Sparesbox Blog

How to Use a Winch: Proven Tips

By Peter Mackinnon

Tue Jan 19 2016

Nobody said off-road life would be easy. If you find yourself in a bit of a jam in the bush, there isn’t much your horsepower alone can do about it, so it’s absolutely vital that you know what you’re doing and that you have the right gear. When the Australian elements test you to your fullest, knowing what your winch is the difference between calamity and a pretty exciting experience that confirms your place as a truly self-sufficient off-roader.


Simple Precautions: Gear You’ll Need

There are a few things you’ll need to have with you besides a winch before you leave the house. Every off-roader worth their salt will have recovery points on their vehicle at both ends, so make sure yours does. You don’t want your only viable anchor point to be directly behind your only recovery point, or you’ll be going nowhere fast! A tree trunk protector is essential too. Not only does this protect the tree when being used as your anchor, but it protects your brand new equipment. You’ll need a snatch block and hook too, which I’ll explain later. Also, heavy duty gloves will keep your hands safe from any barbs in the winch wire – the last thing you need is a couple of lacerations on your hands when driving your unstuck 4×4 home.


Buying a Winch

It’s all well and good knowing what to do, but without good gear, you’re not going anywhere. Before looking at some proven winch techniques, it’s a good idea to know what’s out there, and you’d be smart to purchase a high quality, tested winch to get you out the other side. With a winch, it will need to be able to pull 1.5 times the weight of the object you plan to pull – that is your minimum. So if you plan on pulling 5000 lbs you’ll need a winch with the capacity to pull at least 7500 lbs through its line. Since there are a vast number of variables involved in using a winch off-road, this is not an exact formula, however going above 1.5 times your maximum weight is pretty certain to give safe results. We at Spares Box offer the best, toughest winches on the marketfrom the guys at Mean Mother, catering to all vehicles you’ll find off-road.




What You Need To Know

It’s really important to bear in mind a few things that can go wrong if you aren’t ultra-cautious. For example, as your winch works harder to pull you out a hole, it produces heat. To prevent overheating of the motor, take a break every 20 seconds or so, especially if you’re pulling over lengthy distances. While you’re at it, keep your engine running to avoid draining your system completely, as use of a winch takes a lot out of your electrical system.


It’s also crucial that you use a strong, steady anchor point. If you’re using a tree trunk, make sure it’s a live, strong tree. Use the base of the tree, or as low as the width of the trunk will allow, when tensioning your rope. Doing this allows greater support for your winch rope, and therefore greater overall pull. If you’re not using a tree as an anchor point, but, say, another vehicle – easily the most common method – and find you’re pulling the anchor vehicle in your direction, it’s a wise idea to secure your mate’s vehicle to a nearby tree (or a third vehicle if there’s one going handy). This provides failsafe anchor strength and security, and often the difference between getting home before midnight and, well, not.


How it’s Done – Single Line Pull

A single line pull is the go-to technique when it comes to using your winch. It’s the simplest way of doing things, and a tried and tested solution. All you have to do is pull the rope from the winch and connect to a hook at a given anchor point. Your anchor point can be pretty much anything with the strength to cope, from the recovery point of your mate’s (safely situated) vehicle to a sturdy tree trunk. Again, just make sure your anchor point is rock solid. Where possible, use an anchor point directly in line with your vehicle. Pulling straight is easier than pulling at an angle. If working at an angle, use a snatch block to guide the cable directly into the winch, this stops it stacking up on one side of the drum.


How it’s Done – Double Line Pull

You might find yourself reaching your winch’s maximum load, often due to the pull of the mud you’re stuck in, and thinking you might have to set up camp in the bush. The solution here is a slightly more time consuming one, but it can be necessary – a double winch pull. Say you’re using a tree as your anchor. First, fit your tree trunk protector, attach your snatch block to the protector with the help of a hook, then put your winch rope through the snatch block and “double back” to your vehicles recovery point. Your rope should now have two points of contact with the stuck vehicle. One extending from the winch, and the other fastened to the recovery point. This allows you twice the pulling power, so it can be a lifesaver when you’re nearing your maximum.


Now you’re ready to face the elements with no worries. Just remember what precautions need to be made, from items you’ll need to have handy to having a strong anchor point, taking regular breaks during pulls, and keeping your engine running. Happy off-roading, folks.