Wits' End Toyota JDM Winch Rebuild Project


PART ONE: The Winch

We've been having some fun lately with all sorts of winches. But to date we've never done an OEM Toyota electric winch rebuild. This customer's truck finally gave us the opportunity to totally nerd out on the winch. This is the winch that typically came with JDM 81 Series Land Cruisers found on trucks in Japan. The ones we see now are typically past the Federal 25 year rule or were previously Canadian vehicles. With the age of these right hand driver diesels we expect to see more come stateside.

There were two types of winches that Toyota produced for the Land Cruiser, either the PTO which which is all mechanical or the electric winch driven off an electric gear reduction motor. On this JDM 81 Series its the electric variant. This truck arrived to us with the winch never working for the customer. Quick initial test did not bode well.

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The first thing to take a look at was what was under the plastic cover. Once off you get access to the LOCK/FREE spool handle, which is missing, and the 6-pin connector for the Toyota Winch Controller. For reference, 3600Kg is 7936lb so we can call it an 8000lb winch for simplicity. Should be plenty of power for the majority of extractions.

One of the things that was noticed was that the steel cable had some looping up top which looks like it wasn't spooled in properly after its last use. This is a piece of evidence that would lead us to its ultimate failure. 

First step is getting the winch off the truck. This is pretty straight forward. A couple of bolts and the front bumper comes off in one piece. From there the Winch Support Front Crossmember needed to come off. Also no biggie, just a few bolts. Once its off you can get a clear view of the entire winch assembly. A couple of bolts removed from the bottom, plus a few battery cables removed from the solenoids, and the winch comes out. Its a pretty heavy beast. Once its reassembled it'll get weighed with the new winch rope.

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With the winch out of the truck we can start inspecting it for damage and start the disassembly to see where else the damage can be found. The winch motor itself kinds looks like an oversize gear reduction starter motor with two solenoids. Personally I've never see this type of motor design before so its exciting to get to see it up close and personal. We will do further inspections on this later. For now we just want to test the circuits while we have it on the bench to test. The LOCK/FREE spool handle is stuck solid. That'll take some work to get working.

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 First thing is first, we ran through the circuits to see if the controller even worked. It seems the controller has some funkiness on one circuit so we will deal with that later. But the controller itself seems to be ok. Its cracked in a few places but that can be fixed as well. But generally we were happy to see the controller light up.


Once power is confirmed it was time to start getting things torn apart to figure out the damage. It didn't take long.

PART TWO: The Tear Down

The main motor is only held in by three bolts so simple to remove. The shaft engagement is a surprising but typical Lovejoy type connection. Its just a machined shaft into a matching slot on the motor. The thing that was unusual is the total engagement was only about 1/8" but there is nearly 3/4" available. Odd, why was it only getting a small amount of engagement? This caused the shaft to be rounded and the slot to be damaged at the coupling edge. Something caused the motor and drum to be pulled away from each other. Hmm...

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Removing the drum from the Winch End Bracket Sub-Assembly was just a matter of prying the drum away from the sub-assembly. All of the rust build up gave it a little trouble but it came loose.

Once apart we found another piece of evidence, the quad seal was broken. Whoops. This would help explain the water intrusion. Then we removed the shim from the clutch side and noticed another piece of damage evidence. The disc was very damaged and it sits directly next to the seal that was cut. Ol now we know the shim cut into the seal. But what damaged the steel shim?

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PART THREE: The Culprit

Well all the evidence of damage all pointed to this. The winch sub-assembly has plenty of scoring from where the steel cable slipped the drum and landed in between the sub-assembly and the motor. There was so much torque on the cable as it was spooling in on the wrong side of the drum that it wedged itself into the space it wasn't supposed to be and thus pushed the winch motor about 5/8" out from the drum. This is why the shaft was barely touching the motor slot and why it got rounded out. So the why is solved. Now its time to finish tearing down and getting to rebuilding the winch and making it better.


PART FOUR: More Tear Down

Now that the drum and motor are separated its time to go through the clutch and the planetary gears. The clutch is a very interesting set up. It uses a small clutch pack and a camming lobe bearing stop that acts as the brake for the winch. You can only go one way with how it turns. If there is ANY slippage on the shaft then the camming bearing will stop it immediately. Its a very slick design.

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Yeah this isn't looking good at any angle. Everything that could go wrong did go wrong. The back plate for the planetary gears was cracked open and the only fluid inside was water and rust. If there was any ATF in this winch's life, it exited years ago.

