by Jerry Dupree
It is important to carry essential winch accessories when going off road, the most important of which are a good pair of gloves for handling cables, hooks, and connections. Never hook a winch cable to itself. Always use a “choker” to attach to the vehicle needing help. A choker is a short nylon tow strap with hooks at either end. A choker is also vital when connecting a winch to a tree to prevent damaging the tree. I have used my winch at least five times to help other people and a couple of times getting myself unstuck. On two occasions I used my winch to put vehicles back on their wheels because of a roll over. In those cases I used the car’s seat belts as they are in the middle of the car and they didn’t pivot the front or rear. The choker prevented further damage by not scratching or denting the other vehicle. One was a pickup and the other was an SUV. The roll overs caused extensive damage which probably totaled both vehicles. Fortunately no one was injured.
It is very important that everyone stay completely clear of the cables, hooks, and the remote control. I know of a tragedy when a motor home got stuck in the sand and a man with a truck with a winch hooked up the motor home with a 9,000 lb. winch while the wife was standing too close video taping the event when the cable snapped, which caught her neck and killed her. A hook could also come loose if the rescued vehicle twists or pivots. Stay out of the “bite.”
A snatch block is a pulley used to double the force of the winch. The cable is passed through the pulley from the winch to the rescued vehicle. The winch will operate at half the speed while doubling the force. Given the choice I would prefer winching downhill rather than pulling against gravity. A man who was stuck for a couple of days was trying to tell me how to extricate his vehicle by pulling it uphill. I told him I was the one in charge and my decision was to pull his vehicle downhill, which proved to be the easiest way.
Shackles are used to attach the winch hook to the other vehicle. One is shown that will insert into a trailer hitch receiver which is a very strong connection and will pull in a straight line to the winch.
A friend of mine pulled a truck out of a small canyon up a hill. One time while hunting in Utah a motorhome slid off of an icy road up against a tree. Two vehicles with winches at either end “see sawed” the RV back up and on the road. Since the RV was on an angle to the tree, there wasn’t more serious damage to the coach.
Off roading is a fun hobby, but it can get us into serious trouble. Getting stuck is inevitable and having the right equipment helps a lot.