5 Quick Winching Tips

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So you've got yourself a shiny new winch and you did your homework to make sure you chose the right one. Now that you have it, you really need to know how to use it correctly. Winching is more than hooking onto things and winding your winch up; there's skill involved and with a little help, you can gain those skills and not only protect your winch, but keep yourself and your truck safe, too.

1. The Importance of Your Battery and Alternator

winching-tips-battery   (Photo courtesy of flickr) Winches run using your truck’s electrical system, so no matter how good of a winch you buy, it’ll only be as good as the electrical system it’s attached to. Make sure you have the biggest battery possible in your truck and that it has the most cold cranking amps (CCA) available. Here’s a good equation to help you figure out what you’ll need: Time Duration of Pull = (A/W) x T where:
  • A = Reserve capacity amperage rating (typically this is 25 amps)
  • W = Winch's amp draw at rated pull
  • T = Your battery's reserve capacity (in minutes)
The need for power doesn’t stop with the battery however, as the alternator is what keeps the battery charged and ready for action. Make sure to get your alternator tested regularly and replace it as soon as you see any issues with it. If you’re replacing your alternator, getting one with a higher amperage rating is a really solid move. Lastly, the power cables that connect your battery, alternator, and winch will have an impact on how well your winch works. Use the smallest amount of cable possible to run to the winch, and use 00-welding cables for both power and ground. Make sure all connections are 100% tight, and don’t ground the winch to the bumper, since this can increase resistance.

2. Distance Matters

winching tips line length (Photo courtesy of flickr) Winches are meant to reach out for things, so the more the drum is emptied the greater the pulling power. You can achieve this one of two ways. First, keep enough distance between your truck and whatever you’re winching to get more power. Second, use a shorter length on the spool and keep extensions in your truck. This way, you have a usable length available immediately and extra distance available with a few connections.

3. Keep it Quick

overheat winch (Photo courtesy of flickr)     Long and sustained use of your winch isn’t good for it. While this can drain your battery pretty quickly and put a real hurting on a stock alternator, winches tend to get hot during use and that heat will build up during extended operation. If you don’t allow the heat to dissipate you risk damaging the winch’s motor and gear set. Take a break every minute or so and you’ll not only keep your battery charged, but you’ll make sure the winch doesn’t overheat.

4. Ropes Need Broken In

winching tips rope usage (Photo courtesy of flickr) Most winches today use wire for their spools, but ropes are still somewhat popular. Ropes cause less damage when they snap and are easier on the hands when using them. When using a new length of rope with your winch you want to make sure you break it in first. Breaking in a new rope does two things. First it tests the rope for weak spots before you need it and two, it pre-stretches it. To pre-stretch your rope, just unwind all but the last few loops from the winch’s spool. Next, secure the other end of the rope around a stationary object. With the rope secure, slowly pull your truck towards the stationary object using the winch. Make sure to apply moderate brake pressure during this so you give the rope a good, even stretch.

5. Re-spool Correctly

spooling winch line correctly (Photo courtesy of flickr) When it comes time to winch in your rope or wire, you need to make sure it goes back onto the spool correctly. If you just allow the rope or wire to spool on however it wants you’ll weaken it and generally cause a mess. Take the time as you’re spooling in and you’ll have a winch that will last you quite some time.


WARN has a great guide on how to winch available. If you have a winch you really should give it a read. There’s more to using a winch than attaching it to things and turning it on. The guide covers a lot more than these five basic tips and is a fairly easy read. MileMarker.com has another great guide here, too. Check it out and practice using your winch before you need it so you know what you’re doing when an emergency happens.

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