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 How to Use a Winch

Winches are an absolute treasure to own when you are out off-roading in rocky or marshy areas. You never know when you might get stuck in what pitfall or mud hole or sand bar!

Winches are strong mechanical devices that can pull loads in a wide range of 2500 to well over 12000 pounds. They come with durable parts that combine to make a solid machine capable of delivering powerful pulling power.

Winching through the Tough Times

Winches are not simple decoration to be mounted on vehicles. They are used for heavy-duty purposes and cannot be taken lightly. Winches are not made for universal vehicle mounting. Different winches get mounted on different vehicles.

Always make sure to pick a winch that suits your vehicular needs, not one that will overcompensate or under-compensate its performance or the functioning of your vehicle.

Types of Winches

Winches come essentially in two variants, Electric and Hydraulic Winches

  • Electric winches that rely on the power from the Car Battery to power up; and the
  • Hydraulic winches that rely on the hydraulic pressure from the Power steering pump.

While each variant has its advantages and disadvantages, the Electric winches are more preferred when off-roading. Hydraulic winches are an asset during any major rescue or recovery event.

Safely Handling a Winch

To utilize a winch in all its glory, you will have to find yourself in a difficult position to get out of, primarily searching for a sturdy anchor point to rely on. You have to reach out to this point, rig your winch and follow the lead of the winch as it pulls you out. 

Winch Accessories You May Need During Winching

It is always recommended to be prepared for any worst case scenario with a full recovery winching kit.

  1. Cast and Steel Jac
  2. Receiver Shackle
  3. D-Shackle
  4. Tree Saver Nylon Strap
  5. Universal Snatch Block
  6. Utiliy Gloves
  7. Recovery Blanket
  8. Pulley Block

Step by Step Guide on How to Use the Winch

  • Always wear some heavy-duty work gloves to protect your hands when handling the cable operations of the winch.
  • The winch comes with a long-corded handheld remote that you can hook up to a receptacle on its exterior. After connecting the remote, make sure you keep the cord out of the way of further operations and bring it over to the driver’s seat.
  • Next, search for an object that will serve as your anchor. Preferably a tree somewhere right opposite to your position, or a large boulder.
How to anchor the winch to tree
Tip: Always choose the point of anchor at a long distance, which can provide the greatest pulling power for the winch. Also, make sure the anchor you select can withstand the load and the strap will not slip. 
  • Release the lever on the side of the winch to the free-spooling position. This enables you to manually pull out the cable as required.
  • Pull out the winch cable, just as much as you require, to reach the anchor point. 
  • Wrap the base of the tree trunk or the boulder with a protector strap, a thick nylon strap with two loops at its either ends.

Tip: Always use the winch strap and never hook the winch rope back onto itself since this will damage the rope.

winch tree protector strap
You must never tie up a rope to the tree and then connect the winch hook to the particular rope. There are always chances of the rope snapping or damaging the tree irreversibly.
  • Use a D-shackle to clump together the 2 ends of the protector strap, making sure it is a firm connection and there are no loose parts.
  • Hook up your winch cable to the D-shackle, re-engage the release lever on your winch by removing it from the free-spooling position and you are now good to go. 
  • Using the remote control, watch the cable carefully and start reeling it in, till the cable is all taut and secure.
  • Make sure there are no bystanders in close vicinity to avoid unfortunate incidents. 
Tip: “Always inspect rope, hook, and slings before operating winch. Frayed, kinked or damaged rope must be replaced immediately. Damaged components must be replaced before operation. If a cable pulls loose or breaks under load it can lash back and cause series personal injury or death.”
  • Get into your car and prepare to use the remote control in tandem with your vehicle.
  • Take a slow and steady approach as you start winching your vehicle. Press the reel-in function every few seconds to avoid going too fast. When you feel the gentle tug at your vehicle, lightly press the gas pedal to help move the vehicle in tandem with the pulling motion of the winch. 
  • It may be slow work, but you will eventually find yourself out of the pit you were stuck in and back on flat ground. Make sure you do not slide back into the ditch you just came out of. 

Tip: For better winching, make use of the snatch block/pulley block to increase winch capacity, pulling power and winch speed.

  • Park your vehicle and go over to remove the D-shackle from the Cable hook. Remove the protector wrap from the anchor, whether the tree or the rock. 
  • Dealing with the Winch cable, hold the hook end in your hand, taut, as you press the reel-in function on the remote slowly and let the winch reel-in the cable. 
  • During any unfortunate situations the rope may fail, it is recommended to have a recovery blanket over the rope near the hook to keep it from whipping and serious injury.
  • Remove the remote control from the winch and store away all the tools you used, safely. 

Mechanical Considerations for Using a Winch

Basic guides and safety considerations when operating a winch from off-road safety academy.

  1. Never Use a Winch or Winch Line for a Kinetic Energy Recovery Pull
  2. Never Use a Winch or Winch Line for Towing
  3. Never Use Your Winch to Secure Cargo Loads
  4. Avoid Submerging Your Winch Completely Under Water
  5. Never Use Your Winch as a Hoist to Lift or Suspend Objects
  6. Avoid Powering Out Winch Line
  7. Avoid Electric Winch Overheating
  8. Put Your Vehicle in Neutral When Using Your Winch to Pull a Stuck Vehicle
  9. Watch Drum for Excessive Winch Line Build-up
  10. Run Your Engine During Winch Pulls – Pay Attention to Vehicle Voltage Gauge
  11. Don’t Exceed the Manufacturer Maximum Rated Line Pull of Your Winch
  12. Remove Winch Line Layers from the Drum
  13. Rig for Closed System Winching

Handling a winch is simple enough if you follow the basic guidelines and exercise caution regarding your safety and the surroundings. There is absolutely no reason to hurry so be safe when you are out off-roading and take every incident in your stride.

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