There were three of them. Two Ninetys and a 110 that my mate Pat knew the owners of, so he had given them permission to have a play on our off-road course in a corner of his land. Mostly wooded, there is a small marshy area that we have been through a couple of times, but it’s not the best place to play in. Sure enough, the owner of the 110 thought better.
We went over to investigate and one of the lads smiled when he saw us: “You’ll be impressed with this Frank,” he said, “we’re using an idea you wrote about yonks ago.”
It seemed that they remembered a piece I wrote about winches. In it I had looked at various types and said that I preferred electric winches on the grounds that, even with a dead engine, if you could get hold of enough batteries you could get yourself out of trouble.
The 110 was dead and they had flattened the battery trying to winch it out so, remembering my wise words, they had swapped the battery for one of the Ninety’s. That had gone flat too, so they went for the other one. They were feeling really pleased with themselves because they had even thought of starting the Ninety with the flat 110 battery first, so it could be charging while they were using the other one.
Hope you’re still with me here? Good, I shall continue. Taking the second flat battery out of the 110 and sticking the third battery in, it started the other Ninety to charge up the second flat battery.
They looked to me for a commendation. I asked if they had strops in all the vehicles? They answered in the affirmative. “Then why didn’t you join them together and just pull the 110 out without bothering with the winch?” I asked. Cue a bunch of very red faces.
A short while later, over coffee while three very muddy Land Rovers sat outside charging up their batteries, we talked the situation over. The first thing I said was that if you are going to use an electric winch you really must take the time and trouble to set yourself up a second battery system.
Electric winches are marvellous; they are not, however, miraculous. A split-charge system is, to my mind, a necessity if you have an electric winch.
I also noticed that the 110, which was the only vehicle with a winch, did not have a cut-off switch either. I never fitted a winch without one of those, not since I heard of an Australian bloke who had his winch pulled out and taken over the top of his vehicle to hook up on the rear chassis. Then the clever so-and-so shorted the winch so it tightened up and crushed his roof. Yep, a cut-off switch would have stopped that from happening.
And finally, long before you start running the winch, look at the problem again to see if there is a simpler, safer and easier way of extricating the stuck vehicle – like just pulling it out with a strop!
And there’s a by-the-way to add to this story. Which is to check the cut-off switch out carefully.
Years ago, Dennis Taylor and I were winching a guy out of a wood using my winch when we smelled plastic burning and then noticed that my winch had stopped working. The smell led us to my cut-off switch. One of those rally-type two-ways with a red plastic removable handle. It was a still-hot lump of plastic. Ouch.
At the time we disconnected the switch and put the winch leads directly to the battery and finished the job in hand. We then had a bit of a think and afterwards did some research.
We found out that the rally-type cut-off switch had been made to cut off 12 volts if a car had been in an accident. It hadn’t been designed to carry the amount of current being dragged through it during heavy winching operations.
So, by all means get yourself a cut-off switch for your winch, but buy it from one of the specialist winch sellers who sell gear that is man enough for the job.
This all reminded me of another, very peculiar, incident involving winching.
Bill Jones had a 109 with a power-takeoff winch. One day, up on the Yorkshire Moors, Bill took some rocky bumps with a little bit too much welly. A quick look around underneath and we couldn’t see anything broken so we carried on, right up until we needed to do some winching.
Everything hooked up, Bill started to run the winch, but there was a terrible sound. Something underneath the vehicle was trying to smash itself to bits. This time when we got underneath we found the culprit – the splined drive that took the winch to the gearbox had come apart. This was a four inch spline which meant that Bill’s less-than-gentle landing had moved the gearbox back at least three inches to pull the spline apart. A costly mistake for one friend.
So, there you have it. Hopefully some good advice on winching for anyone that ever comes unstuck in a marshy field, or anywhere for that matter, but also some words of warning. Think and think again before tackling any winching problem.
Frank has been involved with Land Rovers for more years than he cares to remember. These days he drives an L322 Range Rover
“Electric winches are marvellous; they are not, however, miraculous”