How-to: Replacing Harken Electric Winch Button Covers

Deale, MD – The afternoon is drizzly with occasional gusts in the high teens, as we keep a watchful eye as Hurricane Florence floods parts of North Carolina…feeling for those living in areas we navigated through on the ICW just over a year ago.

Before: new rubber button cover next to worn, degraded cover.

The rain is a good prompt for writing, hence this “how to” on replacing degraded rubber buttons on a Harken electric winch.

When I tackled the task last Saturday, I assumed it would be quick and easy (ha!), that all I’d need to do was unscrew the hard black covers, and lift out the rubber covers. Instead, I was stymied by a tight seal, and I couldn’t find a write-up or video tutorial online.

A sharp, chisel edged putty knife was key to lifting the cover, and removing the old sealant.

So I cross-posted my conundrum on three Facebook groups. Here’s what worked on Vinyasa, in case it can benefit someone else.

Things to have on hand before you start:

  1. Replacement covers (after comparing prices, I ordered from Mauri Pro)
  2. Phillips screwdriver
  3. A sharp, narrow putty knife, ideally with a chisel edge
  4. Butyl tape, or your sealant of choice
  5. Scissors, if using Butyl tape

Ready, set, go:

  • Make sure no power is flowing to the buttons.
  • Unscrew the screws holding the hard, black outer cover of the electric winch button cover, and set aside
  • Gently and patiently work the chisel edge of your sharp putty knife between the sealant and the boat’s gelcoat, mindful of only going as deep as necessary. Work all around the cover, and then gently pry up.
  • Scrape all sealant from the underside of the black cover.
  • Remove any sealant remaining on the gel coat.
  • Lift and remove the degraded rubber button cover. Note: it is comprised of two nested pieces. On Vinyasa, the installed bottom pieces that connect to the wiring were in good shape, so I opted to only replace the soft, degraded top pieces.
  • Flip the switch to restore power to the button, and press to verify all is working before apply sealant.
  • If using Butyl tape, cut to size, curving around the edge of the hard black cover. Or apply sealant of your preference.
  • Reinsert and tighten screws; careful of screwing too tightly, as the sealant will squish out!
  • Trim or scrape any small amounts of sealant, as needed
  • Confirm buttons are working one last time, and you’re done!
One button cover replaced, one to go!

Once I figured out the steps – and purchased a new, sharp putty knife (a dull, paint covered one was an early non-starter) – replacing the buttons went pretty quickly!

Until next time…wishing safe harbor to all.