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Aug 07, 2006, 07:03 PM
Yes, ALL your money...
winchdoc's Avatar
Thread OP

installing "Real Balls"

As promised, a mini how-to on installing "Real Balls" ball bearing upgrade kit.

How To Install "Real Balls" on Your Long shaft Starter Motor

1. Remove Brush Cover by loosening clamp screw.
2. Using needle nose pliers, remove each brush from it's holder.
3. Remove the two long bolts on brush cap.
4. Remove brush cap.
5. Remove starter body.
6. Remove armature from front housing. Remove & save any thin fiber spacer washers.
7. CLEAN EVERYTHING!!! Sand armature shaft to remove any burrs, rust, or high spots. The bearings should just slip onto shaft without forcing.
8. Install aluminum spacer on front end of shaft, large hole towards armature.
9. Slip armature into front bearing housing. Install starter body & match the timing dot with slot on starter body. Check that the armature windings do not touch front housing. If it does, add washers between spacer & bearing to get proper clearance.
10. Put 2 thin fiber washers on brush end of armature.
11. Slip end cap onto shaft and match timing mark with center of slot on starter body.
12. Bolt motor together lightly using the 2 long bolts, this will seat bearings to their proper spacing. The rear bearing pocket is deeper than necessary with a slight taper at the bottom to seat the bearing.
13. Remove brush cap & remove 1 washer, reassemble. check for drag and end play - see troubleshooting.
14. Install brushes in new holders.
15. Replace brush cover.
16. Go fly, and show 'em your balls!!!

When Mr. Ford Designed his starter, he did not have us glider-guiders in mind. The long shaft starter motor may not be set up for the optimum glider winch, but it will crank over your '54 stepside with gusto. Henry's manufacturing tolerances are wide open enough that some fitting or adjustment may be needed when installing "Real Balls" ball bearing housings.
These tests should be made with the brushes out of their holders.
* Look through brush windows, are all brush holders clear of the commutator? If not, remove washer(s) from front plate end of armature shaft, or shorten the aluminum spacer.
* Remove starter body, and check clearance from front of armature to inside of front bearing housing. If it touches, add washer(s) between spacer & bearing.
* Check end play. There should be only a slight amount, (.005") or less than 1/2 washer thickness. These bearings will allow a small amount of preload. (0-5 lbs)
* With used armatures, it is possible that the shaft may not be perfectly straight. Check by rotating on two straight edges.
When you first try your winch, leave the timing mark on the brush cap centered with the slot on the starter body. This is stock timing. Try it this way first. For more RPM, (and more current drain) turn the brush cap in the opposite direction the motor runs. You will need to experiment to find the best balance of drum diameter, sailplane, and launching style. generally, We advance the timing for down wind launches, retard for high winds. If you plan to use your winch at multi-winch contests, set the timing back to stock.


Your “Real Balls” arrive with enough grease already in them for at least one full season of flying. When it is time to lube them up, please remember these things:

Too much grease is bad, the bearing should be about ¾ full, too much grease actually adds drag.
Grease that oozes into the inside of the motor could pick up brush dust and make mysterious sparks and smoke when enough accumulates to create a short.
Using your MANUAL grease gun, determine how many strokes or partial strokes it takes to produce a 3/16” bead of grease 2” long. Put this much in the front bearing.
About the same should go in the rear bearing.
It’s probably a good idea not to use a power lube gun like you might find at the quickie-lube, I heard from a guy that had grease coming out the brush windows…
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Aug 07, 2006, 11:11 PM
MSgt, USAF Ret.
Jim Frahm's Avatar

Thanks for the step by step instructions. I was just about to tear down my winch.

I typically find something wrong with everything I buy off the net, but I couldn't find a thing wrong with your "balls". Nice job!

Sep 26, 2006, 02:34 PM
Registered User

How to access grease fitting on WinchDoc Winch shaft side?

I want to re-grease the bearings on my Winch Doctor winch (purchased fully
assembled, not the kit version). I can see the grease fitting on the fin side.

But is there a grease fitting on the side of the motor where the shaft
comes out (similar to the one shown above for the Real Balls kit version)?

If so how do I get access to this grease fitting?
Must I remove the motor from the aluminum mounting plate?

Thanks. John Elliott
Sep 27, 2006, 03:21 PM
Registered User

WinchDoc winch uses sealed bearing on drum side grease bearing on fin side

Out of curiosity I took my WinchDoc winch apart and found that
it uses a sealed bearing on the drum side but a grease-able
bearing on the fin side.

Is this a design flaw?

Why not use sealed bearings on both sides and avoid
the maintenance hassle?

Doesn't the sealed bearing on the drum side take most
of the mechanical load? So the bearing on the drum
side should be the most critical anyway.

Enquiring minds want to know.
-John Elliott
Sep 28, 2006, 12:15 AM
Yes, ALL your money...
winchdoc's Avatar
Thread OP

Don't worry about the front bearing

Um, no not a design flaw, honest.

