Frank El­son

Talk­ing Frankly

Land Rover Monthly - - Columns -

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”

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