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Do I Need a Winch?

Winches, Accessories and Parts

Do you need a winch? Its a common question and one that can only be answered after considering a few things.

Firstly, do you or do you plan to do any solo travel? When traveling in a group with other vehicles you can often escape without needing a winch, depending on the type of driving you plan to do. If you travel alone, especially in remote locations, then a winch really is cheap insurance. If you get stuck then a winch means self recovery is generally easily possible. If you don’t have a winch you will need to rely on a good Samaritan coming along and helping pull you out, in remote areas this might be days as opposed to hours.

Outback Armour Winch Recovery Kit

Secondly, what sorts of trips do you plan to do? Will you be traveling on graded roads to camp sites, setting up and enjoying the scenery or are you headed bush to find the most challenging tracks to push your vehicle to and often beyond its limits? If you plan to do the latter than you will most certainly need a winch.

Winches are great to have in case of an emergency or to get you through that tricky section of track with as little damage as possible. The only real disadvantage to getting a winch fitted is the increased weight over the front of the vehicle, an aftermarket suspension kit can correct this though.

What do I need to consider when buying a winch? The old ‘you get what you pay for’ statement couldn’t be truer here. Sure there are heaps of cheap winches on the market that are promoted as being super powerful and simply amazing, and this might be true, but for how long? You don’t want a cheap winch failing in the middle of nowhere and leaving you stranded. Quality brands have a service network around the country and most auto electricians can easily source parts if you have an issue miles from home.

How often will you use it? Are you only getting it fitted as a ‘just in case’ measure? A cheap winch might do the trick here, however not using a winch can actually do harm, moving parts can seize and when you go to use it nothing happens. Whatever you choose to buy checking it regularly and doing some routine maintenance like lubricating the necessary components and checking electrical connections is vital.

Winch Cable Damper

Do i get a winch cable or winch rope? Winch rope really has come along way in recent years, it is strong, light weight and easy to handle, it costs more but if it is in the budget I’d recommend it over winch cable any day. It is also safer too, when steel winch cable snaps it recoils and has the potential to do serious damage or injure people. Winch rope doesn’t do this and when it snaps it drops to the ground much quicker. Handling it is easier because it is lighter to lug up and down the track, there are no stray strands of steel wire to cut you and if in a hurry you can coil it up quickly wrap it around the bullbar and find somewhere safe to wind it back in. The weight reductions also help with increasing your payload and reducing the weight over your front axle.

Something else to consider is the waterproof rating. IP68 is the best you can get. IP stands for ‘Ingress Protection’ and the numbers after indicate the level of protection. The first number signifies the protection of vital components from foreign materials, i.e dust, 6 indicates the highest level of protection and means complete protection and no ingress of dust. The second number signifies the protection from the ingress of water. 8 is the highest in this instance and means complete protection from continued submersion in water at depths greater than 1 metre. 7 is up to 1 metre. I wouldn’t purchase a winch unless its rating was IP67 or IP68, 68 is obviously the best.

What about the size of the winch? For smaller four wheel drives a 8000 pound would be suitable or 9500 pound would be ideal and is a more common size anyway. If you have a larger four wheel drive which isn’t heavily loaded and you aren’t going mud bogging then a 9500 pound winch will be more than enough. If you have a heavy four wheel drive that is loaded up and/or you tow a caravan or camper trailer than you’ll need a 12000 pound winch. Don’t skimp on the size thinking you’ll save money, winches do have a limit and if you over work it you’ll damage or destroy the winch.

Snatch Block

What about recovery gear? In the last blog I talked about what I think are the 5 must have recovery items. These don’t change if you buy a winch, you just need to add a few more when you buy a winch (see the winch kit from Outback Armour pictured)

You will need; winch cable damper, a couple of extra shackles, snatch block, tree trunk protector, winch extension strap and gloves.

A winch cable damper is a weighted blanket type product that hangs over the winch cable and velcros together. It helps to weight the cable/rope down and minimise recoil in the event of a cable/rope breaking.

Extra shackles are handy if you need to re-divert winch lines to change the angle of line pulls etc.

A snatch block is a pulley, the wheel inside the block alloys the winch cable to change directions and it can be used to increase the pulling power of the winch by creating a double line pull (for another blog).

When winching you should NEVER just wrap a cable around a tree and connect it back onto itself with the hook, not only will this damage your winch cable/rope it will ring bark and kill the tree. As a result you use a tree trunk protecting strap to wrap around the tree and anchor the winch to this. An extension strap is exactly that, an extension for your winch if the winch line wont reach an anchor point.

Gloves are vital when winching, especially when handling steel winch rope, they get burrs and stray bits of wire that cut your hands easily.

My best advice is buy the best quality winch that your budget will allow. The 4wd Zone sells Warn, VRS and Kingone winches. Warn’s has winches ranging from $1300 for the Tabor models right up to the Platinum Zeon which costs up to $3600. VRS winches have an IP68 rating and start at $949. Which model you buy and how much you spend does come down to what has been discussed above. Frequency of use, type of use etc.

If you are unsure of what you should be drop in and see us and we can help you choose a winch that is suitable for your needs.