What Does a Winch Do?

winch on a pick up

What is a winch used for?

A winch is a device to haul or lift with a combination of a cable, chain, or rope that that winds horizontally around a drum as it is cranked by motor or manually. This is done by a piece of equipment that lifts something or someone up, which is referred to as  winch recovery

Winch recovery can be to winch survivors, human or animal, up from a mountain, rapid river waters, etc. More typically known is the winching of a vehicle, which is the direction we are going to take with this article. 

Winches aren’t new, they’ve been around for years, but to the common public, it isn’t part of everyday conversation. The term winch recovery is common among tow truck drivers and off-road drivers though. Tow truck drivers have a winch on the back of their truck and 4×4 off-road drivers will often have one on the front of their jeep or truck. 

Knowing how to winch a car and when to winch a car is a normal part of their day. If winch recovery isn’t done correctly, it can cause more damage to the vehicle being recovered as well as the recovery vehicle. Same when performing a winch recovery of an animal or human, one wrong movement can result in further injury or death. 

What is winching a car?

Winching a car is a winch recovery and towing that can be for a variety of reasons. Some winch recovery examples for cars or other vehicles would be: 

  • Mechanical breakdown
  • Abandoned vehicle
  • Illegally parked vehicle
  • Wrecks
  • Stuck vehicle
  • Bank Repossession

How strong winch do I need?

Electric winches are a fast-growing popular ‘tool’ ii the world of 4×4 off-roading and rock climbing. If you’re a newbie or a rookie at winch recovery, you may be confused and have some misconceptions that the winch capacity needed is directly proportional to a vehicle’s weight. 

The simplest way to advise and explain the needed capacity for winch recover is one and half times the gross weight of your vehicle. So, If your vehicle weighs 5,000 pounds, your winch recovery capacity should be 7,500 pounds. 

However, the strength isn’t the only consideration for successful winch recovery. For an electric winch that is rated for 10,000 pounds, it is not always going to have pull power at 10,000 pounds. Each winch has a designated capacity based upon one layer of winch cable. 

So, if your electric winch has more than one or two complete layers of winching cable wound around the drum, it lowers the gear ratio, and the more layers, there is a decrease in the pull power. The pull power is also affected by the length of the cable, chain, or rope you’re  using too. 

When too much cable, chain, or rope is spooled out, it can get bunched up, damaged, or snagged during the pulling process. One hundred feet is a standard length, keeping some spare extension cable, chain, or rope in case you encounter a longer winch recovery distance.

During the winching, it is important that the winch cable, chain, or rope is kept straight through the fairlead and wraps linearly and smoothly around the winch drum. An angle feed can cause an uneven layer of the winching medium and affect the performance of the winch. 

What is better for a winch rope or cable?

In the world of off-roading and rock climbing, a polyethylene, synthetic rope is considered by the experts to be the safer option over a steel cable. The polyethylene, synthetic rope medium for winch recovery  is mandated by most sanctioned off-road events. 

Why the polyethylene, synthetic rope  instead of a steel cable? The rope is significantly lighter weight compared to a steel cable; Therefore, it doesn’t store as much energy and is less likely to become a projectile if it were to break, causing more damage or injuring anyone, or worse, cause death.

Winch on a jeep

Is synthetic winch rope worth it?

Winching isn’t something that an off-roader, vehicle rock climber wants to do, well, yeah, it kinda is, but …. Anyway.  When you are doing a winch recover, you need a winch you can depend on. You need a controllable, precise, and safe winch, and that is the synthetic winch rope.

When a  synthetic rope is under load, it weighs lighter and has less kinetic energy. So, if it breaks, the kinetic energy is released and less likely to cause damage to either vehicle, other nearby things, or humans. So, yes, a synthetic winch rope is worthwhile and as we stated earlier, it has become mandated in many sanctioned events. 

No matter the circumstances requiring a winch recovery, safety is the first priority. Common sense creates safety, and these are basic safety rules and tips: 

  • Never use a winch to hoist animals or humans unless it is specified for that purpose.
  • Always wear gloves while operating a winch.
  • Keep hands clear of the winch during operation.
  • When using a wire rope, some over the rope like a blanket or towel so if can break the whipping effect from the kinetic energy should the rope break.

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