4×4 Vehicle Recovery Winching: Operating a Winch
Operating a 4×4 vehicle recovery winch during the winching of a 4×4 vehicle that every 4×4 vehicle enthusiast should know.
- Assess the situation, look at the recovery points and clear any obstructions.
- Always wear leather gloves to protect your hands.
- Disengage the clutch to unwind the cable-this will save your battery. Pull the clevis hook out using a hook strap.
- Wind the cable off the drum to a suitable recovery point. This may be a natural anchor such as a tree or in the case of a vehicle to vehicle recovery a professionally fitted recovery point. When using a tree use a tree protector.
- Anchor the winching vehicle by means of its handbrake. The vehicle should not be in gear.
- Secure the cable to the recovery point. Use a rated alloy bow shackle. Once tightened, slack off a half turn. Position the shackle pin at right angles to the direction of pull. This will ensure that you can loosen the pin after winching (it may stretch under load).
- Engage the clutch by switching the lever, this locks the drum.
- Connect the remote, keep the cable clear of the winch and fairlead, if winching from within your vehicle, lay the cable out so that it can not foul and pass it through the vehicle window.
- Take up the slack by slowly tensioning the cable. The cable is now live and dangerous, bystanders should be clear (at least twice the length of the cable) no one should step over the cable. Dampen the cable using recovery blankets (at least one per vehicle, two if using a natural anchor). When line splitting more may be required.
- Check the rigging once more prior to proceeding. If using an assistant to guide you, ensure that clear hand signals are used.
Winching hand signals:
- Indicate winding in with a hand above shoulder height and turn your hand in an anti-clockwise direction.
- Indicate winding out with your hand at waist height turning it in a clockwise direction.
- For an intermittent pull, close and open your thumb onto your forefinger.
- To stop winching, hold your fist up above your shoulder.
- Avoid pulling at an angle as the cable will wind up in a bunch to one side of the drum which could damage the cable or winch, this also decreases the rated capacity. If you need to straighten the cable out it may be necessary to do an angled pull using a snatch block.
- Winch with smooth movements and avoid jerks, the shock load can cause damage.
- Once the vehicle is on stable terrain, the recovery is complete.
- Ensure that there is slack in the cable and it is not under tension
- Disconnect the cable.
- Check that the cable is neatly wound onto the drum, if uneven, it may be necessary to rewind the cable.
- If rewinding, guide the cable back onto the drum using a hook strap. Keep the cable under tension and walk the cable back onto the winch. Either attach the hook to a suitable recovery point or tension between the fairlead rollers.
- Disconnect the remote and store it in a safe place.
A Few Tips:
- Keep hands and clothing clear of winch components.
- Do not move the winching vehicle whilst winching as you could overload the winch.
- If the recovery is a difficult, pause to allow the winch to cool down and allow the engine to recharge the battery.
- If recovering a heavy vehicle, unload as much weight as possible to make recovery easier.
- For self winching without an anchor point a steel stake, sand anchor or a spare tyre (buried deeply) may be used.