Common Winching Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

A winch is to off-roading as a life boat is to a shipwreck; sometimes the situation you find yourself in is completely out of your control, other times you got there entirely of your own volition. Where a winch differs from a lifeboat, however, is that a winch can actually save your entire ‘ship’ from sinking into the mire, if used correctly. It is here that most people begin to run into problems. Winches, although they are exceptionally powerful and designed to pull thousands of pounds without hesitation, are also far more delicate and susceptible to damage than most people realize.

Static vs. Active Recovery

The first mistake many winchers make is mixing up static and active recovery techniques. A winch is a static recovery device, meaning it is not intended to handle shock loads, only for slow and steady work. The only movement should be on the hook end of the line, i.e. don’t hook up your winch to your buddy’s stuck truck and drive backwards. This could damage the winch brake, leaving you with nothing more than an expensive tow cable. Along those same lines, don’t rescue your own vehicle by attaching your winch hook to another vehicle and have them pull you out. Your winch exists for one reason: to winch. You have way too much money tied into it to treat it like a $20 tow strap.

Distance is Your Friend

Much in the way that a longer wrench will give you more leverage, a farther distance between the winch and the anchor will give you more pulling power. Too many off-roaders winch using only the first 40% of their cable. To give your winch the maximum pulling power and reduce the strain on the motor, the opposite should be true; you should be winching with between five wraps to two layers around the winch’s drum. Every layer higher than this drastically reduces the pulling power.

[Don’t] Cut Me Some Slack

Slack in the line is the enemy of the winch. Even after you get your rig out of its situation, you should use your bodyweight to keep the line taut until you can get the rope or cable all squared away. Fail to do this, and you risk kinking the line in the drum or wrapping it back over itself.

Winches are incredible tools in the off-roader’s arsenal. They enable us to take greater risks and therefore to have greater adventures. Use these tools correctly, and there are seldom times in which they will fail you.