When off-roading, a four-wheeler winch is arguably the best tool to add to the front of your rig. The tool is a saving grace, especially if you are traveling on an unsteady trail without other vehicles. However, a lot can go wrong when using a winch, from personal injury to property damage.
Like any other powerful tool, a winch cable has its risks. Since winching situations involve heavyweights and extreme forces, a fair share of precaution and skill is needed to ensure safety. More than anything, there are several factors to be considered in order to use your winch properly.
From picking the right winch for your vehicle to standing out of harm’s way, taking suitable measures can mean the difference between pulling out your car or getting into an accident.
So, to avoid any fatal mishaps during your next winching experience, it is crucial to familiarize yourself with the basics, safety precautions, and owner’s manual of the winch. And this article will do just that.
Essential Components of a Vehicle Winch
A typical winch machine serves the purpose of maneuvering objects, particularly pulling vehicles out of ditches. Vehicle recovery winches are composed of different components that play a specific role. Here are the essential parts:
- A motor: It is the most crucial part of a winch, without which the winch machine will not function. It may be electric or hydraulic and is usually powered by your vehicle battery or steering pump.
- A winch cable: Winch cable or winch rope, most likely made up of steel or synthetic rope. The line typically ranges from 40 to 100 feet in length, with a hook at the end.
- A drum: It is hollow and circular around which the cable is wrapped. Powered by the motor, the spool of the drum rotates to wind or unwind the winch cable.
- A gear train: Also known as Drive train. This component connects the motor to the gear system in the winch. It takes the electrical energy from the engine and converts it into a pulling power to haul heavy objects.
- A roller or hawse fairlead: A fairlead is designed to lead the winch cable when mounting on the drum. It acts as a wear plate that protects the drum and the cable.
- Internal brake: The winch brake prevents the load from slipping back when the winch is stopped.
Do’s and Don’ts When Attempting to Winch Out Your Vehicle
Most drivers are not aware of the best practices to use a winch safely. As a result, they end up in dangerous situations. Therefore, we have come up with critical dos and don’ts to follow when attempting to winch out your vehicle.
- Stretch the winch cable before using: Whether you have a synthetic rope or steel cable, make sure to stretch it before using. Why? Because when you set out the winch, the rope is simply wrapped around the drum and not under tension. Pulling the line will allow the rope to wind onto the drum evenly without bunching upon itself. This way, when you load the winch rope, it won’t crush or damage under pressure.
- Anchor the winch to a large tree
To avoid sliding down with the load, use large trees to anchor the winch. Pull the tow strap tightly and anchor it to the tree near the ground for a strong pulling point.
- Weigh down the winch rope with something
Use a tree limb, jacket/hoodie, blanket, bag pack, or anything heavy to lay on the rope midway between the anchor point and winch. This is particularly important in the event of the rope snap. The object’s weight will keep the rope to the ground and prevent it from slipping back and causing injury.
- Stand in a safe place
If you are not involved in the winching process, move to a safe place away from the vehicle or the anchor point. Take shelter behind a large tree or another car.
- Have all the necessary equipment
Having the right tools is the key. Always carry a snatch block, recovery strap, one or two shackles, a pair of gloves, and something heavy to weigh down the winch rope.
- DO NOT double back the winch line
Never double-back the hook to your winch line, or it will cause damage to the rope leading to rope snap. Instead, use a tree strap and a shackle to firm the hook.
- DO NOT wrap the rope directly around a tree
Synthetic or cable, do not directly wrap the winch rope around a tree. Doing so will not only kill the tree in the process but jeopardize your safety. When using a tree as your anchor point, use a tree saver or tree trunk protector to wrap the tree first. And then secure your anchor.
- DO NOT rush the process
Rushing a winch-out process could mean hurting yourself or your vehicle. Rather than just getting done with it, think thoroughly, double-check the anchor, and go slow.
- DO NOT use a fraying winch rope
Although common sense, we will still say it – do not use a winch rope if it is visibly fraying. Fraying winch ropes can lead to the worst-case scenarios. There could be a breakage during winching, or your hands could be injured in case you are not wearing gloves. Usually, the only option is to replace the rope. But if you don’t have this option, your best bet is to hire a professional towing and recovery service.
Flag Towing provides professional towing and prompt roadside assistance around the North Texas region. We have a fleet of specialized tow trucks and state-of-the-art tools to handle all kinds of road emergencies. Whether you need to winch out your vehicle from a ditch or snow, our skilled tow drivers will rescue you and your vehicle safely within no time.