Winching Techniques For The Beginner

If you enjoy going off road in the jungles and other tough terrains, then you can expect that you will get stuck some day. Getting stuck is part and parcel of the fun when playing in the mud, sand or water. That’s where the money you spent on recovery gear pays off. Most new off-road enthusiasts probably have invested in recovery equipment, but know little on how to properly perform a recovery when faced with the situation. This post will hopefully give you some pointers on what you need to do to recover your vehicle.

The first thing all newbies need to know is that you never go into an area with tough terrain unless you have the proper equipment, and at least, another vehicle to help you when needed. The main recovery gear that are essential include a tow strap, tree-trunk protector, and at least two shackles (preferably soft shackles).

A winch is great to have, but can be optional if there are others in your group that already have winches. But if you do decide to fit one, try to get it with a synthetic rope instead of a wire cable. Wire cables are dangerous as they have been known to cause serious damage and even death when they snap under force.

The other gear that should accompany the purchase of a winch are winch blankets and snatch blocks, or the lighter, safer winch rings.

Where are the places you are likely to get stuck in?

Although you could get stuck anywhere for a number of reasons, there are certain spots where the chances are higher.

  • Muddy tracks where you will get bogged in the mud.
  • Uneven tracks where you might get a front and back wheel in the air, and you are running on open differentials.
  • Very slippery tracks where there is hardly any traction.
  • Steep slopes where your vehicle does not have sufficient power to climb, the track is too slippery, or the track is covered with loose earth.
  • Tracks with very deep ruts or big boulders that cause your vehicle to bottom out with the chassis resting on the ground.
  • Or, sometimes you get a tire or two fall into a deep hole that you cannot drive out of.

If it is a simple job to get you out of the mess you are in, a simple tow from a buddy will get you on your way again. If that is not possible, it’s time to get the winch working.

Anchor to tree

The Single-Line Pull

This the most basic of winching techniques. When you get stuck and two or three attempts to drive out fail, stop your vehicle. The more you try, the deeper you will dig your tires into the ground. Get out and identify a strong point you could use to get your vehicle winched from. It could be a tree, or a big boulder. Wrap a tree trunk protector around the tree and connect the ends with a shackle. Engage Free Spool on the winch and drag the winch rope out to the tree. Connect the winch hook to the shackle and place a winch blanket over the joint. If you do not have a winch blanket, a heavy bag or tarp will do the job. Engage the spool and start winching after ensuring that nobody is between the tree and your vehicle. Let the winch do the job of pulling you out. Apply only enough power to assist the winch while keeping the winch line taut. When you are freed, stop the vehicle and disengage your winch line, shackle and tree trunk protector from the tree. Respool your winch while trying to keep the line evenly wound.

If you cannot find a suitable tree or boulder, anchoring to a friend’s vehicle will also do the job.

In the image above, the vehicle on the right is recovering itself by attaching it’s winch to the vehicle on the left.

If the single line pull fails to get you out, then apply the method below.

The Double-Line Pull

To apply the Double-Line Pull method, you will need a snatch block or winch ring.

Wrap a tree trunk protector around the tree as before and connect the ends to a shackle. Run your winch line through the snatch block or winch ring and connect it to the shackle with the strap ends. Pull the winch line back to your vehicle and attach it to your vehicle’s anchor-point using another shackle. Place winch blankets over the heavy joints. Start winching when you are certain that it is safe.

This method also works with another vehicle instead of a tree.

Doubling the winch line doubles the power of the pull. This usually works to free vehicles that are really stuck. In the rare occasion the it does not, you can try the Triple-Line Pull which triples the pulling force. This time you will need two snatch blocks/winch rings.

Triple Line Pull Winch Recovery

Winching Around Angles

Sometimes a straight-line pull may not be possible. This may be because the stuck vehicle is around a corner and you do not have the space in front of it. In cases like this, a snatch block will help alter the angle.

Winching Around Angles

Find a tree that is located at the opposite corner to where the stuck car is at. Attach a tree trunk protector, shackle and snatch block after running the winch line through it. Connect the end of the winch line to a vehicle around the corner, or to a tree. Place the winch blankets on the joints and start winching. When you clear the corner, disconnect the snatch block, strap and shackle and connect to the other vehicle or tree. Start winching until you are freed.

The next winching technique is for more advanced off roaders.

Rescuing a Rollover Using 2 Winches

This is a recovery that most people get wrong. What they do is to attach a strap to the top chassis rail and winch from there. When a vehicle rolls over, it is likely because the track slants steeply towards one side. Using only one rescue vehicle may cause the vehicle to come down hard and rollover on the other side, or cause damage when it lands.

To safely rescue a rollover, we need two winches. But before we do anything, check that the vehicle to be rescued is firmly secured. Next, check for leaking fuel or oil. Only then should we start the recovery process.

In the diagram above, a strap is looped around the B-Pillar (Centre Pillar between the front and back doors) at the top. The strap is passed over the top to the other side. Vehicle A attaches it’s winch to this strap.

On the other side, another strap is wound around the top chassis rail and passed over the top to the opposite side. Here, the winch line from B passes around a snatch block and attaches to the strap.

One person stands at a safe spot visible to both rescue vehicles and gives the signal to make the winch ropes taut. When both vehicles are ready, he gives the signal for A to winch-in, and for B to winch-out. This allows the rollover vehicle to get back on its wheels softly and securely. Check for fuel leakage and make sure no crushed metal is touching the battery terminals. The engine and transmission oils, as well as other fluids are checked, and topped up if necessary. Only then can the vehicle be started.

We hope that these winching techniques will help you enjoy your off-road adventures more, knowing that you are better equipped to get yourselves freed from being stuck.