Learn How to Winch Your ATV or UTV


Do you consider yourself an ATV/SxS fanatic? Do you often find yourself exploring the gnarliest trails you can find? If so, there’s probably a great chance you already own a winch. If not, a quality winch like the Warn ProVantage 3500-s I’ve been testing has the potential to elevate your riding experience to new levels by unleashing the confidence to navigate nearly any obstacle without the fear of being stranded. With that said, winches don’t replace common sense, which many folks are lacking. (Editors Note: a quick walk through any WalMart to enjoy some of the shopper’s wardrobe choices ought to be evidence enough to support Lance’s statement.) Knowing how to winch safely not only helps protect the humans involved in the winching process, it also helps prevent damage to innocent trees that often get caught up in a winching scenario gone bad. Being an ambassador of the land and taking the time learn how to winch properly will undoubtedly help keep enthusiasts safe and riding areas open for future off-roaders.

Steel vs. Synthetic Line:

Most reputable winches are available with your choice of steel or synthetic rope. Knowing which choice is best for your particular riding situation is crucial to making the proper decision.

Extremely durable, making it the right choice when the line might come into contact with rocks or other abrasive material.
Cheaper than synthetic
Less Flexible
A snapped line could cause serious bodily injury and damage your ride
Eventually succumbs to rust, especially if used in the Rust Belt
Floats on Water
A snapped line has less chance of causing serious injury or damage
Won’t develop sharp ends that prick fingers
Can be damaged easily when rubbing on abrasive surfaces like rocks or stumps
Excessive exposure to heat and UV rays can degrade the synthetic line
More expensive than steel line

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Gloves: If you have steel winch line, gloves are a must! Eventually, the steel frays and turns into sharp spines that will prick your fingers, make you bleed, and possibly make you cry in front of your buddies.
Snatch Block: allows the winch capacity to be doubled and also permits the direction of pull to be changed if necessary. This is an amazingly handy device that has saved countless machines over the years.
Shackle: Safe, strong, and effective way to connect looped cables, straps, or snatch blocks.
Tree Trunk Protectors: Allows a tree to be utilized to extract a machine without damaging the trunk.

Warn’s Light Duty Accessory Kit is a “must-have” for serious off-roading. Stocked with a pair of heavy duty gloves, snatchblock, ½” shackle, and two tree trunk protectors stuffed into a handy storage bag, it helps keep organized the essential items needed to pull your rig out of nearly any gnarly situation while also protecting the owner and the environment.

Take your time, assess the situation, and develop a plan to safely extract your stuck machine.
Carefully consider which equipment will be needed for the extraction.
Always wear gloves and don’t allow wire winch line to slide through your hands.
Only one person should EVER handle the rope and operate the winch switch.
Always pull line out of the winch or use tension to take slack up on the winch line by grasping the hook strap.
Keep loose clothing, long hair, and body parts away from the winch drum and roller fairlead.
Winch with the engine running to avoid draining the battery.
Winches are most powerful with the winch line pulled out to the maximum limit.
Be sure to bring a winching accessory kit along on your excursions.
Practice winching before you get stuck.
Utilize a tree strap EVERY time you rely on a tree for extraction.
Take advantage of the increased capacity of adding a snatch block.
Never jerk a stuck vehicle with a winch line attached to it. This could cause the winch cable to snap.
Never allow spectators to stand anywhere near a machine being winched.
Be careful not to pull all of the winch line off of the winch drum.
GRAB YOUR GLOVES: Your fingers will thank us later!
DISENGAGE CLUTCH: To allow free spooling of the winch drum, rotate the rotary lever on the side of the winch to disengage the clutch. This will allow you to quickly pull the winch line out of your machine while also saving battery power when you’re ready.
ATTACH HOOK STRAP: Removing the winch hook from its anchor point and attach the hook strap to the hook if it’s not already attached. Any handling of the winch line should be from the hook strap.
PULL WINCH LINE TO ANCHOR POINT: Pull only enough winch line out of the winch to reach the anchoring point. This is especially important when using a wire rope to help prevent damage and tangling.
RIGGING TO AN ANCHOR POINT: Secure the winch to an immovable object like a tree or secured vehicle. In some cases, attaching to another machine that’s anchored to a tree may be a possible option. Whenever anchoring to a tree, be sure to utilize a tree trunk protector to prevent any damage to our oxygen belching friends.
ATTACH THE SHACKLE AND HOOK STRAP: Attach the shackle to both ends of the tree trunk strap (especially if wrapping around a tree) and through the loop at the end of the winch line.
ENGAGE CLUTCH: Rotate the rotary clutch lever in the opposite direction of step 2 to engage the clutch and allow the winch drum to rotate under power.
CONNECT WIRED REMOTE CONTROL (If applicable): Keep the power cord away from any moving parts, most importantly the winch drum and wheels to help avoid tangling.
PLACE TENSION ON WINCH LINE: Activate the winch toggle switch to slowly put tension on the winch cable. Check for debris that may snag it and stand clear.
CHECK THE WINCH LINE: Before starting, make sure the winch line is wrapping around the drum without tangling.
DRAPE THE WIRE ROPE: At the midpoint of the wire rope, drape a heavy jacket, towel, a tree limb, or any other object available. In the event that the winch rope snaps, the draped object will help absorb the stored kinetic energy.
CLEAR THE AREA: Nobody should stand in front of or behind the ATV/SxS, near the winch rope, or in close vicinity to the snatch block except the operator of the winch.
START WINCHING: Start the engine to avoid draining the battery. Engage the winch to slowly and steadily pull. Keep an eye on the winch drum to make sure the winch line is winding evenly. Continue until your ride has been rescued by the winch.
DISCONNECT AND REWIND WIRE ROPE: Disconnect the winch line from the shackle. With tension on the line, allow the line to wrap around the winch drum. Be sure to hold onto the hook strap while feeding the winch drum line. This will prevent your fingers from entering the winch and being mangled. Latch the winch hook onto a suitable location that won’t allow it to come loose. My preference is typically the front bumper, a tow hook, or the front rack.

Winching Mathematics

All winches earn their rating by the maximum amount of pulling capacity they possess. Unfortunately, the maximum pulling capacity happens as the first layer of winch line is wrapped around the drum. As the layers of winch line increase around the drum, the pulling power of the winch decreases. Therefore, to take full advantage of your winch’s pulling power, pull as much winch line out as possible. Using a snatch block in your rigging essentially doubles the pulling capacity of your winch. This means on the first layer of winch line, a 3,500lb winch will have a maximum pulling capacity of 7,000lbs.


Credit: atvrider.com

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