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
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.