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PART FIVE: Time for a Bath, Acid Bath

There are a few ways to remove rust. Some are more reliable than others and some quicker than others. Due to the amount of rust on ALL of the steel parts we opted for Muriatic Acid (36% Hydrochloric Acid. Each piece was wrapped in a steel wire to be able to lift from the plastic bucket. Muriatic Acid was poured into the bucket VERY slowly to prevent splashing and only enough to cover the parts. We only needed to give it MAYBE five minutes before it was taken out of the bucket and quickly dunked into a bucket of water and then flushed.

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From there the washed parts were immediately dunked in a bath of fresh ATF (transmission fluid) and then scrubbed further with various brushes and wire wheels. The sucky thing is there is a lot of galvanic corrosion. Kinda of a bummer to see where it absolutely wasn't expected. Likely it doesn't seem like there is damage on any surfaces that are interacting with each other. But we will know more once it gets reassembled.

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All of the aluminum chunks of the winch is going out to get vapor honed so that we have some cleaned up pieces to work with. It will help get the rust out of the inside of these pieces.

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All the ATF soaking will prevent any rust flashing. But lots of sanding and wire wheeling was needed to get these pieces not look so angry. Hmm

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Now the shaft assembly is pre-assembled so that we don't lose track of how it all goes back together.


Side note: Had to order up some shims, some o-rings and a seal. The parts needed were:

• (2) Ring, Winch 38187-60170
• (1) Spacer, Winch Drum, No.1 38151-60170 (NLA)
(1) Spacer, Winch Drum, No.1 38151-60171
• (1) Seal, Gear Case Cover Oil 38186-60170
• (1) Shoe, Brake 38231-60170
• (1) Gasket, Winch Gear Case Cover 38121-60170

Now its a waiting game. Waiting for vapor honing. Waiting for OEM parts. Time to wait...

Success! The items needed finally arrived from Japan after a little wait:


PART SIX: Time for Reassembly

All of the aluminum cases, winch brackets and steel drum were sent out to be vapor honed. After a week they made their way back and wow what a huge improvement on there pieces. They almost look new.

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The only issue, before assembly, was to get the disc-ends of the drum to be straight. Since the steel cable skipped the drum and landed in between the drum and the motor, the drum-disc end was warped. A little bit of massaging on both sides with the hydraulic bench press took care of making sure both ends were perfectly flat.

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A quick dry fit to make sure everything goes together smoothly.


PART SIX: Replacing the bronze bearings

Do to the damage the winch experienced, the drum was tweaked. And in doing so it ruined one of the bronze bearings and the left the other will little be be happy about as well. YOu can see grooving on both bearings but one side in particular was really bad. More bad news? They ONLY come with the drum. Oh...and Toyota has discontinued the drum a long time ago. Time to get creative. 

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The first step was to remove the old bearings. Nothing a powered chisel can't solve. Something interesting about the bearing, its not solid bronze. Its actually a bronze coated steel bearing. Oh well, the replacement will be bronze and it'll be fine. You can see the big chunk of bronze that the new bearings will be cut from. Lucky enough to have a perfect sized piece.

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 And now the finished product. Brand spanking new custom machined bronze bushings for the winch drum. Folks, this is dedication.


Test fit on both sides of the I.D. to make sure everything fits and holy cow! Its bitchin'! Totally smooth slip fit.


Finally it was quick work to press the new bearings in.


PART SEVEN: Machining the Housing

We had the elephant in the room to still contend with. The bearings were one issue but the really problem was the fact that the motor and the driveshaft were ruined when the cable separated the drum and motor and caused the two to grind down to a nub. Not it won't interconnect properly. After looking it over there was really only one option since the drive shaft is no longer available from Toyota. We needed to machine the motor's end plate to get the motor closer to the drum. Then we needed to flush cut the shaft so that it will fit in the groove on the motor. This required putting it in the lathe and turning some cuts. As it turned out, it worked like a freaking charm!!!

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PART EIGHT: Assembling the Pieces

Now that everything has been vapor honed it was time to tape off the important bits and paint the exposed aluminum bits. Came out great. Couldn't be happier.

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One the drum, just in front of the bearings, is the drum journal where the X-RING seal rides along. The issue here was that there was some minor pitting that would absolutely caused leaking. The decision was made to use epoxy on this surface to build up the pits. One dried it was carefully ground down smooth. Another winner.

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The winch's clutch pack gets assembled into the modified driveshaft.

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As you can see, the motor now sits closer to the mounting bracket after the machining.


The roller bearing gets reused because it was perfectly fine. Then the c-clip is installed.

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The clutch pack and driveshaft is then inserted into the motor.

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Now onto the planetary gear side. First step is to install the winch lcok/unlock handle. Nothing can go in unless this goes in first. Once the handle is in the clutch fork is installed. This is what moves the gear in/out to lock/unlock the drum.

