Harken Roller Furler Maintenance

One of the things that can ruin your day is having a roller furler jam during a bout of ugly weather. Like everything else, preventative maintenance might help prevent some disasters. Unfortunately, there isn’t a whole lot of advice out there. I have the install manual for my harken furler and there is one paragraph about maintenance. These units are generally low maintenance, but that doesn’t mean no maintenance. My unit is probably at least 20 years old. This is a harken; yours might come apart differently. Check your manual.

To get the furler off for service, you have to take the tension off the headstay. I used an spare halliard clipped to the forward toerail and using a winch, pulled the masthead forward.

Once the tension is off the forestay you can unclip the furler toggle.

Here’s a pet peeve of mine…people, don’t do this. You only spread the legs of a split pin enough to prevent it from backing out. No more. This kind of thing weakens the pin and makes it a bitch to remove.

This is more than what’s needed!

To access the lube ports, the basket and drum must be removed.  The three screws for the basket are below the unit.

Once the basket is off, you remove the three screws holding the drum to the turnbuckle body

 The inevitable corrosion that comes with using SS screws in aluminum components.

The red discs are the lube ports. W-d40 is all you use.

Two of the three screws were quite corroded and hard to remove. and yet one of them came out clean and easy…

Disconnect the tack of the sail from the tack swivel so you can rotate the swivel by hand and feel how the bearings are doing. They should be smooth and the swivel rotate easily without catching.

Shoot some lube into the ports until it drips out of the bottom of the turnbuckle body. Spin the lower stud and make sure the bearings roll smoothly without roughness or grabbing. This is the crucial, high-load part and problems here must be dealt with. Make sure no bits of old bearing fall out! I would like to replace those old plastic bearings but looking at the harken website (this is a MK1 model), they don’t seem to list any parts for such an old beast.
The question then is do you replace a working unit to prevent problems or wait until you have problems, with it’s associated risk. This unit was built in January 1989 which means it’s certainly paid for itself. i suspect the fact that people don’t sail that often and that we don’t live in the tropics is why it’s still functioning.

Inspect the lower stud and toggle for small cracks, corrosion and other damage. the rust here is superficial and to be expected after so many years of exposure. Of course it does mean the metal is somewhat weakened.

Reattaching the sail. remember to use SS wire to lock the shackle pin in place.

Cleaning the components before reassembly makes everything slip back together more easily. i use SS scratch pads from the grocery as they are far cheaper than the ones the chandlery sells.

Reassemble the drum and basket.

Just in case the furling line is chafing at the hole in the drum (it was), i cut the knot off. Removing the furling line makes working with the furler easier anyway.

Make sure the drum opening is facing the right way ( so the furling line won’t chafe on the edges of the opening). Once the headstay is reinstalled wrap the line back around the drum. you want several wraps to remain around the drum when the sail is fully furled. The furling line shouldn’t pull directly on the knot as the edge of the metal where the line exits from the drum is fairly sharp.

Feed the furling line through the drum and and tie off.

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4 thoughts on “Harken Roller Furler Maintenance

  1. Nathaniel,

    Came across ‘Loose Moorings’ in a search for info on my old Harken 0-288 furler…thanks for the great posting. It was extremely helpful. Now I can look over the rest of ‘Loose Moorings’ for more nuggets of info!

    Steve B.
    Quickstep 21 (1989)

  2. Thanks for the excellent pictorial. I checked with Harken about parts availability before retrofitting a MKI (the only all metal generation) to my boat in the spring of 2011 – everything is available. I believe you have to return the swivels to Harken and they install new ball bearings. They were kind enough to scan an original in-house copy of the parts list . . . several hand written notes and dog-eared – and no ball bearings listed there either.

  3. Dear Nathaniel
    I write for the UK magazine Yachting Monthly. I’m doing a piece on surveying your rig and dealing with any on-going maintenance. I thought your page on servicing the Harken Furling gear was really helpful. I have one myself on a boat I’ve just acquired and it had all I needed. I’ll be giving you a mention in my article as an example of what a great, friendly place the internet can be.

    • THanks! Point them here, I hope, although I haven’t posted a boat article for awhile as I’m no longer living aboard and can’t go sailing cause a friend is squatting in her. I did get an article published in Pacific Yachting in January of this year. Several years ago I also had one published in Yachting monthly.

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