Repairing Our Quick Chain Counter Sensor


Last Updated on September 13, 2023 by Amy

A good anchoring system is crucial for a cruising sailboat.  We rely on our anchor system to keep our boat, our possessions, and our lives safe.

It also has to be convenient. While a chain counter is not essential, it makes our lives a little bit easier by ensuring that we have the proper scope out – 5:1 scope in most cases or up to 10:1 in a storm.

Chain Counter Stopped Working

While we were coming across the Pacific last year, the Quick anchor chain counter that’s installed with our Quick Dylan DH 1512 windlass on Starry Horizons stopped working.  I was quite reluctant to start taking things apart and potentially making things worse.  While not having a working chain counter is annoying, not having a working windlass is a big problem.  So it went on our “we’ll fix it when we get to New Zealand” list.

How the Quick Chain Counter Works

Now the cyclone season in New Zealand is over and here is the saga of my attempts to fix it.  But first a quick explanation of how the chain counter works.  A magnet is inside the bottom of gypsy (the part that grabs the chain).  As it goes around, it passes over a sensor that is located in the base of the windlass.  The presence of the magnet over the sensor completes a circuit.  The sensor counts each rotation of the gypsy and, when properly calibrated, the counter calculates how much chain the windlass has lowered or raised.

Problem – Bad Magnet

I researched the problem before I took the windlass apart.  I discovered that a common cause of this issue is that the magnet rusts away.  Sure enough, upon inspection, I found that our magnet had rusted away.  Figuring that it would be an easy fix to just replace the magnet, I used a spare magnet we had on board to test.  Don’t laugh, but I used one of those clips we use to keep bags of cereal closed.  Hey, whatever works right? The way to test this is to use a multi-meter and check for continuity.  In the presence of the magnet, the circuit should close and complete the circuit.

Problem – Bad Sensor

Unfortunately, this didn’t fix the problem, which meant that not only did our magnet rust, but our sensor had gone bad.  When FP installed the windlass in the first place, they incorrectly ran the sensor wiring between the windlass platform and the base of the lower unit.  This likely caused the failure of the sensor.

Quick Dylan Windlass

Sensor Repair Kit

Quick USA sells a sensor repair kit that includes both a new magnet and a new sensor.  We purchased one and brought it back with us from our trip back to the States.

Disassembling Quick Dylan Windlass

Now armed with both of the necessary components I set out to disassemble the lower unit of the windlass only to discover that that was impossible.  I attempted to remove the bolts from the lower unit, but it required contorting in ways that I definitely cannot contort.  Once those bolts were off, the lower unit wouldn’t come off!

Notice the smashed black wiring for the sensor

Apparently, it has completely seized on the shaft and no amount of Corrosion X, banging on it or getting leverage with the tools I had on board was going to persuade it to move.  Of course, I was attempting this project after 30+ hours of travel back to New Zealand so my mind was incapable of thinking through alternative solutions.  Fortunately, the internet came to my rescue again.  Another Helia owner suggested that instead of accessing the sensor from the bottom, I drill it out from the top.  I had been corresponding with Quick customer support. They said that I could drill through the base of the lower unit to get a cleaner run for the sensor wire.  Since the sensor wasn’t working anyway, I figured: why not?

The rest of the windlass was easy to take off.

Installing the New Sensor

I used a 3/8″ drill bit with my power drill which was the exact size needed to drill out the entire old plastic sleeve for the sensor.

Old Sensor Drilled Out
View From Bottom

With the hole drilled it was time to tackle replacing the magnet in the gypsy. Since the old had rusted out, I used my Dremel to clean out the remaining junk.

Nasty Rust

You’re supposed to use a 2 part epoxy to secure the magnet but before I did this, I wanted to confirm that it didn’t make a difference which way the magnet was installed. I took my multimeter and checked the continuity of the sensor when both sides of the magnet were present. Fortunately, both sides worked so I didn’t need to worry.

However, when doing a test run I discovered that the magnet sat flush with the edge. I wanted the magnet to be a bit inset so a layer of epoxy would provide a bit of protection. Solution? Drill out the hole a bit more.

Drill Baby Drill

Next, I whipped up a small batch of epoxy and secured the magnet. The epoxy dried for 24 hours before I sanded it down, making it nice and aligned with the edge of the gypsy.

Magnet Epoxied Into Place

Now it was back to the windlass to get the sensor in place. After cleaning up the windlass, I did one wrap of electrical tape around the sensor. This made it fit nice and snug in the plastic sleeve, but didn’t affect the function of the sensor and would let me remove it later if needed. Around the plastic sleeve, I put some more epoxy and slid it into the drilled out hole.

Epoxy Around Plastic Sleeve

At this point, I stopped for the day to let everything cure. The next day, I tackled the wiring. Blue to Black and Brown to Red. I held my breath as I ran the Sensor Status test on the display at the helm (found under the Utilities menu). Success!

Prelim Wire Connections
Great Success!

Assembling the Windlass

I cleaned up all the wiring connections, making sure I heat shrank and tucked away the wires where nothing could tug on the sensor wiring.

Completed Wiring

Since the windlass was already taken apart, I took the opportunity while putting it back together to give it a good greasing. It runs nice and smooth!

Windlass All Back Together


And finally, it was time for the real test: lowering the anchor. Since I had constantly tested each part of the process, I felt fairly confident.  I’ll still admit to a few whoops of joy when the chain counter actually fulfilled its stated purpose again!

Even Greater Success!!!


