $60. When that’s done, the inner disc goes on the shaft, followed by the first friction material.
We did opt for a new pawl disc (PN 7601), which runs about $70. This provides half the winch’s braking surface, so spending the money is worth the cost of added safety and performance. It’s also important to get the orientation of the pawl notches correct—the catch edge of the notches on the left side of the ratchet should point away from you as shown in the photo.
Warrilow used a light dab of mil-spec Shell Darina SD 1 grease around the inner edge of the ratchet to hold the steel balls in place. The kit also came with a heavier spring and a hub with recessed face to hold the spring in position.
The second friction material is laid on top of the outer face of the pawl disc. Make sure your hands are clean so no grease gets on these discs.
Another little trick Warrilow showed us is using the old tapered keys to drive the new ones back in place until they are flush with the surface. The tapered keys lock the brake assembly to the shaft.
One of the most important elements of reassembly is making sure the snap-ring that holds the brake assembly together is positioned so the shinier flat side is facing out. Warrilow said he’s seen more than one rebuilt brake assembly fly apart under load because the snap ring was installed upside down.
The easy way to get the outer brake housing compressed so the snap-ring can be installed is using a C-clamp. Good snap-ring pliers and having the assembly in a bench vise are a must for this step in an 8274 rebuild.
There was an odd cardboard split-ring in the rebuild kit. Its purpose is to help push the oil seal flush into the housing when the shaft/brake assembly is reinstalled. After the brake assembly’s shaft is repositioned in the case, a hard rubber mallet is used to gently tap the shaft so the assembly pushes the cardboard spacer tight against the case. Once the shaft is in place, the cardboard spacer is removed and the locking plate reinstalled.
We then reinstalled the top half of the case, using silicone sealant around the mating surfaces. Did you notice how we held the case in place with a heavy spring clamp while we put in the bolts? That was a handy trick Warrilow showed us.
Our last step in the brake job was reinstalling the pawl. Warrilow said the pawl spring should “rest” between the three o’clock and six o’clock positon and then be rotated one full turn clockwise for proper tension against the ratchet.
To repair/service the free-spool actuator, the motor case has to be removed. We used a screwdriver behind the free-spool clutch plate to slide the assembly out about a 1/4-inch. Then we rotated the cover/knob counter-clockwise so the shaft was at the six o’clock position. This placed the U-shaped clutch arm under the pinion gear (it attaches to the winch motor’s armature) so the gear doesn’t fall down into the lower case.
Rebuild tip for a frozen actuator: Put a good dose of Kano Kroil penetrating lubricant on both the knob end of the shaft and the shift-fork end and let it soak for about 20 minutes before trying to force the shaft to move in/out.
After the penetrating oil did its job, we unscrewed the knob and carefully pushed the shaft out the backside of the cover. It’s important to remember there is a tiny ball bearing and detent spring in the housing under the shaft. Be very careful to not lose either as there are no replacements.
We used light emery cloth to clean up the shaft and then put a dab of waterproof grease on both it and in the ball spring chamber. The secret to reassembling the shaft into the cover is using a small flat screwdriver to help push the ball/detent spring down into its chamber while sliding the shaft over the ball. This little trick made an otherwise frustrating assembly easy.
Warrilow reinstalled the clutch assembly the opposite of how it was removed. He spread silicone sealant on the cover, then placed the pinion gear in the fork and rotated the cover so the assembly went in at the six o’clock position and slid over the armature shaft. Doing so will keep the pinion gear from falling down into the lower case. Then, the cover is rotated clockwise until the screw holes lined up.


Warn Industries
Clackamas, OR 97015

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