COMPARISON: WINCH SHOWDOWN
BREAKAGES, SMOKE AND HUGE LOADS. THIS IS THE ULTIMATE WINCH SHOOT-OUT.
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.
SCHEMING, SYSTEMS AND STRATEGIES
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. com.au