4 x 4 Australia - - Contents - WORDS AND PHO­TOG­RA­PHY MARK ALLEN

WINCH rep­re­sents the epit­ome of self re­cov­ery. It’s the true essence of a ‘get out of jail free’ card for ev­ery genre of 4x4ing; whether it be re­mote travel, week­end rock­hop­ping with your mates, com­pe­ti­tion use, or even with many school pick-up 4x4s – you know, the shiny ones that have ev­ery con­ceiv­able ac­ces­sory bolted on like it’s a badge of hon­our.

A winch is the quin­tes­sen­tial must-have ac­ces­sory that screams to all who will lis­ten that you are a fair-dinkum 4x4er, re­gard­less of how of­ten you’ll re­ally need to use that lump of dead weight bolted to your bull­bar.

For those who do use them, a winch pro­vides a huge chunk of se­cu­rity, el­e­vat­ing your chances of get­ting out of the poo, al­most, re­gard­less of depth.

So, in true 4X4 Aus­tralia form, we have as­sem­bled seven of the best elec­tric winches avail­able off the shelves in Aus­tralia, for a no-holds tug-o-war.

We have en­listed a test method to en­sure to­tal fair­ness, and we’ve made

sure the en­vi­ron­ment used for each winch re­mains the same. We’ve taken a gag­gle of mea­sure­ments of each winch while work­ing right up to and be­yond their max­i­mum loads, en­sur­ing we could eval­u­ate each winch by the data.

Dur­ing our test­ing, we had a cou­ple of mi­nor fail­ures, one smokin’ winch, plus un­cov­ered a flaw many winches ex­hibit, which may en­cour­age winch mak­ers to re­design that key com­po­nent.

Plus, of course, we are able to serve prospec­tive cus­tomers the per­fect in­for­ma­tion for when it comes time to choos­ing a winch.


IN A test as com­pli­cated as this, we wanted to en­sure the test­ing method was fair and equal across all prod­ucts, re­gard­less of how many pulls were re­quired of the winch. Find­ing the right con­di­tions was para­mount. We had to cross off sand dunes be­cause they dif­fer con­sid­er­ably after ev­ery sin­gle pull. Like­wise, with a mud pull and most other sur­faces other than hard-packed dirt or gravel.

We tri­alled steep, dirt hills with con­stant and ever-chang­ing slopes us­ing my own winch fit­ted to my Troopy with the hand­brake on, and we tried winch­ing dead weights up those same hills. The problem was that the in­cline was ei­ther too easy or too hard, not to men­tion the many other tech­ni­cal rea­sons why it wasn’t an even play­ing field and there­fore un­suit­able to help us find the real win­ner of our test. En­ter the ‘sled’. Any­one that has been to a ru­ral agri­cul­ture show will have heard of a Trac­tor Pull. This is where trac­tors at­tempt to pull a sled the fur­thest dis­tance along a flat, graded, dirt track. The trick to the sled is that as it moves forward along the ground, the weight ad­vances (or slides) from the rear end to the front of the rails, mak­ing it harder and harder to slide along the ground as the trac­tor ad­vances along the track.

I fig­ured if we re­placed the trac­tor with a winch, we’d get re­li­able re­sults. All I had to do was source the sled.

Given I could al­ter the weight on the sled, both on the me­chan­i­cally geared, move­able tray sec­tion as well as the front pad, it proved the ideal method to test the winches. It took half a day of trial runs to find the cor­rect set­ting for the weights. Even­tu­ally we set­tled on a fixed weight of con­crete at the front, com­bined with the slid­ing sec­tion set in place with two 1000-litre water con­tain­ers. Noth­ing would change across the test­ing for all seven winches in the test.

We tested the pulling force – weight of the con­crete and the ac­tual sled, com­bined with the fric­tion on the ground and the slope we were winch­ing up – and we came up with an over­all pulled mass of ap­prox­i­mately five tonne. That’s 5000kg pulled by 9500lb (4309kg) rated winches, which would put them to the test, hope­fully with­out de­stroy­ing the winch.

For dead weight or an an­chor point, there was the op­tion of winch­ing from my Troopy and teth­er­ing it to a tree, but the risk of chas­sis dam­age from twist­ing or stretch­ing was too much. In­stead, we copped a 6.2tonne tele­han­dler to resist the pulling forces. We hitched a re­mov­able winch cra­dle – to which each winch was bolted – to slide into a hitch re­ceiver on the mam­moth tele­han­dler. Then we chocked the wheels and jammed the hy­draulic blade into mother earth, so it couldn’t move any­where!

While some winch man­u­fac­tur­ers pro­vide a duty cy­cle, many don’t men­tion it or just pro­vide the warn­ing “do not ex­ceed duty cy­cle” with­out ac­tu­ally say­ing what the cy­cle should be – a fat lot of help that is. No won­der many peo­ple have no idea they can’t just “keep winch­ing ’til she’s out” and end up dam­ag­ing the winch.

As sug­gested by some sup­pli­ers, we set­tled on a duty cy­cle of 60 sec­onds con­stant winch­ing, fol­lowed by 10 min­utes cool down, 60 sec­onds con­stant winch­ing, 10 min­utes cool down. We re­peated this process un­til each winch had pulled as close to 20 me­tres as pos­si­ble.

At the start and end of each 60-sec­ond winch­ing pe­riod, we recorded gear­box and mo­tor tem­per­a­tures with a non-con­tact ther­mal gun, min­i­mum and max­i­mum am­per­age draw with a clamp meter, as well as dis­tance pulled with an elec­tronic dis­tance mea­surer – to aid in cal­cu­lat­ing winch speeds for each 60-sec­ond ses­sion as well as an over­all speed in me­tres per minute. All of these mea­sured fig­ures al­lowed us to mon­i­tor winch per­for­mance in real time while keep­ing an ‘ear’ on the winches to know how close to stalling and how easy each was tack­ling the huge loads of the sled. With this method, there could be no deny­ing which winch pulled fastest, fur­thest, con­sumed the most power, or got the hottest.

After we’d tested each winch for real-life pulling abil­ity, we also looked at stan­dard in­cluded ac­ces­sories, spec­i­fi­ca­tions and ease of op­er­a­tion. Given stalling a 12-volt winch is gen­er­ally a no-no, as is overly-ex­tended winch­ing times, it’d be rea­son­able to ex­pect we would dam­age some part of each winch, so we didn’t. There is no rea­son to winch to de­struc­tion to test a winch; that is sim­ply not how a winch should be treated in real life. Set­ting up the cor­rect weights to be hauled, with even, fair and re­peat­able con­di­tions is the per­fect way to test a winch and a great way to sep­a­rate qual­ity from crap.

Winch test­ing is se­ri­ous busi­ness, and we went all out! Gear­box and mo­tor tem­per­a­tures were taken after each pull.

A sled was used to en­sure all winches were tested equally.

TO SEE the video of how this test was con­ducted, hop on over to www.4x4aus­tralia.

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