  1. Dave wanted to say thanks. Chain counter wasn’t working when bought the boat (even though only 4 years old). Localized the problem to the sensor. It never would have come out, but I read your post during the research phase and it gave me both the idea and the confidence to just drill out the old sensor. Worked like a charm with that 3/8″ bit. Installed the new sensor, wired it up and now have a functioning chain counter again. Can’t thank you enough.
    I accidentally wired the blue/black red/brown backwards and it still works. I’ll swap it next time at the boat. But such a relief. Your article is the best.

    One important note: the chain counter sensor test only shows “ON” when the magnet is right over the sensor head, basically closing the circuit. Otherwise it will show OFF even with a perfectly good sensor. That’s because there is no way to know if the sensor is good or not without closing the switch by having an magnet over it. The manual says it will beep at you when the sensor shows ON, I think this is so you can put in in sensor test mode, go up to the bow and tickle the sensor with a magnet and listed for the beep at the control box.

  2. Thanks for this. Our sensor also wasn’t working. Followed this to a tee and we’re back up and running. Appreciate all you do. Let me know if you have a Patreon page, I’d like to contribute.

  3. Hi have quick chain counter it says on the screen fuse open all fuses are good windless won’t work

  4. Hi. I’m having a chain counter problem. I have a Quick Chain counter. I’m getting a sensor failure error but yet when I do the sensor test the chain counter says the sensor is on. The magnet is still in great working order. And ideas on how to trouble shoot? If the sensor test says the sensor is on could it still be a failed sensor?

    1. The only suggestions I’d have for you is to check your sensor wire connections and then do a continuity test on the sensor, rather than relying on the sensor test through the chain counter. The sensor only comes with a short length of wire, so the connections to the wire that runs to the chain counter should be pretty close to the windlass. Check those for corrosion. Double check that nothing has wiggled loose on the back side of the chain counter.

      If they look fine, then disassemble the windlass so you have access to the sensor in the base. Use a multimeter and check the continuity of the sensor. When you bring a magnet next to the sensor, it should close the circuit. (Pretty sure on the circuit being open by default, but even if I’m wrong, you should still see some sort of change when bringing the magnet near) If there is no change in continuity, then the sensor is actually faulty and needs to be replaced.

      Hope that helps and good luck!

  5. Great post. I’m dealing with a different, but related issue. Can’t get the gearbox off the shaft for a failed windlass. Have the new windlass but can’t get the old one out! Did you get any other suggestions on how to free the gearbox off of the shaft? I’d rather not cut the fiberglass deck out…

    1. We had a yard recently remove ours. I am not sure if they had to employ any magical tricks! Good luck getting it off.

      1. Thanks. After much consultation with the quick tech rep (who is phenomenal), we finally got ours off…took a 7 ton gear puller, a blow torch, a 20 lb sledgehammer, two people and a lot of cuts and bruises…Ugh!

  6. Hi there,

    I’m building a glass helm and will be interfacing to my Quick Hector 1500 via an Ethernet relay board. I want to read the chain counter. So from what you are telling me, this sound like just a reed relay that closes in order to create the pulse. Do you know if the windlass has a built in current limiting resistor? I’d like to feed +12 volts in at the green wire and see pulses between 12 volts and 0 volts coming out the white wire.

    When you tested continuity of the sensor, do you recall the reading? If it was a short circuit then I will have to limit the current myself. Thanks.

    1. Hi Dave,

      Honestly it’s been too long and we don’t trust our memory. Definitely check the manual! Sorry we aren’t more help.

  7. Great article. I am tackling this project as we speak. Any idea where I can get the plastic sleeve that the sensor fits in? I ordered a kit and it didn’t have the plastic sleeve with it and I destroyed the old one taking it out. Thanks for your help.

  8. Hello Dave, I am a Helia owner currently in the Med. (Greece). In the past I’ve had the problem of the magnet rusting out and have replaced it and all good. This season it seemed that replacing the magnet was not enough so I’ve managed to source a full sensor kit from Quick. I have followed your advice and drilled out the old sensor. In doing so I’ve encountered the rubber gasket with is above the gear box on the underside. I think I can see it on your photos. Were you concerned about drilling through this gasket?? I don’t know if breaking the gasket creates the opportunity for waster leaks back into the gear box – do you??

    I found your post really helpful – thank you. Any thoughts on the above would be really appreciated.

    All the best.. Graeme Doyle SY Roulette

    1. Hi Graeme,

      I actually contacted Quick customer support and they said that it was perfectly okay to drill through so that the wire could have a straight run (Pretty sure that’s what is in the installation guide as well). So I did it and haven’t looked back! Best of luck getting things fixed and enjoy the Med!


    2. Hi Graeme, we are also in Greece and just received a sensor not working issue while anchoring yesterday, so we’d like to order the kit already now just in case as we don’t know how long shipping will take. I know it’s been a few years, but do you recall where you ordered your kit from?

  9. Go David! Go David!! Fix that sensor!!! Windlasses need so much attention. They always rot out from the inside!

  10. Way to go! I used to look at my windlass (39 Chris Craft) from the inspection opening in the master stateroom and realize it needed cleaning and servicing. But as you mentioned the body contortion necessary was not in my DNA. So I closed up and crossed my fingers. That windlass must have been installed before the deck was mated to the hull in production.

  11. Nicely done, David. You mentioned an FP install of the counter but I had thought you did that later. It appears the magnet surface now have a thin layer of epoxy, presumably to retard corrosion. Correct?

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