Several folks over the years have brought up this question and I have discussed and explained one-on-one with them why the bearings are the way they are.

When I first designed the "Real Balls" bearing system, I had a few design choices to make. One was in bearing style. Sealed or sheilded? The finned brushcap resembles a cylinder head to a really big model airplane engine. I knew that I could use sealed bearings, and not have to worry at all about greasing it, but club members really liked the idea of being able to do maintainance on their motor and keep it in tune. "How will you grease the bearings?" they asked...

So it was suggested that I install a 'glow plug' in the back. It would be possible to put in a grease fitting where you might find a glow plug.
I went ahead and incorporated this feature, and also used a zerk on the front plate as well. These features were well received.

The short answer is that you (and I mean y'all) wanted grease fittings. Yeah, I know, I could have eliminated that particular step in the manufacturing process, not bought any fittings, and just installed sealed bearings and forget it.
But we're modelers. We like to fiddle with stuff; take it apart, see what makes it work, and wonder where the left over parts go...

Same thing with the adjustable timing feature. I could have just drilled holes instead of making slots. Easier, cheaper. But not as much fun. We like to dick with it, advance the timing, retard the timing, load heavier/lighter line, 3" diameter hub, 2" diameter hub, 6V, 12V, 36V . Point is, we like like being able to change it around. It's there so you can play with it.

Now, on the WinchDoctorWinch, I had to go to a sealed bearing on the front bulkhead because drilling a lube channel could weaken the wall of the combination front bearing/winch mount, but these bearings are overkill in load rating at the speeds we run them. I wanted the bulkhead to be at optimum strength.
Don't worry about the front bearing, it is good for a long, long time. The bearing mfg say "permamently lubricated".

On this latest batch of RB, I have gone to a bearing sealed on one side with a grease fitting on the other just in case you feel the need to slather those old bearings up every few years or so. Best of both worlds.

I've been making these for nearly 15 years, and have yet to hear of a bearing cartridge fail. Overkill is nice insurance.

While I'm at it, I'll get out the soapbox and talk briefly about needle bearings.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to rebuild a dozen or so winches all at the same time. A few of them had needle bearings installed in the front plate.
These needle bearings would press in exactly like the stock bronze bushings.
The mild steel motor shaft where the bearings contacted was rough, and more or less chewed up by the hard needle roller bearings. These motors were in the worst condition of the batch, with excessive runout on the drum, and very slow operation with any side load. (like trying to get a good launch ) Needle bearings work very well in side load applications, but they have to run on a hardened race!
The moral of this story is just pressing in a needle bearing as a replacement for a bronze bushing is not a good idea.
The good news is that a "Real Balls" front plate can save an armature affected by this condition if the armature is not scarred and scored from the runout.

Sorry to be so long winded, but I wanted to be thorough. Hope this helps!

Sep 28, 2006, 11:47 AM
Registered User
Thanks for the detailed explanation. Enquiring minds are satisfied.
John Elliott
Feb 20, 2011, 08:07 AM
Registered User

I'm just getting around to adding the "REAL BALLS" I received from you a few weeks ago to my Ford longshaft and I have a couple of questions.

In your instructions you say that the bearing should just slip onto the shaft without forcing. In my case, the bearing in the finned brushcap end seems to fit too loose on the shaft and I'm afraid the armature shaft will spin in the bearing. Should I be concerned by this? If so, is there anything I can do about it short of getting a new motor?

Also, my two long bolts that hold everything together are a larger diameter than provided for in the REAL BALLS. I could go one of 2 ways; I either drill and retap the REAL BALLS or find some new bolts. What do you recommend?

This is a long shaft I purchased in the mid-80s.


Feb 25, 2011, 08:24 AM
Yes, ALL your money...
winchdoc's Avatar
Thread OP
Some of the rebuilders would tap out the 1/4-20 holes for the next size up.
I'm out of town right now, but I'll send you a pair of 1/4-20 bolts when I get back. Meantime, see if you can determine if the shaft stub is undersize, or, if for some reason, the bearing ID is oversize. I'll be back after Monday

Feb 26, 2011, 06:51 PM
Registered User
Originally Posted by winchdoc
Some of the rebuilders would tap out the 1/4-20 holes for the next size up.
I'm out of town right now, but I'll send you a pair of 1/4-20 bolts when I get back. Meantime, see if you can determine if the shaft stub is undersize, or, if for some reason, the bearing ID is oversize. I'll be back after Monday


With my calipers I measured the armature at .621" and the inner bearing race at .623". Does that sound acceptable?

It would be great if you could send me those 1/4-20 bolts.

Sep 29, 2016, 11:50 AM
Registered User
WD, do you still offer a ball bearing turn-around? If so, how much?


Oct 01, 2016, 09:18 AM
Registered User
mlachow's Avatar
Originally Posted by SteveR
WD, do you still offer a ball bearing turn-around? If so, how much?


Shows up in for sale and he also has a sliding version.

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