IMPORTANT

DO NOT EVER hook the winch rope back onto itself. It will damage the rope and increase the risk for the rope breaking, which can have dire consequences. Always use a nylon sling and shackle to avoid damage to your winch rope. If you think you might use a tree as an anchoring point, it is a good idea to carry a Tree Trunk Protector, to prevent cuts into the bark of the tree when you start pulling.

Use heavy gloves when you handle a winch rope, especially steel wire, as the rope might fray and cause severe cuts in your hands.

Getting out of a hole or up a slope

1. Roll with the winch!

Do not "help" the winch by trying to drive out while winching. The only result will be that you dig yourself in deeper. Just roll with the winch and your vehicle will climb out of the mud or up the slope without excessive drama.

2. Run your engine without revving

An electric winch is taking a toll on your battery, so keep your engine running to charge the battery while winching. There is no need to rev the engine, as modern alternators give full charge at low engine speeds. The only result of engine revving is unnecessary noise, gas consumption and pollution.

3. Watch out for overheating

Electric winches are designed for 'intermittent use'. Westin winches are designed to minimize overheating, but you must nevertheless watch for overheating. If you have made a real mess and have had to run the winch for an excessive length of time, you must wait until it has cooled down before making a new attempt. This might take quite a while.

4. Shut down all other electrics

A winch can draw up to 5 kW from your battery, so it is wise the shut down everything else electrical when winching. If you get stuck at night and need to light up the scene it is probably better to wait for daybreak, as it doesn't improve an emergency situation if you run out of battery.

5. Keep your engine running

Modern vehicles are fitted with sophisticated electronic OBD (on board diagnostics) systems. An OBD system can see a very high current draw as a short circuit and automatically shut the engine down, or put it into a safe tick-over mode. Using a winch without the engine running can end up in a dead engine and force you to abandon your vehicle.

Use pulley blocks for easier winching

To make winching easy, you should always carry at least one pulley block. Pulleys can be used to double (or triple) the power of your winch. They can be used to change the direction of a pull, for self-recovery, direct and indirect pulling. Whatever method you use, you must always make sure that your anchor points are secure. Good anchor points are trees, other vehicles or other firm and steady objects.

1. For direct vehicle recovery, secure the pulley block to the anchor point and feed the wire rope from the winch, through the pulley and back to a secure anchor point on the vehicle. This will double the power of your winch. The pull will be slower than with a single line (what you gain in power you loose in distance), but it will be easier on the winch and on your line, making it much safer. The doubled power will also make it more certain that you can pull yourself out.

2. Sometimes you have to resort to indirect pulling to avoid obstacles. You can achieve this by attaching the pulley block to the load and then fasten the wire rope to an anchor point offset from the direction you want the load to move. The load will move along a line bisecting the angle between the ropes. Don't use this method more than absolutely necessary, as the pulling power decreases sharply when the angle between the ropes widens.

3. You can also use the pulley block to pull at an angle as shown above. This is still a single line pull, and you will not gain any winching capacity with this arrangement, although it is useful when you can't line up the winch with the load for a straight pull. The winch rope should always align with the towing direction as much as possible. Anchoring points are not designed for the lateral loads caused by pulling at an angle.

Other tips

1. Keep the control handy. If it is a wired control, run it over the hood and hang it on the door mirror, or customize it with a magnet so you can stick it to the vehicle.

2. Set the brake if you are an anchor vehicle, and don't winch with your vehicle in park. You may wedge or break the parking sprag in the automatic transmission if you do so.

3. Electric winches use lot of power.  Consider installing dual batteries and a high output alternator.

4. NEVER rely on a winch to hold a load from rolling backward.

5. Allow the winch time to cool during long, hard pulls to increase its life span.

6. Keep the pulls straight as much as possible. Receiver winch plates tend to bend if pulling at any angle other than straight.

7. Never use the winches hook as an attaching point for a yank trap.

8. If winching frequently during a trail ride, wrap the winch around the bumper rather than reeling it in. It will save you lots of time.

The choker should be long as possible, especially when anchoring the vehicle. improper rigging severely reduces the pulling strength of the wire rope. See chart below how the angle between the ends of a tree protector affects the safe working load of a line rated at 8000 lbs for single line pulls.

Angle In Degrees Safe Working Load
5 or less 8,000
60 6,800
90 5,600
120 4,000

Anchors

If you cannot find any suitable anchor points within reach of your winch and winch rope extension cord, you will have to use your imagination. You can use stakes, a buried log, a buried spare wheel, as in the examples. A shovel and a sledge hammer are useful to carry in your off-road vehicle along with the other tools.