Picking recovery equipment for your vehicle is a bit like selecting a 4wd. First, you need to examine where, when and what you are going to be doing – then selecting the equipment most suitable.
I tend to overkill on the equipment I carry around, mainly because I have been stuck in situations where I had wished I had brought such and such along. But then again I go looking for it. Its my job and my hobby!!
Why Fit a Winch?
A lot of people want to get a power winch. Why? Because they look good on the front of the vehicle? Most probably! As an fast effective method to getting yourself unstuck – they are good.
But there are additional factors to consider; one being the anchor you need to pull yourself out with. When you do get stuck, it is sod’s law that it will be at the most inconvenient time and place. Most likely where there are no trees and if there is one it is just out of reach of your winch wire!
Then there is the Extra Gear
So, with your winch, it would be worthwhile having a ground anchor, extension strap(s) and winch kit – the vehicle is already starting to fill up!
A winch kit
A winch kit (not supplied with the winch) enables you to use the very expensive piece of equipment on the front of the vehicle, safely. It contains:
- A tree strap, so you don’t kill the tree you use as an anchor or damage the wire.
- A pulley block, to lessen the load you put on the winch or to increase its pulling power.
- A pair of heavy duty gloves for obvious reasons.
- Some shackles to safely connect all together.
- And, last but not least a “finger saver”, a small piece of bent rod that allows you to feed the wire onto the spool without getting your fingers pulled through the fairlead (rollers).
Next, you need a dampner or blanket to lie over the wire just in case it breaks. If the wire breaks while under extreme tension the heavy object dampens down the wire and stops it flying around. There are horrific stories of wires flaying around with such force that they have decapitated or dismembered. Either way not good.
A Good Battery
Another consideration is the battery. With most 4wd vehicles you need a winch that can safely pull in the region of 3-4 tonnes. An electric motor (the most common type of power winch) that can pull that much, draws a lot of power from the battery. Those of us who have lived in Uganda for a while will know where I am going with this!
So there you are with your vehicle stuck up to the axles in mud and you’ve identified a strong tree that you can pull off. You have surveyed the area and laid out your tackle. You’ve checked to see whether or not your winch is working before pulling out the wire (a mistake that is often made and results in a rats nest of wire wrapped around the bumper, etc).
You’ve connected everything up, taken up the strain slowly so as not to shock load the winch and double-checked all the security. You increase the revs a little to ensure maximum charging to the battery and you begin the recovery. After a few minutes with a local battery, the winch stops working as the cutout has sensed the battery voltage has gone down!!
You then wait a few more minutes for the voltage to go up and then repeat the procedure, then repeat the procedure, then repeat the procedure, and so on. So along with your winch and winch kit you might find it necessary to add a battery that can do the job on to the price tag.
A Winch Bumper / Bull Bar
Next you will need a special bumper or bull bar to fit said winch to the vehicle. These may lower your approach angle, which is important to realise. When you are having fun off-roading, the front part of the vehicle which is carrying this expensive equipment is more subject to damage.
And because you have a heavy weight at the front of the vehicle, the front springs might start to sag quicker, thereby lowering your approach angle even more. So you may need to consider putting on a heavy duty set of front springs to compensate.
So, Do You Need A Winch?
In my opinion, for the everyday 4wd driver who’s not in the least bit interested in going out and getting muddy on a weekend or who is not working in a harsh /insecure environment and needs to utilise the vehicle to it’s fullest extent. No.
For those working in an environment where there is the risk of getting stuck in the rainy season on a day to day affair and who are working in an insecure area where you want to get the vehicle out as quickly as possible, a winch coupled with an effective ground anchor is a great advantage. But they are expensive and need to be fitted to the vehicle correctly and all the above taken into consideration. Winches are extremely dangerous to use if untrained and can be irreparably / expensively damaged if used incorrectly. As with a 4wd vehicle!
The more well known winch companies are Ramsey, Superwinch, Mile Marker, and Warn.
As of 2007, we have switched all our winches over to use the synthetic rope system for many reasons including safety.