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Not its just a matter of reinstalling the planetary gear pack. All three of these gears have been sitting in ATF for about a month while everything was getting assembled and ordered. It took some time to get these gears all smooth running again but they all eventually did. There are three gear sets that really only go in one way. All three stack onto each other and then the fina; drive gear is installed.

A new OEM gasket goes in and the freshly painted cover goes on with freshly painted hardware. The drive gear for the drum is installed and then the drum itself is then dropped in on top of it.

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The last step is putting all three pieces together and giving everything a quick spin. Spins super smooth!!


Side view of the final assembly. You will notice the location of the fill plug. It must be set at either 3 or 9 o'clock because you are supposed to fill in the gearbox with Dextron ATF until it starts running out. And thats what we did.


Damn it looks good!


PART NINE: The wired remote​

Did a bunch of testing on the remote and it mostly working fine. But there was a huge section of it that was cut into for *I think* a repair and it was just a bunch of taped splices. It was horrible. Everything was stripped away and new splices crimped and individually heat shrunk before the entire cut section was heatshrunk using adhesive lined heatshrink. Now that it was done and tested again it was time to repair the cracked handle. The main reason to repair the handle is because if it gets wet or dropped in the mud/water then this remote is toast.

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The handle was opened up to expose the circuit board, the crack and the damaged or-ring. The circuit board was cleaned up using an electronic parts cleaning spray and set aside. The o-ring was trashed but Toyota doesn't have the o-rings available any longer. As it turned out the 1FZ oil pump o-ring is the exact same O.D. and type as the winch handle o-ring. The o-ring was spliced in place and RTV'd to join them.

At this point it was time to get the handle sealed and repaired. A two part ABS epoxy was used to bond and seal everything together and put into a clamp to let it dry overnight. It was then all re-assembled back together and its working perfectly. But before it was put back together, the wiring was used to test the winch in place after it was installed in the truck.


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 The winch's remote connector was mostly fine so the only thing done to it was to clean up the cover and chain. The bracket was removed, cleaned up and then painted. The rusted mounting hardware was replaced by new metric stainless hardware.


 The winch was installed and all mounting bolts aligned the way we hoped. The winch plate was cleaned up and painted using Eastwood Satin chassis paint. Love this stuff. The winch plate was installed along with the new Factor 55 offset fairlead. With everything installed it was time to test the winch using the repaired winch remote.

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The 75ft 7/16" synthetic rope from Yankum Ropes arrived so it was time to install that.

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PART TEN: The winch handle​

One of the two last pieces of the winch puzzle was the winch handle, there wasn't one. I had a customer send me a photo of the one he had. That was all the starting point I needed. It then made sense why those formed holders were in the back of the winch cover. So with the winch's locking handle off the winch, I was able to start the hunt. Turns out Toyota doesn't make replacements any longer and it seemed most people I asked was also missing the handle. After a few trial 3D prints it was time to start making the final piece in aluminum.

BTW, you can now purchase these machined handles here: Toyota JDM Electric Winch Machined Handle Replacement

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The aluminum CNC'd handles were machined and send to anodize. As soon as they arrived it was test fit then etched. The OEM version just says WINCH but that was boring. Since this was a JDM81 with Japanese writing everywhere, I decided to etch it in Japanese instead. Came out great. Because I felt like being a dork, I made a little case for the customer instead of him sticking it on the winch cover.

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PART ELEVEN: The winch handle cap​

The FINAL piece of the puzzle, the winch handle cap. The winch handle doesn't/can't stay on the winch lock unless the winch cover is not put back into place. But most are going to be rocking the winch cover so that means the winch handle gets removed and gets stored. But this leaves an exposed thread on the winch lock handle. Toyota considered this by supplying a plastic, tethered, threaded cap. This tether is linked to a ring on the winch lock handle.

The problem, it seems, most OEM winches seem to either be missing this piece all together or if they do have one its in rough shape. So I decided to make a new one out of aluminum instead and have it anodized. This started by reverse engineering what Toyota did. We got very close but we did have to take some liberties since I REALLY didn't feel like machining a custom circlip. So instead just used what was available off the shelf. Luckliy at least one of the rings was found as a dead on match and that was just doubled up. Also found was a dead ringer for the OEM chain. Things are looking up especially once the Solidworks was fired up.

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The 3D printing step was skipped altogether since this piece was pretty direct so instead a milled piece was cut from 6061 aluminum. It doesn't have the identical knurl but I was ok with that. I wanted something a little more unique. So now comparing the OEM vs the Wits' End version. I think it came out absolutely awesome!

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