How to use your winch & additional tools

How to winch

Already have the ideal winch for your car? Perfect, let’s get started on how to use it! Didn’t find your winch yet, don’t worry, you can read all about picking the right winch in our blogpost!

Safety first

The most important part of using your winch is doing it safely. Using the correct equipment and winching techniques will prevent injuries and damage to the equipment. One important thing to remember is during winch recovery there are two safe places to be; far away from the cabling or inside the vehicle. A snapped cable will whip with enough force to slice you in half. Gloves are of vital importance. Burrs in the wire cable or sharp debris picked up by synthetic rope can slice hands open while being handled if thick leather gloves are not worn.

How the Winch’s Controls Work

On all winches you should have a lever/switch. This is your clutch. The clutch controls whether your winch drum is engaged or if it is able to free spool. If your winch is engaged then the drum is meshed with the motor, however if it is able to free spool then it is disengaged from the motor and it can be pulled out by hand.

The winch should be switched to free spool when you are pulling out the cable to use it, however, do not forget to re-engage the clutch after you are done with it. This lever/switch should never be touched while the motor is running or while there is a load on the cable. Doing so can cause damage to the winch or injury to yourself. Along with your clutch lever you will have motor controls. IN and OUT, each will run your motor in a different direction to allow your winch to operate.

Anchoring a Winch

When it comes to any recovery it is important to consider your anchor point, if you are in a forest you can most likely find a sturdy tree to use. If you are in a desert or in the middle of a snow covered field, you may not have a solid anchor point. In this situation, you will need to use a ground anchor. To create your own while you are stuck you can use a log or your spare tire.

Natural Anchor

  1. Find a sturdy tree in front of your Jeep
  2. Wrap a tree strap around the tree and connect both ends with a D-ring
  3. Connect winch cable to D-ring

Ground Anchor

  1. Begin by digging a hole 2-3 feet deep
  2. Tie a chain or tree strap around the log or tire
  3. Place tire/log into hole angled away from your Wrangler
  4. Bury your tire/log and pack down tight
  5. Use a D-ring to connect your winch cable to the anchor strap

How to Use a Winch for Straight Line Recovery

You’re having a great time on the trail and decide to push your Jeep’s limit a bit too far and get stuck in mud. You quickly glance the terrain and luckily find a tree straight ahead. It’s now time to get your gloves on and a bit dirty. Ensuring your winch is in neutral and the line is rolling free, pull the line by the hook, never grab the line itself, and pull it out towards the tree. Wrap the tree strap around the tree trunk, the lower the better, ensuring the trunk is big enough to support the pull. With the strap around the tree, connect both looped ends of the strap with a D-ring.

You always should hook the hook of the winch line to a D-ring. Never around an object and back onto itself of around the loops of the strap. Using a D-ring ensures the safest connection point for the hook. Once properly hooked, drape a line dampener over the line for added safety, go back to the Jeep, and engage the winch in the forward drive position. Ensure no one is standing in front of or closely alongside the Jeep. From inside the Jeep, remotely engage the winch, while slowly accelerating forward to recover the Jeep. This same procedure can be done to another Jeep, using D-rings attached to the Jeep’s frame as the anchor point.

  1. Find an anchor directly in front of the winch, do not try to winch sideways
  2. Clear the area of spectators
  3. Disengage winch clutch
  4. Wearing a pair of gloves, pull your cable to your anchor point
  5. Using a tree saver and a D-ring connect the cable to the anchor
  6. Place a line dampener on cable halfway between anchor and the Jeep
  7. Re-engage winch clutch
  8. Connect the controller to the winch
  9. Start the engine to prevent draining the battery
  10. Begin the pull 
  11. Once your Jeep is free and able to drive, respool the winch cable

The Not-So Straight Line Recovery

Sometimes you don’t have a straight approach for a direct-line recovery and you have to create an angled or side-recovery. In that case you would incorporate the use of a snatch block pulley. The snatch block would be connected to the D-ring attached to the tree strap. The winch line is fed between the pulley and the hook attached to the end point of another Jeep’s D-ring or a D-ring around another tree strap. The pulley in the snatch block allows the changing of angle and properly distributes the pulling of the Jeep.

Each recovery example has a unique purpose. The most important thing to keep in mind when winching a vehicle is line tension. Ideally you need to minimize extreme angles while using proper anchor points and snatch blocks to compensate for the angles to minimize stress on the line. Also, safety is important. The lines carry a tremendous amount of tension, if not properly maintained, might fail while in use. If there is no line dampener in place the result of a whipping steel line can be catastrophic for not only the occupants in the Jeep but people standing along the side. Proper maintenance, planning, and use of appropriate parts will ensure a safe recovery and get you back on the trail quickly.

If you have a steel cable on your winch, for safe winching you need to always keep a pair of thick work gloves to protect your hands from sharp burs and a line dampener. A line dampener helps protect you and everyone around you from a line snap when you are winching by putting some weight on the center to help absorb some energy and pull it downwards. If you do not have one, a heavy blanket, floor mat, jacket, or even socks full of rocks or sand can be used in its place as long as it has some weight to it.

  1. Find an anchor directly in front of the stuck vehicle
  2. Clear the area of spectators
  3. Using a tree saver and a D-ring, connect snatch block to the anchor
  4. Park the winch vehicle in the desired location facing the anchor
  5. Disengage winch clutch
  6. Wearing a pair of gloves, pull your cable to your snatch block and feed it through
  7. Pull the cable to the stuck vehicle and connect to a recovery point
  8. Place a line dampener on each length of cable
  9. Re-engage winch clutch
  10. Connect the controller to the winch
  11. Start the engine to prevent draining the battery
  12. Instruct the driver of the stuck vehicle to place the vehicle in gear and give it gas while you are using the winch to pull the vehicle out
  13. Once the vehicle regains traction and is free, respool the winch cable

Additional Accessories for Your Winch and Recovery

With your winch there are several tools and accessories every off-roader should keep with it. One of the cheapest and most important accessories for a winch is a good cover for the winch. This will help protect your winch, fairlead, and your cable from the elements. Steel cables can easily rust if they are not properly cared for and synthetic ropes can be damaged by exposure to UV light and chemicals.

Tree trunk protectors, d-rings, snatch blocks, tow straps, and snatch straps are all extremely useful additions to your tool bag. A tree trunk protector will both protect a tree from being damaged and can give you a little extra length to work with. D-rings, tree trunk protectors, and snatch blocks are commonly used together to do corner recoveries when you are unable to pull another vehicle out straight due to an obstacle.

How to Use Additional Recovery Tools

The old saying “always use the right tool for the job” is especially true when discussing Jeep recovery with a winch. The improper use of the winch or these tools can cause serious damage to your jeep or harm to people in the area.

Tree Protectors/Strap: usually consist of polyester webbing similar to a tow strap. The strap wraps around the base of a sturdy tree trunk in-line with the Jeep’s winch. It’s important to note the girth of the tree stump and ensure it can be used as an anchoring point for recovery.

D-Ring: These heavy duty shackles are the main contact points for the winch hook. You should always use a D-Ring to unify both ends of a tree strap or to properly engage another Jeep’s recovery point. The winch’s hook should snap onto the D-Ring and never directly to the anchoring point.

Snatch Blocks: these pulleys are used in situations when a recovery point is at an angle or to create a multi-point anchoring system, utilizing the pulleys as increased leverage points for an increase in anchoring force.

Recovery Ropes: Recovery ropes are designed to offer some rebound and elasticity, the ideology is to build momentum to help aid in recovery. These ropes are especially useful during recovery in mud.