Any serious off-roader knows the value of a winch.
These devices are great at helping to free an SUV or a ute in a pinch. Attach it to another vehicle or a static object and pull yourself free. They offer more power than snatch straps and more convenience than recovery tracks.
However, it’s still important to understand your winch before you buy or use it. In this guide, we’ll break them down in detail. Furthermore, we’ll focus on important safety aspects.
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How do winches work?
Usually, we mount the winch to the front of the vehicle.
Electric winches are the most common because they use the vehicle’s battery. Remember to be careful when the engine is off because it can’t run forever without draining it.
Attach the winch to the other vehicle or static point. Then place the dampener over the centre of the cable. Activate the winch and the stranded vehicle should pull free.
How to choose the right size winch for your vehicle?
The vehicle’s weight will directly influence the size of the winch.
Experts recommend a winch with a maximum draw of 1.5 to twice the weight of the vehicle. Therefore, a 3000lb SUV requires a winch with a pull force of around 6000lbs. If you have a bigger ute like a Ford Ranger then you may need up to 12,000 lbs.
Lighter winches will simply snap if the vehicle is too heavy. This is a waste of money and also a major safety hazard.
Remember, trailers add extra weight to the 4WD. That’s why it’s always better to give yourself more space than you need. Furthermore, you may want a bigger motor if you want to get unstuck faster.
Check with your vehicle dealership to ensure that the desired winch is compatible with the front of the 4X4. If it’s too heavy it could destabilise it and negatively impact performance.
Remember that you’re adding between 15kg and 30kg to the front of the 4WD. This isn’t something to take lightly!
Steel or Synthetic Rope?
These days synthetic rope is becoming more popular because it’s increasingly strong. It’s also lighter than steel.
If you pursue the synthetic option ensure that it’s from a trusted supplier and meets all safety regulations.
What other equipment do I need?
Now let’s look at some useful equipment that you can use in conjunction with your winch.
Never wrap your winch cable directly around a tree because it will cause serious damage.
It’s important not to negatively impact the environment. Firstly, it’s not good to destroy nature and it also gives other offroaders a bad reputation. This is where a tree saver comes into play.
Tree savers are special straps that wrap around the trunk. They don’t cut into the bark like the winch cable and spread the weight. Remember to hook both ends of the tree saver through the D-shackle.
Don’t loop them through each other because this can also damage the tree.
Every offroader should keep a small shovel in their vehicle at all times.
This basic tool can be a lifesaver in a pinch. If you’re stuck in a hole or on soft terrain, you may need to create extra clearance. Dig around the wheel to give it more room to move in the direction that you require.
Many drivers mount recovery tracks on their roof racks. Yes, they have in-built shovels but they’re much clunkier than a regular hand-held tool. They don’t take up much space so don’t forget!
An air pressure gauge is useful depending on the terrain.
It may be necessary to reduce or increase the pressure depending on whether tyres are on the sand, mud, or harder surfaces. A pressure gauge will ensure that you adjust it to the required level.
Health & Safety
Don’t neglect your health and that of others when using a winch.
They’re safe to use if you don’t take shortcuts and exercise caution. Use a dampener to reduce the tension if the cable snaps. Remember that this presents an extreme risk to any bystanders so clear the area.
Never attach the winch to a tow ball because it can snap off and turn it into a lethal projectile.
A winch is a great piece of kit as long as you use it correctly.
Buy one with enough power to pull your vehicle and more if necessary. It’s better to have too much than not enough. However, remember that the bigger the winch, the more it weighs.
Never rush when you’re using a winch. Otherwise, things can go badly wrong. Always exercise care for the safety of everybody in the vicinity.
If you have any questions about winches, please leave a comment below.