How to Use Your Winch - ATV and Recovery Winch
Safety and Techniques
By Jesse Taylor
Learning how to winch out is an important off-road skill. If
you're a hardcore off-road enthusiast, no doubt you're going to
get stuck once in awhile. If you've got an ATV or recovery winch
and know how to use it, however, you'll be out in no time and
hitting the trail just as hard as ever.
Take your time as you rig up for the pull. Assess your situation
carefully and adjust the winching process as needed. This is the
best way to ensure your own safety and the safety of those
around you. Every winching situation will be different, which
means you need to step back and assess your situation to decide
on the safest and most efficient method to use. No matter what
your situation looks like, however, there are a few basic steps
that apply to any pull.
Hook It Up
When you've chosen your anchor point and you're ready to hook up
the cable, engage the free spool and walk the cable out to the
anchor point using the hook strap. Attach the rope to your
anchor point. Use a tree strap or chain and a D-shackle if
needed. Power in the winch to pick up any slack. Once the rope
is tight, don't straddle or step over it.
There are two types of winch line: steel and synthetic. Learn
the safety and maintenance rules for the type of cable you own.
Always inspect your rope before and after each use for damage or
wear that could create a dangerous situation. Keep an eye out
for kinks, frays, and weak areas on your rope. If you are using
steel cable, throw a heavy blanket or coat over the middle of
the winch line to absorb the kinetic energy of the cable in case
Clear It Out
Clear the area of bystanders and communicate clearly with others
helping in the winching process. Stand clear of the cable to the
side, not directly in line with the cable. Avoid wearing loose
clothing or jewelry that could catch on moving parts and create
a dangerous situation. Stand as far away as your winch remote
will allow, but close enough to keep a close eye on the cable as
it stacks on the drum.
Winch It Out
Pull the stuck vehicle out at a slow and steady pace. If you are
pulling over a long distance or for a long period of time, take
a break every so often to prevent overheating. Electric winches
are designed for intermittent use.
If the stuck vehicle is stable (not in danger of tipping or
falling), you can give the vehicle a little gas to aid the
momentum of the pull and reduce the strain on your winch. Keep
the vehicle that is operating the winch running during the
entire process to prevent draining the battery. You don't want a
dead battery just when you're ready to hit the trail again!
Keep a close eye on the cable as it respools. If it starts to
pile up on one side of the drum, spool out the uneven section
and respool it in even rows onto the drum. If the cable piles up
too high on one side, it can get caught in the winch housing and
damage your winch or rope. This is most likely to happen on
angle pulls, so choose an anchor point that allows you to make a
straight-line pull, which will help to guide the rope directly
into the drum.
Spool It In
When you have recovered the stuck vehicle, respool the rest of
the cable hand over hand. Wear heavy duty leather gloves to
protect your hands from burrs. If you plan to use your winch
later in the day, you can also loop the spooled-out cable over
your bumper, making sure it's secure enough to stay in place
over rough terrain.
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