The winch can be the most vi­tal piece of equip­ment you mount to a 4WD. They are there for one rea­son and one rea­son only, to as­sist when you or your ve­hi­cles ca­pa­bil­i­ties run out. Get­ting stuck can prove to be a lethal is­sue in se­vere con­di­tions, or hundr

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For those who don’t have a whole lot of ex­pe­ri­ence with winches, the vari­ables that come with putting one on your rig seem end­less. The sheer num­ber of brand names, sizes, weights and line op­tions can make even a sea­soned vet­eran dizzy. So where do you start, what’s re­quired and what do you need to know to in­sure you’re putting the cor­rect winch on your par­tic­u­lar 4WD?

En­ter Mark Wil­son, the Cana­dian rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Warn In­dus­tries. Warn knows a lit­tle some­thing about get­ting peo­ple like us out of sticky sit­u­a­tions, and so does Mark. Not only does he know what he’s talk­ing about, he has the ex­pe­ri­ence to back it up with many epic cross-coun­try ad­ven­tures in the Mid­dle East and East­ern Asia with his last em­ployer - Land Rover. We sat down with Mark late last year at the SEMA show to pick his brain about all the things a be­gin­ner needs to know when think­ing about putting a winch on their 4WD. This is what he had to say.

4WD: The most com­mon the­ory used to de­ter­mine winch size is to take the ve­hi­cle’s Gross Ve­hi­cle Weight (GVW) and mul­ti­ply that by 1.5. How ac­cu­rate is this from an ex­pert’s point of view?

Mark: Very. Big­ger is al­ways bet­ter, you can never have too much pulling power, how­ever as you go up in ca­pa­bil­ity, you also go up in price, so you have to strike a happy medium. The start­ing rule of thumb is one and a half times the ve­hi­cles GVW. Then when you start adding big­ger wheels and tires, in­creas­ing the amount of bolted on weight, and ac­count­ing for the type of ter­rain you will pri­mar­ily find your­self in, whether that be sticky mud or

on an in­cline, all these things have to be con­sid­ered in­flu­enc­ing fac­tors. If you feel you need to go big­ger, just go big­ger.

4WD: Heavy mud and suc­tion can re­ally cause a winch to strug­gle, does the 1.5 mul­ti­plier ac­cu­rately ac­count for ter­rain con­di­tions?

Mark: To a point yes, be­cause in the­ory, if you look at what a ve­hi­cle weighs, the winch is not ac­tu­ally pulling that as a dead weight. So as long as the wheels are turn­ing, that is what the winch sees as a load. If you need to pull a ve­hi­cle along flat con­crete and it is out of gear, we can do that just by push­ing, and a 2,000 lb ATV winch would be con­sid­ered overkill. So yes, it takes this into ac­count some­what, but I urge peo­ple who may be un­de­cided, think­ing “err, can I get away with an 8,000 lb or do I grab a 10,000 lb,” go for the 10,000 lb, it’s good in­sur­ance.

4WD: Once you’ve sorted out how much pulling power you want, where is the best place to mount that winch on your 4WD?

Mark: Ideally, you want your winch to be con­nected to the strong­est part of the ve­hi­cle, and in most 4WD in­stances, that would be the frame. What many peo­ple do is pur­chase a spe­cific winch bumper much like one of our Warn prod­ucts. The bumpers are con­nected to the frame and al­ready of­fer the spec­i­fied mount­ings for the winch as well as open­ings for the clutch and fair­lead.

4WD: It makes a lot of sense to mount a winch on a hitch re­ceiver cra­dle. What should some­one take into con­sid­er­a­tion when set­ting up a sys­tem such as this? Mark: The only is­sue is the load on the frame, so you have got to be care­ful. I

have had quite a few con­ver­sa­tions with peo­ple who want to put a 12,000 lb winch in a cra­dle so they can move it to the front or rear. Now gen­er­ally speak­ing, re­ceiver hitches on OEM ve­hi­cles are only rated to 10,000 lb. So imag­ine you’re pulling 12,000 lb at an off an­gle, the re­ceiver is not de­signed to take that kind of load and there is a pos­si­bil­ity you could twist the frame. 4WD: Will winches al­ways per­form at their rated spec­i­fi­ca­tions? Mark:

You want to be pulling off as much ca­ble or rope as you can. The way a winch is mea­sured - not just ours but any winch - the max­i­mum load is mea­sured on the first wrap of the drum. The more lay­ers of rope you put on the drum, the less ef­fi­cient the winch will be. So if you have a 10,000 lb winch and you get stuck, and you’re just pulling fif­teen feet of rope, you may only have 6,000 lb of pulling power.

I re­mem­ber talk­ing to one gen­tle­man who was rid­ing an ATV and got stuck in a mud hole, and he said, “Hey, your 2,000 lb winch wouldn’t pull me out.” So we had to go through the math and it turns out he only pulled out eight feet of rope, so he just wasn’t get­ting the most out of his winch. If he had tied off to a tree fur­ther away, he likely would have got­ten out with­out any is­sues.

4WD: With that in mind, there are sev­eral dif­fer­ent lengths of rope and wire for winches. Should you be look­ing for the short­est length pos­si­ble to make it eas­ier to get the most out of your winch?

Mark: Not nec­es­sar­ily. Say you have an 8,000 lb winch on your Jeep JK and you get stuck in the mud, and I mean re­ally stuck. You will need more pulling power, so what you do is pull your line out to a tree, snatch block it, then run it back to the bumper of the Jeep. So what you’ve done is dou­ble up the line with a pul­ley and ef­fec­tively dou­bled the pulling power of your winch to 16,000 lb. So a longer rope al­lows you to do this. Or you can run a 50-foot line and carry an ex­ten­sion in your re­cov­ery bag.

And you know that is an­other re­ally im­por­tant point. You see a lot of peo­ple out on the trail and they may have a winch, but they don’t have a proper re­cov­ery kit. With­out the proper tools you can’t get the most out of one of your most im­por­tant tools, you have to have a snatch block, a cou­ple ex­tra shack­les, a tree saver and maybe some ex­tra line.

4WD: Speak­ing of line, as syn­thetic rope be­comes more and more pop­u­lar, what type of main­te­nance is re­quired to keep it good con­di­tion?

Mark: You know, there re­ally isn’t main­te­nance re­quired, just try to keep as clean as you can. Back when syn­thetic rope first came out there were man­u­fac­tur­ers that didn’t UV pro­tect their rope. Ours have al­ways been UV pro­tected, but if you have a rope that is not, yes, UV will break down the fi­bres. There were also some ru­mours go­ing around that if you got it dirty, the first thing you had to do when you got back home was to let all the rope out, care­fully clean it, let it dry and then put it back on the drum. No, you don’t need to do that. What you do have to be care­ful of is the fi­bres on the rope are very open, so if you are drag­ging it on dirt, sand and rocks and such, you get lots of sharp lit­tle bits em­bed­ded in there. Over time they will cre­ate abra­sion and de­grade the fi­bres, so keep­ing the line clean will help pro­long its life.

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